The Provocative People of Proverbs

The book of Proverbs warns us about people like that, people who love to incite conflict and hate to resolve it.

The morally deficient fool. “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (20:3). This brand of fool is even worse than the obstinate one. This one outs himself the moment he opens his mouth because his words show him to be utterly deficient in goodness and grace. He is nearly intolerable and causes trouble wherever he goes.

 

I feel sorry for those people who spend all day on social media snarking at others. Do they just sit there hour after hour, following people they despise, then throwing barbs their way? That must be an awful way to live. Some people seem to shrivel where there is peace and thrive where there is contention. The book of Proverbs warns us about people like that, people who love to incite conflict and hate to resolve it. Lou Priolo highlights a number of them in his excellent book Resolving Conflict. These are the provocative people of Proverbs.

The hot-tempered person. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute” (15:18). The hot-tempered man is passionate about all kinds of things and allows that passion to well up into anger. He’s your classic hothead who so easily blows his top. His passion and anger incites him to stir up strife, to cause problems that could otherwise be avoided or resolved.

The perverse person. “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends” (16:28). Just like a computer hacker writes a virus and releases it to spread across the internet, this perverse person creates strife—bitter disagreement—and seeds it into his relationships. He may do this through slander, through gossip, and through backbiting, always with the design of turning other people against his victim. His perversity is aimed at harming others.

The lover of transgression. “He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction” (17:19). Instead of loving and pursuing all that is good and lovely in the world, this person loves sin, he loves strife, he loves what is evil and ugly. “Who else would love strife besides a person who also loves sin? He enjoys a good fight, whether he is in the ring himself or is coaching from the corner. By raising his door (opening his mouth in pride) he finds what he is looking for—someone getting annihilated.”

The obstinate fool. “A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows” (18:6). Proverbs identifies at least three different kinds of fool. This one is foolish not because of some mental deficiency but “because of his propensity to make wrong choices.” He brings strife with him wherever he goes simply because of his foolishness. Contention is part of who he is, part of what he does. This fool’s words provoke trouble, “calling for blows”—practically begging for a beating.

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