8 Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, when your neighbor has put you to shame? 9 Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another; 10 Lest he who hears it expose your shame, and your reputation be ruined. (Proverbs 25:8–10, NKJV)
We live in a litigious society. Disputes arise, sides develop, lines are drawn in the sand, resulting in division and alienation that ruins previous goodwill, grace, and unity. The Covid-19 virus has revealed generous amounts of effort are required to maintain unity and peace in society. It has also shown how easily it can be disrupted and destroyed. Diligence by all is essential as we endeavor to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Today’s passage teaches an advantage to diligently solving a problem with a neighbor privately. Hasty retreat to court over disputes often leads to shame by exposing our errors and deficiencies. Better to solve the problem and correct our errors privately. That means do not spread rumors against your neighbor by innuendo, talebearing, and backbiting. Go directly to the person and solve the problem! Don’t ruin your reputation by “demanding your day in court” while failing to use every avenue to solve the real (or perceived) injustice. Jesus said to solve private sins privately and without delay (Matt. 18:15; 5:23-24). Do not develop a reputation as a person of conflict with a combative approach to disagreements. Instead, build a reputation as a peacemaker. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).
8 Scoffers set a city aflame, but wise men turn away wrath. 9 If a wise man contends with a foolish man, whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace. (Proverbs 29:8–9, NKJV)
We know it is possible to “win the battle but lose the war.” That is the predictable outcome when we are driven by pride to “get in the last word” of a dispute. Instead of calmly choosing words that edify and seek a godly solution to the matter, yielding to the temptation to rip into the person who has hurt us only fans the flames of wrath and malice (Ephesians 4:29-32). Tongue control results from heart control, and the wise person discerns when contending becomes fodder for the fool (Proverbs 26:4). “A man of understanding will hold his peace” at such times (Proverbs 11:12). When tempted by the passion of anger to remove restraint and “burn down the house” (so to speak), be wise and turn away from wrath. Rule over the impulse of wrath (Genesis 4:6-7). “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4). The victory of faith lasts into eternity, but there is no peace in the fleeting satisfaction of the fool’s rage.
46 Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. 47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.” (Luke 9:46–48, NKJV)
One of the most notable aspects of the kingdom of God is its spiritual nature; It is not of this world (John 18:36). That nature is on full display in this passage, when a dispute erupted among His disciples about who would be greatest in the kingdom. With a child beside Him, Jesus explained the heart of those in His kingdom will not prompt personal promotion above others, but humble deference to others. Christians are to treat each other with humility, considering others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). Oh, how many disputes in the church, in the home and with our neighbors could be avoided with such hearts within us! Unless we have humble hearts to receive one another, we cannot receive the Son or the Father who sent Him. Let us endeavor to love our brother (whom we have seen), so that we may love God whom we have not seen (1 John 4:20). Without question, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Corinthians 6:1–2, NKJV)
What a truly carnal action it is to take a fellow Christian to court to settle a dispute. “For where there is envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men” (1 Cor. 3:3)? Yet, Christians divorce without Scriptural cause, and claim it as “the only solution.” No, sundering what God has joined together is not a solution (Matt. 19:6). When matters arise that disrupt harmony among God’s people, we must be willing to let faithful Christians help us resolve the turmoil, whether it is in business, a marriage, in a family or among friends. “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated” (1 Cor. 6:7)? Pride and prejudice interfere with reconciliation and restoration of godly relationships. Put such sins to death, and pursue peace (Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:11).