Yikes! Is there anything more dangerous than for a man to comment on, let alone write a blog about, Proverbs 21:19? “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” I cannot even remotely relate to the second half of the authors statement. My beloved does not quarrel and has never nagged. She might disagree, express disappointment, or deliver a strong opinion but always with a calm deliberate posture that adds urgency and power without that edge of anger that marks the start of a fight. However, I do have some limited experience with deserts.

Why would the author compare a person to a desert? At first glance deserts do not look like much. The deserts I knew living in Peru were barren – absolutely and completely barren. Not a blade of grass or a bush. Miles and miles of rocks and gravel. Because there was no vegetation there was no other life of any kind. Even on the rare occasions, maybe once a decade, that some precipitation fell, nothing sprouted. After so many years of drought no ancient seed or root existed that could be revived by any amount of water. What I learned was that deserts are dangerous places. You cannot survive there. You might pass through but you did not stay because a desert will suck the life out of you, literally. I wonder if the same could be true of people?

So, the one writing in Proverbs was likely telling us that being close to someone who is always nipping at us with their words will suck the life from us – regardless if they are man or woman. Quarrelsome people are dangerous to our health and theirs. Like many of the Proverbs, verse 19 is a general commentary on life that carries an insight to consider. It should not be taken as universal social commentary that defines our most intimate relationship. But we can take the verse to heart and consider how it applies to our relationships.

We have all likely experienced the burden of people we want to avoid because they express such a negative perspective on everything. But should we not also consider if we are the person that others are experiencing as negative or quarrelsome. Am I the desert sucking life from others because of my attitude, expressions, or manners? As followers of Jesus we have life and light within us that should enhance growth in others, not cause them to wither. Whether we are speaking about theology, politics, sports, or grandchildren our language should align with the advice in Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” How we use language is a prominent theme throughout Proverbs – both the consequences of misuse and the blessings of speaking wisely. A few verses after we are admonished to avoid being quarrelsome we get some very practical advice in verse 23, “Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.” MSG. But more than simply protecting ourselves, our words should reflect the life that is within us. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:13. Following this advice will assure that we are not the dangerous desert that others should avoid.

by Jim Roberts, Deacon

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