In ancient times, the office of the warrior was arguably the most vital in society. The stakes for war were extremely high and personal for the whole of society. If your side lost a war, that might mean you and family members and friends would be executed, your house might be destroyed, your money and possessions might be stolen, your women might be violated, and your people might become enslaved. War was horrific, and war today is no different. However, most people in developed countries have never experienced the ravages of war. Fighting in the US, for example, is delegated to a select volunteer army that bears the brunt of these ravages. And, due to the extremely high stakes of war in a nuclear age, the world hasn’t experienced war of a total variety between world powers (at least that I can recall) since World War II.
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.Proverbs 16:22
The theme of war is pervasive throughout the Hebrew Bible. The author of this Proverb, King Solomon, was the son of David, who was one of the most famous military generals and kings in history. Solomon understood how crucial the function of the warrior was. A warrior who took a city on behalf of his people or accomplished some other great military exploit became an instant hero and legendary figure about whom stories would be told and books would be written (Read 2 Samuel 23:8-23, for example.) King David, for his part, initially came to fame for defeating Goliath.
Who are some of the greatest heroes in American society? Athletes (Jordan, Brady, James), inventors (Musk, Jobs, Gates), entertainers and politicians (take your pick). Who a society idolizes tells you a lot about what that society needs and/or values.
The power and punch of Proverbs 16:22 is predicated on this context. What Solomon is saying is that any man who is slow to anger and is able to rule his spirit is better than the thing that society considers to be the greatest and most important of all.
Only a select few gifted individuals even have the potential to take a city or become a popular icon in society, but every man has the potential to rule his spirit. However, you tell me how rare it is to see in practice.
Everywhere you look, people are ruled by anger, ruled by lust and pornography, ruled by greed, ruled by food and drink in excess, ruled by the opinions and judgments of others–all external forces that bring a man and woman away from a state of inner calm and contentment.
I want you to picture one human being, preferably someone you know personally, who is slow to anger and knows how to rule their spirit. . . The person you have in mind is a powerful human being, and probably someone who adds great value to those around them.
A self-mastered man or woman has great potential to be a force for good in the world.
The challenge today and everyday is to rule our spirits–to achieve the pinnacle of self-mastery that people of every generation aspire to few ever come to close to achieving.
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