“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
Actually, it is a proverb not for today, but from chapter twenty-five of Proverbs (two days ago), but I wasn’t blogging or reading blogs on Christmas Day, and I hope you weren’t, either.
Today, we’ll look at this proverb in the context of Proverbs “Road to Ruin”. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll look at the message of the proverb itself in a little more detail.
Bruce Waltke calls this a “janus” proverb, one that both ends the preceding section and begins a new section, looking both backwards and forwards. Verses 23-27 generally have a similar structure to verse 28, with a person’s behaviour compared (metaphorically) to something which is obviously good or bad (cold water to a thirsty soul, a troubled fountain, etc.).
Since we are dealing with poetry, we should indeed pay attention to structure. Verse 28 belongs with 23-27. A person who doesn’t rule his spirit, who lacks self-control, is in the same general category as gossips, angry people, nagging / angry wives, those who neglect to carry good news, those who may be righteous but won’t stand for righteousness under pressure, and gluttons. In fact, these are generally related by the topic of verse 28 — self-control. In a sense, verse 28 sums up much of what came in the preceding verses.
And yet, verse 28 is forward-looking as well, closely connected to what follows. This verse, Proverbs 25:28, talks about a city in ruins, and the next chapter of Proverbs ends (26:28) with talking about ruin as well. The number seven often symbolises perfection or completeness in Scripture, and there are seven characteristics of evil described in these twenty-nine verses, from 25:28 through 26:28.
Proverbs’ Road to Ruin
|25:28||The Person Who Lacks Self-Control|
|26:1-12||The Foolish Person|
|26:13-16||The Lazy Person|
|26:17||The Person Who Likes to Involve Himself in Strife|
|26:18-19||The Person Who Makes Trouble Just for Fun|
|26:20-23||The Gossip Who Spreads Contention and Strife|
|26:24-28||The Malicious Enemy Driven by Hatred|
These seven characteristics give a fairly complete picture of the ways that the evil lurking in our hearts shows itself, and this description of them begins, and ends, with ruin.
Which evil characteristic appears first in this “rogue’s gallery” of seven horrible personality attributes? Failure to rule one’s own spirit, lack of self-control, gets the first spot.
If you want to jump on the road to ruin, there is no better place to start: abandon self-control and let yourself be ruled by circumstances, emotions, and what others do. Fill your tank with the petrol of an uncontrolled spirit and you’ll have enough “foolishness fuel” to make a mess of your own life, as well as causing trouble for others. You’ll also be amazed at how easy it will be to find places to re-fuel with more types of foolishness as you continue your journey to destruction.
Want to get off that road? The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The slip road that takes us off this highway of ruin and gives us a better course is the work of the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts, transforming us by His power. If we lack self-control, we don’t just have to shrug and say, “That’s the way I am, I can’t change it.” If we are Christ’s, there is Somebody a lot greater than us involved in this situation, Someone who specialises in changing “the way I am.”
Our greatest problem isn’t usually the changing (God’s power is more than sufficient, and we know it), but simply that we don’t want to change. I tend to like “the way I am,” and want to hang onto it. After all, I’ve spent all my life being “the way I am,” it’s comfortable for me, so I’m just going to keep cruising down this road, ignoring the road signs that say, “Ruin ahead.” Maybe I’ll exit at a later opportunity, but this road just seems so smooth and pleasant and familiar right now. It’s so easy when the road goes downhill all the way….