9Be wise and don't sue a fool.
You won't get satisfaction,
because all the fool will do
is sneer and shout.
10A murderer hates everyone
who is honest
and lives right.
11Don't be a fool
and quickly lose your temper—
be sensible and patient.
The Book of Proverbs is what theologians call wisdom literature. Other examples are the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes. They are there to offer sage advice about how to live well and in relation to God but you are left to work out the detail yourself. In Proverbs the advice often emerges by first creating a contrast in the mind; between rich and poor, peace and conflict, good behavior and vices. In our reading it’s between the wise person and the foolhardy.
The advice goes something like this. Don’t go out of your way to court controversy or rile someone for the sake of it. It will be time consuming and you probably won’t get anywhere. If you’re irritated by something or jealous of what someone has, keep your own counsel and calm down.
And – if we borrow some related wisdom from Ecclesiastes – life’s too short to get involved in unnecessary work especially if it’s driven by envy of other people. It’s like chasing the wind. Try and be content with what you have (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6).
In some other translations, the word used in both the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes passages about the positive behavior of the wise person is “quiet.” This is not about being silent but being peace loving.
Lord God, I confess that some things annoy me and some people’s behavior makes me mad. Help me become more inclined to an even temper and be reliable to those around me. Amen.