19 A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel. 20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. 22 He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the LORD. 23 The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly. 24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Prov. 18:19-24 NIV)
19 A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city;
disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.
Family disputes are the most difficult to resolve. They sometimes last for years. One side of the family refuses to speak to the other side of the family. Life is very short, and it is not worth that type of dispute. A brother or close relative who has been offended becomes as impenetrable as a fortified city. When a dispute arises because we don’t want to deal with it or we feel that time will make it better, it seldom does. It is best dealt with immediately. These disputes can be like the bars on gates, they offer no way through.
20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.
The fruit of the mouth are the words that are spoken, and it is in a good sense that the words are used. The Proverbs speak of the benefit of wise speech, both to the one who makes the speech and those who hear it. We have all spoken enough blunders to be aware of the consequences and benefits of wise speech. A lot of what we say throughout the course of a week cannot possibly all be planned and rehearsed. As we interact with people a degree of spontaneity is required. What we can prepare in advance is the condition of our heart and attitude. If the heart and attitude are well prepared, there is less likelihood that we will use inappropriate or foolish speech. However, we are all fallible beings and without intending to we all can say foolish things. In those circumstances we should be quick to say sorry. A wise person is identified by the words that he speaks. The wise way to live is generally better regulated and the person will have enough to provide food for themselves and their family, and so their stomach is said to be satisfied. The proverb doesn’t mean that the wise person earns their living by the wise words that they speak, but the wise words identifies that they are walking the path of wisdom which prospers.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
With the words that we speak we can bring either life of death. This should help us understand how potent words can be, and how great the harvest of good or ill we can reap by what we say. If we love and practise wise speech we can sow seeds in the lives of others that will bring forth fruit in their lives.
22 He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favour from the LORD.
This is a truth that needs to be recovered. Marriage is good, to have a wife is good for the husband and through his wife he enjoys the Lord’s favour. God said in the beginning that it was not good for man to be alone and so God created the woman. Radical feminism, with its victim culture has devalued the marriage relationship. The husband and wife relationship is the closest relationship that there can be. The relationship was designed by God for humanity’s benefit. Biblical marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
23 The poor plead for mercy,
but the rich answer harshly.
Poverty often reduces the poor to seek help from the wealthy. The disposition of the poor is one of pleading to be shown mercy. This is just stating a fact of life. It raises a question, ‘why does the poor person be allowed to sink into such need that he has to plead for help?’ Not all rich people answer harshly, but many do. They answer harshly because they can. The poor person is in need and cannot speak up for himself. The rich person has all his needs met and some luxuries to go with it. He is likely hard working and may feel aggrieved that the poor person could earn enough if he only worked harder. It is hard to escape out of poverty. Cultural critic, Theodore Dalrymple wrote a book about the poverty trap entitled ‘Life at the Bottom’. He speaks about a subculture that society keeps trapped in poverty, and third and fourth generations exist of people who have never been employed. A kind society should provide education and support to help people help themselves out of poverty.
24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
The prodigal son comes to mind. He bought his unreliable friends and the friends disappeared as fast as his money. The contrast here is between the many unreliable friends and the one good friend who sticks closer than a brother. There is depth in this relationship. This primarily refers to a close earthly friend. But our minds are taken automatically to the Lord Jesus Christ who has laid down His life for His friends.
Lord, we thank You that we have been united with Christ and that we enjoy all the benefits of salvation in union with Christ. We are thankful that that union is unbreakable because it has been secured by Christ and we are secure in Christ. Lord, we offer You our praise and thanksgiving in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.