“Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.” – Proverbs 11:29
How do you get more followers? How do you get on the fast track to celebrity? Take it one step further. Push the envelope. Be a little more extreme, a little more provocative. And when you run out of targets on the other side, you can set yourself apart by criticizing those on your side who don’t go far enough. The shortcut to influence seems to be through taking the steroid of aggressiveness. One easy way to make your voice stand out among the others is by creating divisions where no one saw them before. You can claim innovation by conjuring up villains among those who would normally be friends.
If you scratch beneath the surface of this proverb, you’ll find that the tactic of divisiveness has always been a self-promotional strategy, and you’ll find that in the long run, it doesn’t work. Both clauses in this proverb are dealing with the motivation of personal gain. It is speaking to someone who desires to inherit something, or who desires a position of power.
Think about a crafty person, a desperate person, who has run out of options. Where will he turn? He’ll turn to the people closest to him, the people of his own household. These are the people who share the most bonds of natural affection, and thus have been the most loathe to cut him off. These are the only people left who will have anything to do with him. He will begin to trouble them. He accuses them, trumps up offenses, and seeks quarrels which he hopes will produce enough guilt to gain what he wants. This may work for a time, but he doesn’t understand that he will end up cutting off these people as well, and inheriting the wind.
It’s not as if Jesus never confronted those of his own household. He was regularly at loggerheads with the Pharisees, and his reformations were internally focused on the Jewish nation. But Jesus rebuked his disciples for trying to stop someone from casting out demons but who wasn’t driving around with a Jesus bumper sticker. “The one who is not against you is for you.” (Lk 9:50) That’s a far cry from the “shoot first, and let God sort ‘em out” attitude that pervades much of our world’s discourse.
As a Christian, it’s one thing to spend the bulk of your energy dealing with your own family, or your own church – that’s the place God has assigned you, and the place where your efforts will be most meaningful. But the question remains: what is the purpose of your efforts? Are you genuinely seeking to build up your household, or are you just troubling those who are closest to you, because they have a harder time than others ducking out of your line of fire? If you want to love and build up those closest to you, you will end up overlooking more than troubling.
When it comes to inheriting something of value, the buy-in has to start at home. Divisiveness is misleading because it can provide an accelerated burst of devotion as you rally a shrinking circle to stand against a growing list of enemies. Our opportunity for inheriting good, both as Christians and as churches, comes primarily through caring for those closest to us. There are household situations which call for confrontation, but that should not be the prevailing atmosphere of our houses.