Here again are the four “jobs” that meekness does for us when we are angered by something:
- Consider the circumstances of that which we find to be a provocation.
- Calm the spirit so that inward peace may not be disturbed by any outward provocation.
- Curb the tongue and keep the mouth as with a bridle when the heart is hot.
- Cool the heat of passion quickly and not suffer it to continue.
The last few weeks, I’ve been talking about what I learned from Matthew Henry on the first point. Today I’d like to quickly cover points 2 and 4, and major on the third point, which is where I struggle the most.
Meekness calms our spirit so that our inner peace is not disturbed by outward provocations. Henry says, “Cannot we charge home upon our enemy’s camp without the willful disordering of our own troops?” Jesus said the same thought in John 14:1, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Think of a hurricane–on the outside are great storms and winds, but in the eye of the storm is great peace. As Christians, God’s peace is greater than our understanding, keeping our hearts and minds on Jesus Christ.
While I struggle with anger, I also struggle with worry, so these thoughts are helpful for both temptations.
Bite Your Tongue
The third point is so important: Meekness “curbs the tongue and keeps the mouth as with a bridle when the heart is hot.” Even Moses, the meekest man on earth, was shut out of Canaan for the time when he was not meek, when he called the Israelites “rebels.” They were rebels! But he was not meek.
Here are some examples of ways that we sin with our tongues when we are angry because we lack meekness:
- blast others with searing language
- call people unfair and ridiculous names
- take God’s name in vain
- take our anger out on those lower than us–children, animals, employees, things–by swearing at them
- reveal secrets
- make rash promises
- slander others
- speak in haste about others (David said, “All men are liars.” Saul called his own son “son of the perverse rebellious woman.” Racca and Thou fool are said by Jesus to break the sixth commandment.)
I want to be like the woman in Proverbs 31:26: “In her tongue is a law of kindness.” James 3:4 says the tongue is like the helm of a ship–a little thing that turns a great ship. So Henry’s advice if we have become angry is that meekness will “lay the hand upon the mouth.” Proverbs 30:32 What if we literally did that? If I got in the habit of literally biting my tongue whenever I was angry, think how many sins I would avoid!
The final job of meekness is to cool our heat of anger quickly. James also says the tongue is like a fire; but the anger of a meek man is like “fire struck out of steel, hard to be got out, but when it is out, soon gone.” Wisdom that is from above is gentle and “easy to be entreated,” so when angry, the ear will always be open to hearing overtures of reconciliation. A meek spirit is quick to forgive, to put up with, to excuse or to qualify the provocation of another.
It is but saying, “There is no great harm done, or, if there be, there was none intended, and peradventure it was an oversight,” and so the offence being looked at through that end of the perspective which diminishes, it is easily past by, and the distemper being taken in time, goes off quickly, the fire is quenched before it gets head, and by a speedy interposal the plague is stayed.”
Like an unexpected visitor, angry thoughts can crowd into your heart, but meekness won’t allow them to take up residence; it won’t even let the sun go down upon them! (Ephesians 4:26) “Anger concocted, becomes malice; it is the wisdom of meekness, by proper applications, to disperse the humor before it comes to a head.”
Two Biblical examples:
- David was soon pacified from his great anger at Nabal when Abigail spoke to him.
- God does not “contend for ever,” neither is he “always wroth”; his “anger endures but a moment.” Psalm 30:5
All of these thoughts help us to govern our own anger. Next I want to share what advice Matthew Henry gives when others are angry at us.
This is my attempt to rephrase Matthew Henry’s book The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit.
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