"A gentle answer turns away
wrath, but a harsh word stirs
up anger" Proverbs 15:1
Micah 7:4 describes a people who are prickly and hard to deal with: "The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge." For some reason, this verse reminds me of these reptilian Green Iguanas. While these creatures are fascinating to look at, they are also a bit scary to me. In fact, the guide who took us to this Iguana Farm on St. Maarten Island in the Caribbean warned us not to get too close to these green boys. He threw out some fruit to draw them onto the sidewalk so we could take pictures, but just know -- I'm using a zoom to get these shots.
Even though people commonly have iguanas for pets, they can never truly be tamed. They remain a wild animal and can produce a painful, damaging bite with no provocation or warning. That long tail you see above can also cause damage when it whips around in a stinging slap. This green lizard is obviously not a warm, cuddly pet -- although it certainly is an exotic one.
Thinking about how volatile and prickly these iguanas can be reminds me of how some people can also be volatile and prickly. The scripture in Micah describes such people well when it compares them to briers and thorns -- sharp little suckers that can unexpectedly prick your finger, drawing blood and leaving a painful cut. Thorns are small, but they can do some damage -- sort of like those small, yet very sharp teeth in the mouth of an iguana. Words from the mouth of a prickly person can do damage as well. That old saying, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you," is so far off the mark, it should be thrown out the window. Words can hurt -- badly.
Proverbs has numerous verses about hurtful words: "...a harsh word stirs up anger" 15:1; "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" 12:18; "With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor..." 11:9; "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit" 18:21.
So, how can we as believers make sure we control our prickly side? I think the more we can cultivate the fruits of the Spirit - through the power of the Spirit working in our lives, the more we can enjoy a sweet spirit and a non-iguana personality. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" Galatians 5:22-23.
I recently read something I think goes well with this subject: "Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them."