"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Proverbs 16:32).
This verse provides an important contrast for our consideration. Why would someone who has control over his own spirit be better than the celebrated leader with the charisma to organize an army and achieve victory over a fortified city? Consider these important reasons. No man can consistently conduct himself wisely while making snap decisions. While the world may glamorize the explosive and impetuous leader that seizes the opportunity to get ahead by stepping on those opposed to him, that same anger will surely be his ruin by alienating friends and clouding judgment. "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls" (25:28).
God's Word teaches the virtues of reflection and self-control. "He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly" (14:29). Temptations and snares are at every hand and the Christian who charges ahead when he should be walking circumspectly will come to sure ruin.
James highlights a specific challenge we face in ruling our spirit: the tongue. "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:26). Perhaps no issue is so challenging in the area of self-control as learning to measure our words. Angry outburst, sinful gossiping, cutting denigration, or frivolous indiscretions can all easily pass the gate of our mouth. No wonder James suggests that if we can rule the tongue, we can rule the spirit. "For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body" (3:2). DW