Proverbs 15:1

Speak Gently

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:11)

“Who’s in charge here?” The angry female voice startled me. I turned my head to see who had spoken. The woman who stood in the doorway of the church office wore a scowl.

I smiled, then said, “How can I help you?”

She stepped closer and said, “Someone’s been doing yard work over at your parsonage and left dead branches and other debris all over my side yard.”

“Well, that’s just unacceptable, isn’t it?”

She blinked her eyes once or twice, started to speak, then stopped.
“I’ll tell the custodian, and we’ll get it cleaned up this afternoon if possible,” I said. “Is that okay?”

A wobbly smile spread across her face. “Yes,” she said. “That’ll be fine.”

I then explained that a new pastor was moving into the parsonage, and some volunteers had been working in the yard. “I’m sorry they left a mess.”

She started to leave, then turned back. “I look forward to meeting your new minister.”

On that day, working in the church office, I was aware of my responsibility to represent the Lord well. But I don’t always respond so wisely. In other settings, even my home, I’m less conscious of the fact that I represent him at all times. I’m more likely to react to anger with anger, to rudeness with rudeness.

The word translated “harsh” in verse one of Proverbs 15 refers to speech that irritates like a wire brush. As representatives of Jesus Christ, we’re to avoid comments and responses that stir up anger, bitterness, and pain.

Some Bible versions use “soft” instead of “gentle” in verse one, but the connotation is clear either way: speak words that soothe. Paul told the Colossians that our speech should always be “full of grace” and “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). In other words, we’re to use language that soothes the offended, enhances conversations, and preserves relationships.

Today, tomorrow, or the next day, someone will surely say something—or post something on social media—that rankles. How will you respond?

Dig Deeper:

Read Proverbs 15:2, 4, 7, and 18. How do these verses reinforce the value of gentle speech?

Read 1 Samuel 25: 1–35. How did Nabal’s speech stir up David’s anger? How did Abigail’s speech quench David’s anger?

Read Acts 9:26–27 and Acts 11:1–18. How did Barnabas and Peter use gentle, wise speech to solve problems in the first-century church? In what ways can their example help you be a problem-solver not a problem-maker?

Denise K. Loock

This devotion is part of a series on the Book of Proverbs.

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