Whenever we face a situation where we can react in anger we have a choice. I know that some don't think so because they say that so-in-so made me angry - or such-and-such a situation made me mad. The facts would say something much different. They say that we control our temperment - not that circumstances and people control what we do. Today's proverb helps us understand this. Each day as we begin to interact with people and face a world filled with its varicolored situations, we need to do so making a conscious choice. What that choice should be is the topic of God's wise counsel to us in this verse.
We have a choice whether we are going to be "hot-tempered" or not. The Hebrew word for "hot-tempered" is very instructive and descriptive here. It is "chemah" and means to be rage-filled, angry, and filled with poison or venom. This is fascinating because we need to make a conscious choice not to have the venom and poison of the evil one flowing through our veins as we walk through our day. By this I am not saying that we are demon possessed or anything fantastical like that. Instead I refer to a much more subtle thing that energizes the strife that will follow such a man through his day. Let me explain.
Each day we live we interact with others and with our environment from morning to night. As we do this we have both problems and problem people come into our lives. It is possible as we do this to be bitten by the evil one in such a way that his venom and poison enters our system. This usually happens when someone hurts our feelings - or tramples what we perceive to be our right to be treated better or with a certain modicum of respect. It can also happen when we begin to entertain the thought that a certain set of providential circumstances are a raw deal. If we are not careful to cry out to God to remove such venom from the veins of our thinking and our heart - it can begin to do its insidious work in us. Over time this poison will turn to bitterness against someone - resentment grows to a point where what at first was an annoyance becomes a seething cauldron of anger and rage toward someone. In regard to circumstances that our God allows providentially in our lives, we can think Him cruel and uncaring. This poison will turn our hearts a deep shade of bitter - and we soon find it hard to read His Word, pray, and ultimately to trust Hiim to cause all things to work for good. As the infection spreads deeper in our reasoning, we soon become angry at our core - which is where this one is in this verse. Thus the temper of his soul is such that he is constantly stirring up strife. I've known men over the years who say that trouble seems to follow them. But in a majority of the cases, they were one who had allowed the venom of the evil one through slights and circumstantial difficulties to reach a critical mass in their hearts. The trouble they perceived to follow them - really was trouble that they encoruaged because they are so angry in their core. I've even watched this in some who do this not through active agression - but through passive-agressive actions and words (or the lack of them).
There is another choice we can make in the Lord. That is that we become those who calm disputes. These are those who have at their core a work of the grace of God that makes them slow to anger. The Hebrew word used for this is one that is also used to describe long pinions - which are the largest feathers on the wing of birds. These particular feathers are used in birds to reduce drag on their wings thus helping them control both the wind and the turbulence that is natural in the sky while they fly. What an astounding picture this is for us of the patient, long-suffering man who chooses to calm disputes rather than fuel them. Like a bird who uses their long pinions to ride the wind while diffusing the problems it causes - these people ride the events of everyday life. They choose to deflect and diffuse both the insults and indignities of life - as well as the problematic providences that we cannot change. Rather than having such things make their flight a bumpy one, their choice to be slow to anger allows them to ride the difficulties of living on earth rather than having the things of earth ride rough-shod over them.
A wise man knows that life is not going to be fair - neither is it going to bow down and kiss his feet every day. He knows that since we live in a fallen world, that he will run into fallen people who act . . . well, they act fallen. Therefore he chooses to turn to God, who deals with the indignities of over 7 billion people daily, and yet who does not consume them with His wrath. This grace daily allows him to stretch forth his spiritual pinions and diffuse the problems and the poison that would turn him from being a peaceful, gracious man into an angry strife-ridden one. May God give us mercy that we would be such men and women.