People Are Like Cities
At Emmaus, we are in the middle of a sermon series on the book of Nehemiah. A good portion of this book is about a group of people building a wall around their city. In the ancient world, a wall around your city provided protection for you and your neighbors. It ensured peace. It promoted community growth. A wall meant that people and goods could enter and exit your city – through the different city gates – in ways that were safe and productive. In contrast, when an ancient city had a broken down wall, or no wall at all, the people of that city were exposed and often subject to attacks.
A friend of mine reminded me of Proverbs 25:28 the other day. It reads:
“Like a city that is broken down and without a wall, is a person who cannot control their temper.”
This is a powerful image. And it is a powerful warning.
The Hebrew behind this phrase “who cannot control their temper” literally reads, “whose spirit has no restraint.” (Hebrew is the language of the Old Testament in the bible.) This phrase is speaking of a person who is given to outbursts of passion and outbursts of anger. These words describe someone whose words and actions are being dictated solely by their intense emotions. Such a person lacks self control, and they are compared to a city with no walls.
What I find so interesting about this imagery is who it suggests is in danger. I primarily think of temperamental people as being dangers to others. Or I will consider how my own outbursts can hurt or damage those around me. While it is certainly true that a person’s emotional outbursts have consequences for other people involved, what this proverb invites us to consider is how unrestrained behavior hurts the one bursting out. In this proverb it is the person who has no control over their own spirit that is in danger.
Another thing that this proverb makes me think about is the converse of this image. If an unrestrained person is like a city without walls, then a person who practices self control is like a city with walls. This is a person who controls the flow of their words, their actions, and their emotions. Like a city with walls and strong gates, a person practicing self control dictates the times and places of the “coming and going” of their emotions and thoughts. When a person practices the restraint of their own spirit in this way, what they ultimately become is a safe place, a strong city. What a picture.
What do you think of this? How have you seen this play out in people that you know?
May God shape each one of us into people who practice self control, which is truly a gift of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).