30 April 2013

Wise and Foolish Speech in Proverbs

A really nice article in the current Themelios by my brother Eric on how Proverbs guides us into wisdom in how we use our words. Filled with good insight, and urgently relevant for our lives today in the church, especially for leaders.

Here's the big picture, from the introduction:
I would like to argue that, in the book of Proverbs, one cannot argue with a fool without making things worse. The wise person instead trusts the Lord to intervene by silencing and stopping foolish speech and vindicating those who trust him. I realize this conclusion may seem extreme. In order to recommend it, this article briefly sketches how the major characters in Proverbs speak and examines how the wise respond (or do not respond) to foolish speech. Then it turns to the NT, focusing on Paul’s directions to how Timothy and Titus should speak in different situations, as well as Paul’s presentation of Christ as the wisdom of God in 1 Cor 1. The essay closes by applying the wise speech of Proverbs to everyday-ministry settings.
 And here's a pungent paragraph from the conclusion:
Why does the fool always have to be right? Why is he always arguing, always putting others in the wrong and justifying himself? Because he does not relish the righteousness that is found in Jesus Christ—the very righteousness of God (Phil 3:10) that God confers on anyone forsaking whatever righteousness they can achieve on their own (3:9). In my experience, some Christians are burdened with a profound a sense of the wrongness of the world and the church, but do not have a correspondingly sweet sense of God’s grace for sinful people. Their strategy for dealing with the pain of this pervasive sense of wrongness is to offload it on others. I have known Christians whose “ministry” was pointing out others’ faults, being suspicious of false teaching in others, criticizing and scrutinizing other Christians, and so on. A Christian can rebuke and exhort in a larger context of grace, but the person I am talking about does not do this—it is a ministry of condemnation, not reconciliation.

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