To Be, or Not To Be a Model Christian

Bible Book: Proverbs  26 : 17-22
Subject: Christian Citizenship

Craig Brian Larson, editor of, explains, "Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language, or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect...They follow local customs in clothing, food, and the other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the unusual form of their own citizenship.

‘They live in their own native lands, but as aliens...They marry and have children just like everyone else, but they do not kill unwanted babies. They offer a shared table, but not a shared bed...They obey the appointed laws and go beyond the laws in their own lives.

‘They love everyone, but are persecuted by all. They are put to death and gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich...They are marked and bless in return. They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others.

‘When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given new life. They are aliens and are persecuted by... [the world]; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility."[1]

Someone reminds us, “As a believer, you are a citizen of heaven, but you are also a citizen of this earth. While here on earth, you are to be a model citizen.”[2]

Daniel Webster (1782-1852) said, “Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.” This is true unless the laws violate the clear teaching of Scripture.

Citizenship is generally appreciated and applauded, but not so in the case of the mischievous citizen. Dr. D. Thomas titles our text “Mischievous citizens”. He highlights “THE MEDDLER (ver. 17). . . THE LIAR (vers. 18, 19). . . THE QUERULOUS (ver. 21) . . . and THE TALEBEARER (ver. 22). We read in Proverbs 26:17-22, “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own / Is like one who takes a dog by the ears. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, / Is the man who deceives his neighbor, / And says, ‘I was only joking!’ Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; / And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, / So is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, / And they go down into the inmost body.”

This passage paints a portrait of a mischievous citizen. Allow me to frame this portrait with four points.

I. First, note the misdirected concern of the mischievous citizen (v. 17).

In Proverbs 26:17 we read, “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own / Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.” This refers to people who put their nose where it does not belong. We read in the New Testament about those who are a “busybody in other people’s matters.”

Recently, I read about Matilda, a gossip, who asked her neighbor, “What does your husband do for a living?” The wife answered, “He has his own business, and he spends all of his time minding it.”

Dr. I. D. E. (Isaac David Ellis) Thomas shares some perceptive thoughts on Christian involvement in his book titled A Word From the Wise: Solomon Speaks on Today’s Issues. Dr. Thomas explains the difference between Christian involvement and an involvement later regretted. Dr. Thomas points out the following on “The Question of Rights”, “The lesson about meddling in strife applies not only to our involvement in the strife of others, but also to our own involvement in our own strifes—strifes with which we are personally and directly concerned. Let’s take one example: should a Christian defend himself when he has been openly and publicly maligned by others? Or should he remain silent and by so doing minimize the amount of strife and friction engendered? In other words, does a Christian stand up for his rights, or does he not?

It is obvious that a Christian has rights like other citizens and is lawfully entitled to stand up for them. The question is, however, whether it is expedient for him to do so. Many a Christian has been severely exercised on this very issue. Should he answer his accusers and defend himself against them, or should he patiently and quietly endure it? Should he retaliate vigorously or assume a discreet silence?

Most Christians would agree that there can be no dogmatic answer to this question, but that every man should respond according to the light of his conscience. It can be added, however, that the more spiritual and mature believers have generally acted on this principle: when the accusations involve the work of the Lord, and are thus liable to harm that work, a defense should be made publicly. Silence in such a situation could be detrimental to the gospel and the furtherance of the Lord’s work, then the more excellent way of the saints has been to remain silent. The saints have been satisfied to leave their defense with Him who knoweth all things. ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord’ (Romans 12:19). It is true that such a position has often been misconstrued and has frequently led to much suffering and sacrifice, but it is a price that the saints have paid gladly.”[3]

Paul the apostle made the following statement, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Timothy 4:14-15). Here, Paul does not merely refer to personal harm it is something much different. There is a great danger in the mischief of hindering the accomplishment of the will of God. I do not want to stand in the way of the will of God and neither do you, if you are wise.

We must understand that mischief will come against us as citizens of earth before we are saved and that mischief will certainly come against us when we receive citizenship in heaven. Paul the apostle writes to Timothy, his son in the ministry, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). You do not need to go searching for persecution; it will find you.

II. Second, note the misleading comments of the mischievous citizen (vv. 18-19).

The writer of this proverb warns, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, / Is the man who deceives his neighbor, / And says, ‘I was only joking!’” (Proverbs 26:18-19)
This refers to people who commit murder with their tongue and say, “I was just joking.” Hence, we understand the use of the designation of “madman”.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns in Matthew 5:21-26, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”

Dr. D. Thomas said, “A lie is no less a lie because spoken in the spirit of frolic and jest. Many a practical jester does the maniac’s mischief without the maniac’s excuse.”


III. Third, note the misapplied courage of the mischievous citizen (vv. 20-21).

We read in Proverbs 26:20-21, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out;
And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, / So is a contentious man to kindle strife.”
This refers to those who are always ready to fight. They could be described as pugilistic and pugnacious. One commentary refers to these people as “a social incendiary”. These people are not “mousy” they are mouthy, given to ranting and raving. We could characterize this person as “bombastic”.

Paul the apostle writes in Galatians 5:16-26, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Those who “kindle strife” are marked by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, where we read, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”

Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) shares in Feathers for Arrows; or, Illustrations for Preachers and Teachers from My Notebook, “We saw in the Museum at Venice an instrument with which one of the old Italian tyrants was accustomed to shoot poisoned needles at the objects of his wanton malignity: we thought of gossips, backbiters, and secret slanderers, and wished that their mischievous devices might come to a speedy end. Their weapons of innuendo, shrug, and whisper, appear to be as insignificant as needles, but the venom which they instil is deadly to many a reputation.”[4]

Rev. Spurgeon cites this illustration in The Treasury of David, associated with a message on Psalm 64. David cries out to God in Psalm 64, “Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation; / Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, / From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity, / Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, / And bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words, / That they may shoot in secret at the blameless; / Suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear. They encourage themselves in an evil matter; / They talk of laying snares secretly; / They say, ‘Who will see them?’ They devise iniquities: We have perfected a shrewd scheme.’ Both the inward thought and the heart of man are deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; / Suddenly they shall be wounded. So He will make them stumble over their own tongue; / All who see them shall flee away. All men shall fear, / And shall declare the work of God; / For they shall wisely consider His doing. The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory.”

Rev. Jeremiah Burroughs (1600-1646) author of the classic book titled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, comments on Psalm 64:3-4, “David, upon sad experience, compares a wicked, reviling tongue to three fatal weapons—a razor, a sword, and an arrow. To a razor, such a one as will take off every little hair: so a reviling tongue will not only take advantage of every gross sin committed by others, but those peccadilloes, the least infirmities which others better qualified cannot so much as discern; secondly, to a sword that wounds: so the tongues of reproaching men cut deeply into the credits and reputations of their brethren, but a sword doth mischief only near hand, not afar off; and, therefore, it is in the third place compared to an arrow, that can hit at a distance: and so revilers do not ill offices to those only in the parish or town where they live, but to others far remote. How much, then, doth it concern every man to walk circumspectly; to give no just cause of reproach, not to make himself a scorn to the fools of the world; but, if they will reproach (as certainly they will), let it be for forwardness in God's ways, and not for sin, that so the reproach may fall upon their own heads, and their scandalous language into their own throats.”

Rev. Spurgeon shares this illustration in a message from Jeremiah 9:4-6, 8-9, where we read, “Everyone take heed to his neighbor, / And do not trust any brother; / For every brother will utterly supplant, / And every neighbor will walk with slanderers. Everyone will deceive his neighbor, / And will not speak the truth; / They have taught their tongue to speak lies; / They weary themselves to commit iniquity. Your dwelling place is in the midst of deceit; / Through deceit they refuse to know Me,’ says the LORD. . . . Their tongue is an arrow shot out; / It speaks deceit; / One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, / But in his heart he lies in wait. Shall I not punish them for these things?” says the LORD. ‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’”

Rev. Spurgeon also shares, “SOME person reported to the amiable poet Tasso that a malicious enemy spoke ill of him to all the world. 'Let him persevere,' said Tasso, 'his rancour gives me no pain. How much better is it that he should speak ill of me to all the world, than that all the world should speak ill of me to him."[5]


IV. Fourth, note the misused collaboration of the mischievous citizen (v. 22).

From Proverbs 26:22, “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles,
And they go down into the inmost body.” Dr. D. Thomas comments, “Words [of a slanderer, a gossip, or a whisperer] destroy the mental peace of him to whom they are uttered, the reputation of him of whom they are uttered, and the social happiness of both.”[6]

Collaboration or working together is a good thing if it is to accomplish the will of God according to His Holy Word. However, a talebearer seeks collaboration in an evil thing. Talebearers tell things that are true or false with the intent to destroy another. In Proverbs 25:18, “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor / Is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow.”

Rev. Walter Jerry Clark concludes a message titled “Using Words Wisely” based on Proverbs 26:28, in the following way: “We should be careful always to use words wisely and to speak as if we are in the very presence of God.” We are to live each day “Coram Deo”, a Latin phrase meaning “before the face of God.” In Psalm 19:14, David prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart / Be acceptable in Your sight, / O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.” May our tongue speak only that which will glorify God.

Oh, that God’s people were as bold in witnessing to others, as gossips are brazen in whispering about others.



Paul the apostle writes in Ephesians 4:29-32, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Unshackled, a radio broadcast from the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, Illinois, shares life changing accounts of those who are set free. As you listen you will hear dramatized testimonies of how the Lord liberates a repentant heart from the chains of darkness. It is encouraging to hear about those transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. It is thrilling to see someone radically changed from a mischievous citizen to a model citizen.

Every true Christian has a dual citizenship. By physical birth we are citizens of earth and by the new birth we are citizens of heaven. May we trust and obey the Lord to be a model citizen.


[1]Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, ed, Craig Brian Larson, “From the Letter to Diognetus” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), p.28.


[2]Teacher's Outline and Study Bible – Titus and Philemon Commentary (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries / Alpha-Omega Ministries, Inc. 1994) WORDsearch Corp.


[3]I. D. E. Thomas, A Word From the Wise: Solomon Speaks on Today’s Issues, “Should One Get Involved”(Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), pp. 105—113

[4]Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Feathers for Arrows; or, Illustrations for Preachers and Teachers from My Notebook ,“Slander” (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), pp. 229-230

[5]Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Feathers for Arrows; or, Illustrations for Preachers and Teachers from My Notebook, "Slander--How to Overcome it” (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), pp. 229-230


[6]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Proverbs, D. Thomas, D. D., “Mischievous citizens”, (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886 / Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n. d.), p. 622


By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / / (251) 626-6210
© September 18, 2011 All Rights Reserved