The Psalm writer wrote: Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. As we come before a Holy God and hear his word, may we have eyes open to the wonderful and fearful things from his law. May it move us to repent and seek forgiveness, fear disobedience, and live in light of the grace we have received. This is the word of God. It is eternally true and applicable for all of life.
Proverbs 30: 29-33 There are three things which are stately in their march, Even four which are stately when they walk: The lion which is mighty among beasts And does not retreat before any, The strutting rooster, the male goat also, And a king when his army is with him. If you have been foolish in exalting yourself Or if you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth. For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife.
Have you ever said something to someone simply to get a rise out of them? I know I have. My words to a certain male deathscort come to mind: “Did Huxley give you permission to speak?” I think about my workplace, where any activity or word which produces irritation in a person is often used as a a stick to poke and prod the aggravated one into a frustrated frenzy. I have observed, as I am sure many of you have, Facebook being used as a means to stir up the easily angered people on your friends list. There is even a term for when we post something controversial meant to stir the pot, and people react….”triggered”. Now, we are called to speak the truth. As Christians, we cannot shy away from sharing hard truths with those around us. To do so would be unloving. However, we know from experience that no matter how well we craft our words, someone will always be offended. We can speak the truth, giving qualifications for every point along the way, and yet someone will be ready to pounce in offense. Jesus said that the world hated Him because He testified that their works were evil, and if we are to be like our teacher, it is unavoidable that we will be hated. However, should we not examine our motives when sharing the truth? The proverb today says that: For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife.
Strife is an angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues. Various proverbs deal with the issue of strife. (Proverbs 16:28) A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends. (Proverbs 18:6)
A fool's lips bring strife, And his mouth calls for blows. (Proverbs 20:3)
Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel. (Proverbs 26:17) Like one who takes a dog by the ears Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him. (Proverbs 26:21) Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. (Proverbs 28:25) An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.
Matthew Henry says this about stirring up strife: “We must not irritate the passions of others. Some are so very provoking in their words and conduct that they even force wrath, they make those about them angry whether they will or no, and put those into a passion who are not only not inclined to it, but resolved against it. Now this forcing of wrath brings forth strife, and where that is there is confusion and every evil work. As the violent agitation of the cream fetches all the good out of the milk, and the hard wringing of the nose will extort blood from it, so this forcing of wrath wastes both the body and spirits of a man, and robs him of all the good that is in him. Or, as it is in the churning of milk and the wringing of the nose, that is done by force which otherwise would not be done, so the spirit is heated by degrees with strong passions; one angry word begets another, and that a third; one passionate debate makes work for another, and so it goes on till it ends at length in irreconcilable feuds.”
Listen, we know that speaking the truth, in love, will anger folks, and make them want to drive us off cliffs and stone us. This passage of scripture cannot be speaking of how unbelievers rage against the truth when it is presented in a way that honors God and is loving towards our neighbor. If it is, then we would never be able to share the gospel with a lost person for fear of provoking them to anger. What this refers to, are our motivations when speaking the truth. Do you desire the edification of the person, or are you simply trying to win the debate? Do you long to see the person come to an understanding of the truth, or are you piling on someone like a shark in a feeding frenzy? Is the desire for conflict what drives you, or a desire to see the gospel advance? Are your words spoken out of obedience to Christ, or a desire to increase the likes on your Facebook page?
Have you ever watched someone churn milk before? It’s hard work, demands repetition and an intentionality. Milk does not turn into butter by itself, and in the same way strife does not simply arise out of thin air. We have to work to produce strife. The proverbs I read earlier said that those who kindle strife, are contentious, arrogant, foolish, and perverse. Is that you this morning? Are your words, both written and spoken, like healing salve to broken souls, or are they like spurs meant to prod and provoke? Are you motivated out of compassion for the one trapped in bondage and error, or are they nothing more than a foe to be vanquished with a keystroke. There was one last point of emphasis that Matthew Henry made, that I would like to leave you with this morning, and I suspect there will be some who may disagree, but know that I save this point for the end because I love you, and it is something that I struggle with mightily. He says “Let nothing therefore be said or done with violence, but every thing with softness and calmness.” That grates against us doesn’t it? We are bold. We speak the truth anytime, anywhere, and if someone gets riled up or offended, well, that just reveals their sin and error to their shame. Ephesians 4:29 “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Brothers and sisters, let us be motivated by love, like Christ, not by our sinful desires and passions.
If you are able, let us kneel and confess how we often use our words for the stirring up of strife.
Heavenly Father, Your Word is sharper than a two edged sword, yet far too often we seek to use our words, not for building up, but for slicing and piercing. Frequently our words are used to produce strife, delivered with arrogant, foolish motives, rather than love. Father, we have the truth, and instead of displaying Your Son and His glory and majesty, so that the unbeliever might taste and see that He is good, we use the truth like a blunt instrument to win arguments, get likes on Facebook, and elevate ourselves. Please grant us repentant hearts O LORD. Please be merciful towards us sinners. Father, please help us to follow after Christ, being persecuted as for imitating Him, rather than for our own sinful practices. It’s in Jesus Name we pray. Amen.
Listen now to the comforting assurance of the grace of God, promised in the gospel to all that believe:
Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
To all those who thus repent and seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lift up your hearts!