He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
Here is a lesson in personal greatness. How strong are you? What have you achieved? The best test of character is controlling your emotions, especially anger. The biggest achievement you can have is to limit your passions to only those actions that are good.
Every real man wants to be a mighty man of valor. Every real woman wants to be a noble woman worthy of such a man. The Bible records many exploits of mighty men and noble women. But this proverb teaches a greater measure of individual glory – the ability to deny anger and to control your spirit. The man who can resist getting angry or losing control of his spirit is more honorable than men with great military accomplishments.
Consider some mighty men of valor. Gideon defeated a huge army of Midianites with only 300 men, and Jephthah destroyed 20 cities of the Ammonites with a small army. Samson killed 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and Shamgar killed 600 with an ox goad. Joab took the fortress of Jebus, which became Jerusalem. Adino killed 800 at one time with his spear, and Abishai did the same to 300. Caleb begged for a mountain in Canaan where the dreaded giants lived, and he destroyed them and took their cities.
But you can be greater than these men! You do so by being cautious and slow in getting angry and by controlling and ruling your spirit. It takes more courage, discipline, strength, and wisdom to resist passionate emotions like anger than it does to take a city.
Can you control the violent feelings of anger and keep your spirit calm and wise? Will you? This is how a born fool can be wise and glorious (Pr 14:29; Ec 7:9; Jas 1:19-20). If you defer anger and pass over faults and offences of others, you are glorious (Pr 19:11).
But your spirit screams for a strong response! It hates to be restrained. It must exert itself, in full fury, now! Harsh words burn in your tongue and must be spoken. You tell others you cannot help yourself. You may blame God for giving you a spirit too strong to rule.
The world lies that anger is a trait of mighty men, a right of free men, and a tool of strong leaders. They say venting rage brings relief, but this is only to a depraved soul. If a conscience remains, you are soon grieved at the violence that spewed out of your mouth.
Rather than ruling their spirit, most men are ruled by their spirits. Instead of conquering anger, they become captives of their passions. Instead of thinking before speaking, they speak without thinking by their feelings only, which is highly dangerous and foolhardy.
The battle facing you exceeds any military expedition. A city can be taken with a single siege, but you will fight the passion of anger for the rest of your life. Wars are fought by the efforts of many, but you must fight alone. The vigilance, effort, and patience needed to rule anger causes most men to forfeit the battle and become slaves to their own folly.
The world is filled with illustrations of those who could not rule their spirits. You have them in your own family. You likely have several in your own closet. Alexander the Great conquered the known world, but he could not defeat the brutish beast within that ruined him at home and among his friends. Peter the Great is reported to have said, “I can govern my people, but how can I govern myself?” If you can defeat this monster, you will have a victory over a foe that has destroyed conquerors. You will be a mighty man!
Anger marks a loser. Guaranteed! Anger blinds your mind to misread situations, causes you to say and do stupid things, never accomplishes anything good, and drives away your family and friends (Pr 14:17; 15:18; 21:24; 22:24-25; 29:22). If you get angry and do not rule your spirit, you cannot be compared to a military hero; you must be compared to a city with its walls broken down and vulnerable to all kinds of evil (Pr 25:28; Jas 3:14-16).
Not all anger is sin. Do not let misguided Christians tell you otherwise. Jesus condemned unjustified anger (Matt 5:22), and Paul said to be angry and sin not (Eph 4:26). Anger is good, when it is directed against sin for the glory of God. But anger in a traffic jam, or over spilt milk, or about another’s harsh words against you, or because you were slighted, or in retaliation for a wrong, or because things did not turn out as expected, is wrong!
There are more passions than just anger, and you must also rule them. Moodiness is the mark of an immature child, not a mighty man of valor. Such a person needs a beating, not comforting. Murmuring is the complaining of a wicked heart moving a devilish tongue, which ought not to be. Critical or harsh speech is the poison that spews from a selfish heart. Great men have pure hearts that result in gracious speech (Pr 22:11; Col 4:6).
There are other passions that need to be ruled. Fear is very debilitating, but it has no place in your life, for God has not given you such a spirit (II Tim 1:7), and fearing others will trap you into foolish choices or sin (Pr 29:25). Covetousness, the desire of what others have or what you do not have, is compared to idolatry (Eph 5:5). Contentment, a key to true happiness and a measure of great gain, is your choice (I Tim 6:6; Heb 13:5-6).
What can you do to be great in the sight of God and men? Slow down! Do not ever say or do anything by impulse. Hear things out before you speak. Choose to study every matter before giving your opinion. Wait before reacting, when you hear or experience any negative event. Cut your words in half. Always be gracious in your speech, especially with your family. Let the words of this proverb motivate you to be a mighty man of valor.
But you cannot achieve this victory without help, and that help is in the Lord, His word, and His saints. Paul learned that he could do all things through Christ, Who strengthened him (Phil 4:13). The Holy Spirit, allowed to bear fruit by a holy and submissive life, can fill you with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and so forth (Gal 5:22-23). The Bible can convert your soul by showing the folly of anger and the glory of peace. And brothers and sisters in Christ, when they are doing their duty, can encourage and warn you as needed.
Will the real mighty men of valor please stand up! Will the real noble women of the earth please stand up! You will not have to wait long to face your foe. The Lord Himself will arrange circumstances to test the rule of your spirit. Do not be surprised by anything that happens. Purpose now to be slow and cautious in responding and to rule that unruly fury in your belly and tongue. May the grace of Jesus Christ give you complete victory!