Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I was fascinated by a verse from the Bible I read the other day from a paraphrase called The Message: “Don’t walk around with a chip on your shoulder, always spoiling for a fight” (Proverbs 3:30).
This is such a funny saying—‘carrying a chip on your shoulder’. According to The Phrase Finder website, it started out when shipwrights were allowed to carry out planks of wood (chips) on their shoulders after work. However many planks a man could carry on his shoulder were his to keep.
But, the owners soon realised that too much wood was being removed and the shipwrights could only carry out what they were able to carry under one arm. The shipwrights weren’t impressed and objected, and kept carrying the chips on their shoulders. That’s where the expression comes from. Today we say, “What’s wrong with him? He’s got a chip on his shoulder”. Have you noticed that a person with a chip on his shoulder is a problem for anybody who must deal with him. He seems to be expecting trouble—he or she is angry at the world and looking for a fight.
Being angry about something that happened in the past—carrying a grudge. In fact it is possible to be carrying a chip and never realise it. We all go through times when we think we’ve gotten a raw deal in life. We think life is unfair or even that God is unfair. Our anger builds up. We stomp around in a nasty mood looking for an excuse to snap at someone.
Start Looking Forward
How helpful to know we can get the chip off our shoulder when we take our eyes off the past and start looking toward somewhere else. And the way to look is with Jesus Christ. Christ is the only place we’ll find justice. We won’t get it from this world; it’s truly unrealistic to believe that our society is going to make things right for you. And you can struggle on in your own effort for a lifetime and still end up dissatisfied.
But God can heal your past. When you focus on him, you realise he does have the power to change things. You can lose your bad attitude because you sense you’ve finally encountered someone who has the ability to make things right. Turn your anger and disappointment over to him. You don’t have to be defensive, angry, bitter, resentful, bearing a grudge, a victim.
Carrying a grudge is about being hard done-by and feeling resentment—you are resentful of something you perceive as unfair and it unbalances you. John Hannah writes, “a chip on the shoulder is too heavy a piece of baggage to carry through life”. It’s sad but true that many of us are still bound by the wounds of the past. Not physical wounds so much, but those of the soul deep down where no-one can see. But you know how it affects you. I’ve seen people who are mad at the world, and angry with everyone.
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Consider the Advice From the Bible
The Bible says:
- “You should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry. If you are angry, you can’t do any of the good things that God wants done” (James 1: 19-20).
- “Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ” (Ephesians 4:31-32) .
How better it is to see life as a gift, given to you by God. Sometimes people grumble and moan through life carrying grudges and complaints, and never stop to consider that life is a gift. We read in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, always do it to honour God”. God is much bigger than our minds can comprehend.
If you easily get angry, then probably others are controlling your life, and not you. Walk in God’s freedom and peace, rather than carrying a chip on your shoulder. Let go of the grudges.