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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cheap words leave us with belly-aches

17 You grab a mad dog by the ears
   when you butt into a quarrel that's none of your business. 
(Proverbs 26:17)

Our passage today is pretty plain - stay out of other people's business!  When we butt into where we have no business being, we often find it is like taking hold of a rabid dog - we get bit!  This is a good lesson to learn, but a tough one to learn.  It easy to get caught up in the business of another.  Sometimes we do just because we "want to be in the know".  Other times it is because we "want to rescue" someone who is in the middle of a muddle.  Whatever the reason, we would do well to consider the consequences before we "step in the middle" of what we never belonged in in the first place!

20 When you run out of wood, the fire goes out; 
   when the gossip ends, the quarrel dies down.
(Proverbs 26:20)

The passage goes on to remind us of the power of our words.  When we "stoke" the fires of passionate discourse with the words spoken out of our emotion rather than from rational thought, we often end up with a mess.  Being in the middle of a quarrelsome situation is not easily navigated.  We sometimes feel "caught up" in the midst of the moment - contributing to it without realizing that we are doing so.  Words are powerful instruments - they both build the momentum of the quarrel and have the ability to extinguish the quarrel.  The choice of words determines the outcome.  Our passage reminds us that when the gossip ends - the quarrel is extinguished.

Gossip is often thought of as the "back fence" type of communication - the secret exchanges of words that you engage in when others are not around.  They can also be the words we use to share those "juicy tidbits" that no one else knows.  Both are equally as damaging.  Another aspect of gossip that we don't really think of is the idea of "tattling" on another.  We use the words of gossip to share the "bad stuff" we think we know about another.  Our passage reminds us of the damage of these types of words - they cause quarrels.  

A quarrel is a break in friendly relations - it often ends relationships.  That seems extreme, but it is quite true.  Quarrels not resolved quickly will provide fuel for bitterness, resentment, and mistrust.  In turn, the relationship is damaged.  Quarrels emerge because there is a disagreement - someone is finding fault with another's actions, ideas, etc.  "Stoke" those ideas of "finding fault" and you end up with a rift in relationship.

 21 A quarrelsome person in a dispute is like kerosene thrown on a fire.
 22 Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; 
do you want junk like that in your belly? 
(Proverbs 26:21-22)

To wrap this up, the writer of our proverb reminds us that the character of a quarrelsome person leads them to be constantly "throwing kerosene" on the fire of the quarrel.  They just don't realize that their actions and words are being that damaging.  That is why we will do well to walk away from the exchange.  We will eventually be affected by the exchange if we don't.  The writer reminds us that even "listening" to the exchange affects us - it is like eating cheap candy - we end up with a belly-ache!