The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult. Proverbs 12:16
Fools respond to the bumps and annoyances of daily life…
…with immediate irritation. The quick-tempered man is not just someone who let’s fly at a moment’s notice. That certainly a part of it, but not the whole story. This proverb is not just addressing the matter of timing. We are talking about the quality of the anger, not just the timing of the anger. When the anger is “known at once,” it is the anger of a fool that is being revealed.
The anger of a Righteous Man
A righteous man can get angry, but a righteous man does not snap. We are told that the Lord got angry with the incident of the man with a withered hand (Mark 3:5). We are commanded to get angry in Ephesians, but to make sure to do it without sin (Eph. 4:26). In addition, we are told not to let the sun go down on it, which means it ought to evaporate quickly while the sun is still up.
We are not told that the Lord was angry when He cleansed the Temple, but the odds certainly are in favor of it. He was consumed or eaten up with zeal for His Father’s house (John 2:17), and He did make a whip (John 2:15), and in addition to making a whip, He also made a scene. But when the Lord got angry, the end result was not broken dishes, kicking the dog like a football, or holes in the sheetrock. Rather, the end of the story was that a man with a withered hand was healed, and a corrupted Temple was cleansed.
So the anger of a righteous man does not arrive like a thunderclap on a bright blue day. “Where did that come from?” Return to the proverb. Because we live in a fallen world, occasions for anger will not be lacking. When it says that a prudent man overlooks an insult, it assumes that the insults to be overlooked are actually there. Our daily lives are filled with occasions for noticing slights. We already knew that it was a sin to give unneeded offense—let your speech be gracious, Paul says (Col. 4:6). But not everyone listens to that, and from this proverb, we learn that it is frequently a sin to take offense. Our generation needs to hear this because we specialize in being offended, and we actually think that we are being virtuous when we are in fact displaying the irritation of a fool.