On the meaning of Proverbs 25:28

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

It seems I heard this verse quoted countless times in college and seminary. It was frequently mentioned in classes and chapel messages. The speakers and teachers did not interpret or explain the verse, but seemed to assume the meaning was evident. It is just another one of those blunt-force weapons of Proverbial counseling.

Maybe the meaning is evident, and I have just been missing it for lo these many years. Sometimes the Spirit works slowly, sometimes with mighty gusts. This past weekend I seemed to realize a meaning of it.

When a man has no self control, when he is quick to anger; he is a city without walls. In other words, he is ripe for the picking.

The woman with no control of her emotions is seen by her adversaries. The man quick to anger is recognized by his opponents. The shrewd enemy notes this character flaw and files it away for future use. You have no walls- at any time you can be attacked and conquered.

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You have one direction you would like to see the group go, your opponent has another one. There is a meeting to plan the future. Your opponent knows you have no walls. He waits, bides his time, and then casually drops the match in just the right spot. The only thing left for him to do is sit back and watch the fireworks. And then lead in the direction he wants to go. After all, who wants to follow a lunatic anywhere?

When you lack self control you are at the absolute mercy of your enemies. They can strike and defeat you whenever they please. If they are wise, they will do it when it best suits their interests. You think the absence of a wall does not matter. I have gone this long in safety. Who would want to attack me? Do not be deceived. Your lack of self control is seen by all. It will be taken advantage of at the convenience of your foes.

Now, this all seems like a very base interpretation of Proverbs 25:28. Surely Solomon would not be this Machiavellian. All this talk of enemies, opponents, foes… We are Christians surely such things are not true among us. Well, as a dread pirate once said…

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Are there better reasons to seek self-control than just the threat of being made a fool of? Certainly. But sometimes pride can work for a man’s ultimate good.

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