If you have played the fool and exalted yourself, or if you have planned evil, clap your hand over your mouth! For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. Proverbs 30, verses 32-33.
Notice that the verse pairs exalting ourselves as foolish AND planning evil. That’s no coincidence. Then, after giving practical examples, one of producing a desired luxury and the other of producing an undesired pain, it links the exalting and evil with anger and strife. That’s a lot to digest for the last verses of this chapter but let’s give it a go, shall we?
First the no-coincidence. Fools exalt themselves and people who exalt themselves are often fools. On this day, a political primary day, that’s a good thing to remember, don’t you think? A number of high-profile fools are exalting themselves so as to win the right to run against another high profile fool in the highest office in our land. By the end of today, someone will have won more delegates and be that much closer to their party’s nomination. Rah. I wish someone would clap a hand over their mouths, as well as the mouth of the man they’re trying to replace. Personally, I’d be quite happy to send most of our high government officials away on an extended vacation to, say, Greenland. More good things might get done in their absence and there would be fewer exalted fools to suffer.
Gotta be careful, though, because yours truly is officially close to the fool-line now for spouting off political opinions. See, you don’t need to vote in Arizona or Michigan to see a fool. Me, I saw one in my office yesterday, namely me; that really isn’t very surprising. For the last 8 weeks, I’ve worked part-time in a client office in Minnesota. The room we’ve been using has been mostly empty, but the client is staffing up our project (which we’ve been helping them to plan and arrange). The four new people who showed up yesterday kept asking me questions all day long, both complimenting me on my work and, well, bugging me. I kept reminding myself that they were new members of our team, and that we all need help getting started. But I had work to get done and instead of getting it done, I spent a great deal of time acclimating them and getting them started in their new jobs. That was frustrating. My selfish nature interfered with a great opportunity for mission.
To top it off, I had a long online discussion with a friend over lunch. The subject was, of all things, Christ’s forgiveness and how we are declared not guilty. In many ways, we were gently arguing over saying similar things, chafing over fine points about the doctrines of law and gospel. What all this had to do with the price of tea in China I really don’t know because my friend made good points and I made good points. We disagreed on some things, but I took away from it that they had a good point, only they came from a different background than myself. They weren’t necessarily wrong and neither was I; neither were each of us necessarily correct. I think, though, that we were each getting annoyed because they disagreed with some of my points and I disagreed with some of theirs. It was a failure to communicate. At the end of the day, they deleted the discussion thread. When I went back to read it, it was gone, and that bothered me. I hope I didn’t give offense as none was intended.
Stupid me: I wish I had just clapped my hand over my mouth (or in this case, put down the iPhone). As regards the office, I’m a manager and that’s what managers are supposed to do. Not only, but I’m learning that it’s more important to build relationships with good people than to simply click off hours on the time-clock. I felt like a fool at the end of the day for basking in their praise of my work, and for being selfish about wanting to do my work instead of helping good people who needed my help. As regards the online thread, does it really matter how or when we’re declared not guilty by God because He declares us so whether we know it or not? The spiritual guilt is gone forever no matter what happens here on terra firma.
Next time I’m getting out of line, feel free to call me on it. Believe me, you won’t offend me.
You won’t offend me because I spent too much time in life looking to be offended, and when I didn’t clap my hand over my mouth, it brought on anger and strife. That’s no way to live a believing life in Christ. My friend was correct: when our sins are removed, they’re gone. We don’t even need to remember them because God doesn’t. Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation now for those who believe in Christ. That doesn’t mean we won’t do more sins in the future or even that the ones from the past will have no earthly consequences, but as we focus more on God and what He wants of us, we get to remember that the spiritual penalty for our past is done and removed. There is peace in knowing that, so it becomes easier to turn from our past ways and live in ways that reduce our exposure to temptation and bring glory to Him. Nerdy? Perhaps, but it’s cool to be a nerd like that. Or, as Huey Lewis said, it’s hip to be square. That kind of square living is what it’s all about.
It’s not about living as a fool anymore, either saying or doing foolish things. And it isn’t about doing things to stir up anger in others. Sure, stand up for your side and defend your positions with conviction, purpose and honesty. There is honor in doing so, and the issues before us are important; if we don’t stand tall, my friends, who will? Just do that with your eyes on the real prize. As for me, I’ll keep working to do that holding one hand high in the air to give praise and make a point, and holding the other at ready to clap it over my trap in case I start to venture too close to the foolish zone.