For lack of wood the fire goes out – Proverbs 26:20

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” (Proverbs 26:20 NASB)

With Mr. Simpson gone for the week, giving his daughter to the hand of Marshall Harbour for marriage, we digress from the study of Old Testament quotations in the New Testament.  

Instead we will examine a short verse from the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs is a great book, as it does not contain simply the wise sayings of the earthly sages, but rather reveals the wisdom of the eternal God in the Scriptural pages.  This verse from Proverbs begins with a simple picture to which we can all relate.  Everyone who has been dependent upon heat from a fireplace has probably awaken with shivering on many a cold, Montana winter morning.  We know well the Scriptural statement, “For lack of wood the fire goes out.”  Anyone who has tended the campfire of a family gathering knows that as long as another piece of wood is put on the fire, it will continue to burn, but when the party starts winding down, it is time to quit putting any more wood on the fire.  A statement that is simple, but true: “For lack of wood the fire goes out.”  In the realm of human relations, there is a dangerous fire of which the Scripture speaks.  The book of Proverbs here calls it contention, which is fueled by “the whisperer.”  When people disagree on a matter, there is the fleshly tendency for both parties to fight it out, to prove that he/she is right.  Typically this argument solves nothing, but rather continues to build enmity between these people, and rage within them.  Generally, the simple solution to this problem is found in our earthly proverb, “For lack of wood the fire goes out.”  In other words, be quiet and the argument will quickly fade.  Many a screaming match between husband and wife could have been completely averted if only one of them would have chosen to be quiet and quit putting wood on the fire.  Many a split between two friends could have been bridged with just one cautious zip of the lip.  Many a church squabble could have been avoided had there been one wise man to keep his mouth shut and entrust the issue to the Lord who has spoken words of eternal life.  Although Jesus’ opinions were always right, He often was cautious in His words.  When asked by a lawyer what was needed to inherit eternal life, Jesus’ response was, “What is written in the Law?  How does it read to you?”  When the chief priests challenged Him concerning His authority, He responded to them with a question they were afraid to answer.  When on trial before His accusers, He was as a silent lamb before its shearer.  Jesus Himself understood and practiced the proverb, “For lack of wood the fire goes out.”  The inspired book of James also brings some thoughts to this discussion.  James 1:19 says in part, “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (emphasis added)  When the mouth is shut, the fight quickly dissipates.  James further compares the tongue to a fire, with the warning that a great forest is set aflame by such a small fire.  He reminds us that the tongue sets on fire the course of our life, and is itself set on fire by hell.  There is only one way for the fire to be quenched, and that is to remove the fuel from the tongue.  It is important that all members of the body of Christ pray for wisdom and acquire it.  It is essential that we all learn to keep our tongue in check, lest we find ourselves continually in the midst of strife.  At a one-on-one level, we need to show self-restraint, realizing that there is many a time to be silent.  When there is peace abounding in the brotherhood, there is no cause to stir up strife by getting the “whispering” started.  When you are introduced to gossip or destructive half-truths, remember that the “whisperer” generally isn’t interested in solutions, but rather in stirring up strife or promoting a personal agenda.  Typically the best response to such a destructive person is to keep your mouth shut, and turn away from the discussion as quickly as possible.  Contention truly slows down the positive momentum of the Lord’s church, so let’s do our part to keep the body moving forward.  Unless we have something positive to say, let’s not say anything at all, entrusting ourselves to Him who judges righteously.  Instead of putting another log on the fire, let’s be content to watch the last of the embers fade away.  Remember: “For lack of wood the fire goes out.”


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