Proverbs 25:8 – “Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.”
A proverbial statement might be defined as a short, meaningful saying that expresses a significant, substantial truth for life. In the book of the Proverbs, a proverb is often constructed with two lines, presenting a comparison or contrast. However, Proverbs 25:8 is not contrasted in this fashion. Rather, Proverbs 25:8 presents a state-ment of warning concerning hastiness to engage in conflict. This warning is constructed with three consecutive lines.
The first line of this proverbs presents a prohibitive instruction, saying, “Go not forth hastily to strive.” Specifically, this prohibition speaks concerning the matter of going to court over some civil offense. Yet the principle of the prohibition is broad enough to encompass any occasion wherein we are moved to confront another for some perceived offense that they have committed against us. Even so, we are instructed not to engage hastily in such a conflict and confrontation of the other.
Thus this prohibition warns us concerning three elements in engaging hastily in conflict. First, it warns us concerning the element of willful pursuit after conflict. The phrase, “Go not forth,” indicates a willful, purposeful intent to engage in such conflict. Yet we are instructed not to have such a willful intent to engage in such conflict so regularly. Second, it warns us concerning the element of energetic motivation for conflict. The word “hastily” indicates an energetic desire to engage in such conflict as quickly and as forcefully as possible. Yet we are instructed not to have such an energetic desire to engage in such conflict. Third, it warns us concerning the element of contentious purpose for conflict. The phrase “to strive” indicates a contentious spirit for conflict, rather than a gracious spirit for reconciliation. Yet we are instructed not to have such a purposefully contentious spirit for conflict.
The second line of this proverb then presents a practical warning, saying, “Lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof.” So often, when we hastily run to conflict with and confrontation of another whom we perceive has done us some wrong, we do so in a thoughtless and an overbearing manner. Yea, we do so without spiritual discretion and without spiritual grace. Furthermore, we do so without knowing all of the relevant information about the matter and without seeking the guidance of our Lord for the matter. Thus we often end up in a greater conflict than that which we intended and for which we were truly prepared, and we then end up being overcome by our own hasty foolishness. Yea, then we dig our own deep hole out of which we do not know how to deliver ourselves.
Even so, the third line of this proverbs concludes with a painful consequence, saying, “When thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.” Indeed, shame is the painful consequence of such a hasty engagement in conflict. First, there will be private shame in our relationship with the Lord our God. Second, there will be public shame in our relationships with those around us. Yea, our own foolish hastiness will bring us to a shameful testimony. There will be shame because of our thoughtlessness. There will be shame because of our ungraciousness. There will be shame because of our lack of discernment and understanding in the whole truth of the case. There will be shame because of our display of unspiritual attitude and behavior in the conflict. Shame! SHAME! SHAME!
Proverbs 25:8 is presented at the beginning of an eight verse sequence of proverbial statements concerning the character of our communication. Even so, Proverbs 25:9-10 adds the instruction that we should present our cause privately unto the one with whom we have a conflict and not make it known to those who have no involvement and who have no knowledge of it. “Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.” Furthermore, Proverbs 25:11-12 indicates that we must be careful to speak the appropriate word and to reprove another with godly wisdom. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.” Finally then, Proverbs 25:15 indicates that long forbearance and gracious communication is the most effective to produce change in another. “By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.”
So then, we ourselves must combat the natural tendency of our selfish flesh to come to our own defense and to fight for our own rights so very quickly and so very forcibly. We must learn to walk in the Spirit in order that we might be governed by Spirit-filled forbearance and graciousness.
Furthermore, we must consider the spiritual shame and sin that we have previously generated by our foolish hastiness in the past to engage in conflict against those whom we perceive have done us wrong. Then we must repent of this spiritual shamefulness and sinfulness before the Lord our God and before those around us. Yea, we must humble ourselves to seek His and their forgiveness thereof.