Calming the Ruler

“If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.”

- Ecclesiastes 10:4

Dealing with people well is a skill that, if mastered, enables us to do much good in the world. The best leaders have always known this. They do not manage everyone the same way; rather, they take into account the personalities and temperaments of those who serve them, discerning the best ways to motivate each person who works under them. Some are moved to action by a stern rebuke. Others respond better to gentle encouragement. The wise leader knows which to use to get the best results out of his team.

Yet, understanding how to deal well with others also benefits those who are not in high positions of leadership. Serving a boss or overseer well and continuing to hold influence demands a certain skill. We learn not to abandon our post at the slightest provocation but rather remain calm and collected. That is the point of today’s passage.

What seems to be in view is the royal court, where officials and advisers might be subject to the king’s anger. Should you serve in this court, it is not wise to leave your place if you must endure “the anger of the ruler” (Eccl. 10:4). In other words, the servant should not just quit the moment the leader gets angry. Rushing off in a huff and resigning a position will render one unable to influence the direction of the court for good any longer. Moreover, it is unwise from the perspective of one’s own personal growth and development. Resign in a flurry when someone gets upset with you, and you probably will not be known as the easiest person to work with.

When the ruler shows his anger, it is far wiser to respond calmly and not resign in a prideful huff. A calm response “will lay great offenses to rest” (v. 4). The ruler may be placated and his anger may subside. Moreover, a calm response will help the servant think things through and not act rashly. Leaving a place of influence, no matter how tempting it might seem, may not be the best course of action. This is particularly true when Christians have the opportunity to shape things for the good. If we swallow our pride and turn the other cheek, we may get a hearing in the future. We dare not compromise biblical principles, but we must also not confuse biblical principles with hurt feelings or an overinflated sense of our own importance. In this, Jesus is our model. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return but continued to entrust Himself to the Lord (1 Peter 2:23). May we do the same when we find others hard to handle.

Coram Deo

Our responses to others, especially those in authority, must always be governed by divine wisdom. We must pray that the Lord would help us discern the difference between abuse and rightly administered discipline, between the response of a ruler that is wholly unjustified and evil, and a response that is firm and appropriate. Let us trust Christ to help us respond appropriately to all people.

Passages for Further Study

Judges 8:1–3
Proverbs 15:1
Mark 15:1–5
1 Peter 3:15–16

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.