May 29: Contrasting Words and Results

Read Proverbs 15:1-33

The Proverbs of Solomon are more than terse statements about wisdom.  They are like parables in that they can create mental images of truth.  Literally, “proverb” means “parallel” or “similar.”  In other words, Solomon and the other authors of these 31 chapters help us to understand God’s truth by drawing comparisons and contrasts.

Chapter 15 helps us with these mental images by including the frequent use of “antithetical parallelism,” a ten-dollar-term that means that the individual proverb is divided into two contrasting statements often linked with the word “but.”  Here are two that address our focus for the week: the words we say.

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.  (v. 1)

The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
    but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.  (v. 4)

The contrasts are clear, right?  In verse 1, two word choices are contrasted:  a “gentle answer” and a “harsh word.”  Those opposing word choices typically evoke opposing responses from the listener.  They will either “turn away wrath” or “stir up anger.”  Simply stated, your choice of words can either diffuse a potentially volatile situation or add more fuel to it!  It all boils down to whether you choose gentle words that are sensitive to the needs of the other person or whether you select harsh words that tend to be driven by your own need to vent.

While the contrast of responses in verse 1 is often obvious, the contrast of verse 4 may not be.  This verse describes what may be happening internally.  Your words can deeply impact the motivation and morale of another person.  Soothing words can be life giving.  Meanwhile, by choosing perverse words, you can crush the spirit of the listener.

Today, your word choices will tend in one direction or another.  They will be either gentle or harsh; soothing or perverse.  And the impact of those words will also lead to peace or anger.  It will fill the other person’s emotional balloon or pop it!

The choice is yours.    Choose wisely!