Daily Proverbial, 17 October 2011

Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both. Proverbs 27, verse 3.

When I write these commentaries, the first thing I usually do is pray about it. I pray for guidance on what to say, that if you get anything good out of them you would know it’s not my voice but the Spirit’s, and that I write boldly and well. Sometimes that’s enough to get started, but sometimes I feel moved to dig deeper. Thank the Almighty for the Internet when this becomes the case. True, in my bedroom there is a shelf full of different Bible translations, commentaries, and studies, but it often becomes quicker to simply search the Net for help with the verses that perplex me. Usually I will consult biblegateway.com or sometimes bible.cc.

That’s where I went for today’s verse. Stone is heavy and sand a burden; that part I get because it’s a metaphor about lugging around earth. “But provocation by a fool is heavier than both:” here I needed some help. I think it’s the ‘provocation’ part that got me stuck because, when I think of provocation, I think of someone trying to pick a fight. Perhaps that was indeed the intended meaning, but I felt moved to dig a little deeper.

In that vein, for ‘provocation’ the King James and the Aramaic Bible in English use “wrath;” in fact, this word is the most common translation I found. The New Living Translation uses “resentment” and the GOD’S WORD translation uses “annoyance” while the American Standard Version uses “vexation” (as do the English Revised and Darby versions). Finally, the Douay-Rheims translation simply says “anger.” I never knew there could be so many translations of the same intended meaning. Maybe some day I will learn enough Hebrew to read copies of original texts and understand it for myself.

Whether or not that happens, different translations talk about provocation, wrath, resentment, annoyance, vexation and anger: all of them caused by a fool and all of them being heavier than the heavy elements of sand and stone. Is it because the fool does things to provoke anger and resentment? Yes. Or is it because the consequences of what fools do bring annoyance, wrath and vexation? Yes again. And maybe it is because fools know better but still act foolishly anyway? Yes yet again. Finally, perhaps it is because one person’s actions impact others. Game, set, and match on that point.

That’s when I begin to get the message and, to be honest, it irritates me. It irritates me because, yes once again, I’m that darn fool. I regularly do things that (to quote my fifteen year old) “annoy the crap” out of my family, my friends, and those around me. The sins of the past can’t mire me in guilt anymore. Dwelling on them would be looking at the wind…but memories of them bubble up now and then, even when they’ve been buried for months or years. Or I have a bad day and, instead of confronting that fact, I repress it and don’t talk it through. The result: annoyance, resentment, anger, and too often spoiling for a fight, even if the ‘fight’ is only a bad attitude or sniping. It’s still a fight.

It can even happen on good days because even good, busy, fulfilling days can tire you out. When I’m tired I get irritable and am more apt to say, do, post, quip, remark, or joke with an edge. When I’m worn down, I’m more likely to react in annoyance, vexation, anger, resentment, or provocation. And when that happens, my attitude and my actions become a burden for the people around me. They can even be wrathful.

Are you the same? I think I know the answer.

Not long ago, I read a book called “Leadership and Self-Deception.” I think I might have mentioned it in an earlier Proverbial. In this book, the authors talk about how we can each be ‘in the box’ when we negatively act towards other people. This is usually unhealthy and leads to unhealthy or negative consequences. On reading today’s verse, I thought of being in the box, how I let foolish provocation and annoyance and anger keep me ‘in the box,’ and I immediately knew the cure. It’s the same cure that I consulted when seeking the wisdom on what to say before I started.

It’s what I do to start these writings. God grant me patience, understanding, wisdom and love to not be such a fool to the people around me. God grant me the patience, understanding, wisdom and love when the people around me are fools just like I tend to be. I’m a big believer that all prayers are answered, even when we don’t always see immediate results or the results we desire. This is one of the times when I tend to see immediate results, however, because I usually feel some kind of inspiration to write these things. As mentioned, I also believe that if you get a positive, good or helpful message from reading them, it isn’t because of anything I’ve written. Maybe God is trying to tell you something. To me, that’s an answer to my prayer in more ways than just one.

And it’s that cure for the weighty consequences of foolishness for which I prayed anyway. Think of how much easier it would be to live in our world if we were each a bit less foolish. You and I might get annoyed less with each other and the things we say or do. We might have less of a hard edge on our attitudes on a Monday morning at the start of a busy work-week. It might make driving less stressful, and dealing with coworkers, noisy children, and stubborn husbands or wives. It might even make it easier when someone’s intention really is to pick a fight and dispense wrath. Prayer can do that because God acts on those prayers. I don’t even need a translator to help me understand it.

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