A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28, NKJV)
Gossip destroys trust. Openness is ruined by spreading harmful information about others. Trusting relationships are left in shambles when we talk to the wrong people about other people. Gossip, by definition, hurts and destroys instead of building up a person (Colossians 4:6). Gossip never addresses the party of which it speaks; it thrives in anonymity (“don’t tell anyone I said this”) and deniability (“I only said what was true”). This proverb says such a person is “perverse” (deceitful, fraudulent). It may be said of the whisperer that “perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord” (Proverbs 2:14). Gossip is not a victimless sin. It leaves strife, suspicion, and separation in its wake. Gossip puts others down. It elevates the whisperer at the expense of others, without considering how his words disturb and distress the lives of others. Let us check our words before we speak, to be sure they impart grace for edification, not disdain and destruction (Ephesians 4:29).
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, (1 Timothy 6:3–4, NKJV)
Are you obsessed with disputes? Some see to hanker for an argument. (Note, we did not ask whether you are willing to contend earnestly for the faith, Jude 3. There is a huge difference.) Let your eyes gaze upon the contrasting words in today’s passage. On the one hand, there are the wholesome (sound) words of our Lord Jesus Christ – the “doctrine that accords with godliness” (v. 3). On the other hand, there are words of dispute that arise out of pride and ignorance that foment obsession with words (teachings) of men (v. 4). These words tear down faith as they elevate self and generate conflict that gives way to envy, quarrels, slander and evil suspicions. So, before you speak, be sure your words agree with the godliness that is produced by the sound doctrine of Christ, not words of strife that expose pride and a failure to understand the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, “It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (Romans 12:4–5, NKJV)
The church is depicted as a body – its members having different functions, but all aimed toward the singular, united purpose of serving the will of its head, who is Christ. This picture of the church as a body draws our attention to the unity to which we are called as Christians. Division is roundly condemned in the Scriptures as a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:20). Christians are united in our faith, in our common salvation, and in our mutual care for one another. To the extent that Christians refuse to consider ourselves “members of one another,” they contribute to discord in the body of Christ. The church suffers when fellow Christians will not work and worship together in mutual faith, mutual love and mutual reverence for the Lord. Each Christian has an important place in the body of Christ, which includes “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Each member of the body of Christ is more effective and faithful as we all remember we are “individually members of one another.”
7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land. 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:7–9, NKJV)
Family members ought to be able to resolve differences between them. The contention between Abram and Lot’s herdsmen affected their masters as well as the inhabitants of the land who witnessed the discord. Strife is that way. It impacts others in addition to its principal parties. It takes faith and humility to end a quarrel; any fool can start one (Prov. 20:3). Abram’s faith rose above the animosity as he offered Lot first pick of the land. To Abram, it didn’t matter who was “right” and who was “wrong.” Furthermore, by rights (as the eldest and Lot’s uncle), Abram should have had first choice. But, what mattered most to Abram was ending the strife in a fair and lasting manner. So, he deferred to Lot and trusted the Lord bless him, which He did (Gen. 13:14-18). Similar honor is needed in the church, the family of God. Putting an end to strife requires having the faith to “accept the wrong” and to then move forward, instead of bitterly clinging to the past (1 Cor. 6:7).
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? (James 4:1, NKJV)
Is your life defined by constant skirmishes with others? If so, there is a war taking place in you. Your desire for personal pleasure and satisfaction fuels these contentions and fights with others (which you deem necessary in order to obtain your self-defined happiness). Hedonism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life.” A good life, according to this philosophy, is fulfilling your personal pleasures, desires and sensual delights. Invariably, this leads to selfishness and ill treatment of others, instead of kindness and love. In contrast to the hedonistic pursuit of worldly fulfillment (by which one becomes an enemy of God, Jas. 4:4), Christians “pursue peace with all people, and holiness” (Heb. 12:14). James previously advised that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:17). If you want peace with others and with God, then do not think and act like fulfilling your desires is the true course to happiness. A good dose of humility helps us win the battles in our war against the devil (Jas. 4:6-7).
A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention. (Proverbs 15:18, NKJV)
It takes at least two to quarrel. When one refuses to be provoked, anger subsides. Let us refuse to give furious rage a place in our hearts. This sin disrupts peace and harmony in every relationship where it manifests itself. Marriage turmoil, for example, is often traceable to a failure to control one’s temper during times of stress and disagreement. Wrath clouds one’s judgment and ignites conflict. Dedicate yourself to being the one who refuses to be provoked, regardless of the agitation and the temptation to plunge into anger’s chaos. Bring down the temperature of aggravation and anger with a calm spirit, and with unfailing kindness. Rule your spirit, and help establish peace (Prov. 16:32).
By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10, NKJV)
How much conflict could be averted if humility filled the human heart? Pride prevents us from seeking godly advice. Pride, because it has a swollen estimation of self, easily deflects wise counsel and rushes headlong into the fray, sure it is right. The result is strife, contention, turmoil. Pride is a scourge upon the soul and all who encounter it. Let us work to eliminate personal pride and replace it with a humble spirit that will benefit our homes, our churches, our businesses, our country – our souls.