Jump Starts Daily

Jump Start #3548

Jump Start # 3548

Proverbs 26:21 “Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”

  There are two words that are very similar to each other. Both start with the letter “T”, and both have to do with the temperature in a room. One of the words is thermometer. The other word is thermostat. The thermometer tells you the temperature. It cannot change the temperature. It just reveals what the air temperature is. The thermostat can change the temperature. When we walk into a room and it’s too cool, we adjust the thermostat to make the room warmer. And, when it’s too warm, we adjust the thermostat to make the room cooler. Thermostats and thermometers.

  That makes sense when we talk about air temperature in a room. But it’s the same principle when we talk about the temperature of emotions and feelings between people. Sometimes the discussions get heated. Sometimes things are icy between people. Too hot or too cold, the thermostat can change those things.

  Now, here is the crucial thing that we need to understand. Determining the temperature of my spirit and my attitude needs to be controlled by me. Earlier in Proverbs, the wise one said, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.” When we are not in control, then words may come out that should never be spoken. We allow anger to dominate our conversations. And, as our verse vividly illustrates for us today, putting charcoal on hot embers only intensifies the fire and continues the burn. A man who is contentious, argues, keeps strife going. That contentious man is the charcoal. And, I’ve known far too many brethren that are just like that. Teaching a Bible class is a challenge because they want to challenge every passage read and every statement made. One guy I knew ruined get togethers. He’d argue about who gets to eat first. Try playing a game, and within ten minutes the game stopped because he was arguing about the rules. If it was nighttime, he’d say, “technically, it’s predawn.” He always had something to say that stirred the pot and kept the flames of strife burning. And, to make things even worse, the guy once preached. And, his track record was disaster after disaster. He had a way of taking a good church and ruining it. He had a way of taking people that were united and loved one another to being so mad at each other that some would leave and never come back. I once asked him, “When you grill out, do you use a gas grill or charcoal?” He said, “Charcoal.” I replied, “I thought so.” He didn’t get it.

  From this there are two important lessons to be learned:

  First, no one should be allowed to have your thermostat. It belongs to you. You are responsible for controlling the temperature of your attitude, heart and spirit. So, in a heated discussion, you can remain calm. You can bring the right words that will lower the temperature, at least within you. When we allow others to have our thermostat, then they regulate the temperature of our heart. And, when that happens, you are at the mercy of others. You are no longer in control. If they shout, you shout. If they get mad, you get mad. When someone else has your thermostat, they can regulate your temperature. You are along for the ride, because you have allowed someone else behind the wheel of your life.

  It takes two to have an argument. You do not have to attend every disagreement that you are invited to. So, when you find yourself getting angry and the temperature is rising within you, use that moment to pray and then get away until your temperature lowers. A discussion between two calm people is just that, a discussion. It is an exchanging of points and counter points. It is hearing reasons and evidence as to why one believes what he does. An argument leaves the realm of a discussion. Temperature rises quickly in an argument. Exaggeration and the past are brought up. Name calling takes place. The volume reaches a high level. Reason and sense leave the room. Now, someone may storm out of the room. Doors may be slammed. Hateful and mean things may be said.

  I witnessed this last night in our neighborhood. A shirtless young man was outside screaming at his dad. He was kicking the dirt and shouting so loud that I heard it inside my house. I watched for a moment. I was concerned that he might strike his dad. Before long, the police came. The kid was handcuffed and placed in the back of the police car. I don’t know if the guy was on drugs but it was someone who had lost control and allowed the situation to determine his temperature. There wasn’t a thermostat to be found. The police came and someone was taken away. Contention kindles strife.

  Second, it is important to remember that you do not have the right to hold someone else’s thermostat. It belongs to them. Just as no one ought to have yours, you don’t have the right to have the thermostat of someone else. Which means, the other person may shout, be angry, say mean and hurtful things, but that’s on them. It’s between them and the Lord. You can only control yourself. You may influence others, you may say, “Calm down.” But you cannot regulate their temperature. You remaining calm and you refusing to push the emotional buttons that can escalate the situation, may keep a volcano from erupting, but you cannot control another adult.

  When someone is angry, that is not the best platform to talk about things. Set a time, a later time, to come and talk about things. Stick to the issues at hand. Apologize if you have done wrong. Listen.

  In Phillip Keller’s masterpiece work on Psalms 23, he reveals that tension in the flock is something that harms the health and the wellbeing of sheep. It is up to the shepherd to watch for that and to even separate sheep that are not getting along. Parents do that. They sometimes have to send fighting kids to separate parts of the house until everyone can cool down. And, shepherds in God’s kingdom have to keep an eye on tension in the flock. It may be necessary to have a one-on-one, come to Jesus talk, with those who cause strife and want to be contentious. And, if it persists, spiritual discipline may be necessary.

  Thermometers and thermostats…charcoal and fire. We sure can learn a lot from these things.