Any Fool Will Quarrel





Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man,
 but any fool will quarrel.


Proverbs 20:3  (NAS)


Any Fool Will Quarrel


Have you ever gotten into a quarrel?  Sure you have!  Did you feel foolish for allowing yourself to be drawn into an argument?  Don’t feel alone; you have lots of company.


Most Christians, at one time or another will be sucked into the snare of quarreling.  This is especially true when it comes to areas of doctrine.  Many Christians have blamed “doctrine” for their own lack of self-control.  “Doctrine divides,” they declare; yet it is their own pride and foolishness that caused the division.


Doctrine Is Not The Main Problem…We Are!


Doctrine simply means “teaching.”  Everything we believe is some type of teaching.  To believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior is “doctrine.”  Uh-oh.  Do you feel the conviction already?


When we have a strong disagreement (also known as a nasty argument) with a brother in the Lord, it leaves a gravelly taste in our mouth.  We separate from a member of the body of Christ, and then blame it on “doctrine.”  Instead of admitting our own folly, pride, lack of judgment and discernment, it is much easier to simply blame the whole ordeal on “doctrine.”


Wouldn’t it be better if we repented, and asked the Lord for wisdom and understanding?  The crux of the problem is rooted in our pride.  God tells us He will give us wisdom if we will ask; since we refuse to ask, our ways become even more obnoxious.


·        James 1:2-9 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.  The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.  (NIV)


Are we supposed to abandon teaching (doctrine) because of our own lack of discretion and judgment?  Hmm?  After all, the scripture emphatically addresses the importance of having the correct doctrine:


·        Titus 2:1 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.  (NAS)


·        1 Tim 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.  Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.  (NKJ)


The problem is not with scriptural doctrine; the problem we have is with self-control.  If someone advocates a doctrine different than ours, immediately we are there to challenge, to dispute, and yes, even to argue.  We justify this insatiable desire to dispute by saying, “I am defending the truth!”  Perhaps so, but are we doing it in a godly manner?


·        Prov 16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.  (NAS)


As we grow and mature in the Lord, God instructs—yes He commands—us to “rule” our spirit.  It is good to learn the truth of scriptures, and it is good to share it with others.  There are even times that God requires us to speak the truth in love, even though it ruffles the feathers of those sedated in apathy, indifference, lethargy, false doctrine and self-righteousness.


But before we utter a word, we must submit ourselves into God’s hands.  We must pray, and ask Jesus to come to our aid, helping us to speak the words of his Father.  We must deny ourselves the privilege of fleshly impulsivity.  If anger is motivating our response to others, we will surely sin with our lips.


·        James 1:19-20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  (NIV)


·        Prov 10:19-21 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.  The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver; the heart of the wicked is worth little.  The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.  (NAS)


How can we avoid quarreling when the passion we have for the truth is peaked?  God tells us in James 1:19 to be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak.”  The Amplified Bible gives us a better understanding of this passage:


·        James 1:19 Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.[1]


For the fool, it is easier to let his or her impulsive speech spew forth than to be a “ready listener.”  Listening comes easier to some folks than others, depending on your personality.  Nevertheless, God commands believers to be slow to speak and ready to listen.


A friend of mine gave me some good advice.  He explained a principle he learned in his high school debate class.  Instead of eagerly waiting until a person is finished talking so that you can put in your ‘two-cents’ worth, try to REALLY listen and to understand what the other person is saying.  You can train yourself to do this and it will make you a better communicator.


·        Eccl 5:2 Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God.  For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.  (NAS)


·        Prov 15:31-33 He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.  He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.  The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.  (NIV)


·        Prov 25:15 By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone.  (NAS)


Always be “slow to speak,” especially when you are discussing areas of teaching (i.e. doctrine) that are different than your own.  Being slow to speak does not mean you necessarily agree with the other person; it is a gesture of respect for them and it allows them the privilege of expressing their opinion without fear of interruption or intimidation.


Quarreling Is Sin


·        Prov 17:19-20 He who loves a quarrel loves sin; he who builds a high gate invites destruction.  A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble. (NIV)


Speaking the truth is important, but quarreling is sin.  You may encounter resistance from someone opposed to the truth, especially the truth of scripture.  It is not sin to speak what is right in the face of opposition, but it is important to be led of God as you speak. 


Jesus encountered resistance from the Jews quite often, but he never argued with them.  Yes, Jesus discoursed with the scribes, lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducees and other self-righteous, arrogant and belligerent individuals.  The son of man knew their intentions and he waited for what his Father would give to him to answer their folly.  Jesus was “slow to speak.”  His words were deliberate, carefully weighed, and spoken aptly.


·        Prov 25:11-12 Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.  Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.  (NAS)


Jesus was a wise reprover.  As our advocate with the Father, he comes to our aid when we call upon his name; thus he is available to counsel us at any time.  The problem is this: we forget to call!  Instead we blurt out whatever our angry feelings command us to say, thereby entering into the realm of the fool.


·        Prov 12:23 A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.  (NIV)


God gave King Solomon wisdom far greater than that of any other man.  Near the end of his life it is supposed that Solomon was inspired to write the Book of Ecclesiastes.  One notable passage tells us that there is a proper time to speak and a time to keep silent.  Knowing the difference comes from experience (or stated another way, ‘trial-and-error’).


·        Eccl 3:1, 7b There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…a time to be silent, and a time to speak.  (NAS)


The wise man or woman learns from their mistakes.  They grow in wisdom, and seek understanding.  They realize God gave them a mind in order to think first and then speak.  They learn when it is proper to speak and when it is best to remain silent.


Unfortunately in America the vast majority of Christians never learn from their mistakes.  Thus they fall into various categories of foolishness and their folly is the primary source of division in the body of Christ.


·        Prov 17:27-28 A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.  Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.  (NIV)


·        Prov 18:1-2 An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.  A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.  (NIV)


Herein lies another problem…most Christians have no pleasure in understanding.  They love to air their own opinions, and even consider their opinion of greater weight than the scripture.  It is a rare believer who has consistently spent time in the scriptures, and time sharing the scriptures with others.


If a Christian honors the scripture as being inspired by God (in the original languages of course), and if he or she spends time daily reading and studying God’s written word, knowledge will increase.  Out of love for their Creator they will be obedient to His commands, and will learn restraint.  Through knowledge and restraint a believer gains understanding and becomes even-tempered.  An even-tempered person is not easily drawn into futile arguments and controversies.


And the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome (fighting and contending).


To be a servant of the Lord Jesus means to follow his example.  Paul made this clear in his second letter to Timothy.  He admonished Timothy to have nothing to do with getting involved in the type of controversies that breed quarreling.


The Amplified Bible is an excellent translation in this regard.  God tells us that we must make up our mind ahead of time; we must make a decision that we will have nothing to do with the kind of behavior that leads to quarreling.


Doctrinal quarrels begin primarily with one of two scenarios.  The first involves ignorant believers defending their uninformed positions in fits of anger and pride.  Nothing is more absurd than to watch two fools tearing and rending one another, particularly when neither of them is correct!


The second scenario involves two highly informed individuals (notice I said “highly informed” not discerning).  These are the type that have entrenched themselves in a position based on what they have been taught by their church, pastor, minister, theological institute etc.  Little do they realize that their knowledge has only led them to being two bags of hot air.


·        1 Cor. 8:1 Now about food offered to idols: of course we know that all of us possess knowledge [concerning these matters. Yet mere] knowledge causes people to be puffed up (to bear themselves loftily and be proud), but love (affection and goodwill and benevolence) edifies and builds up and encourages one to grow [to his full stature].  If anyone imagines that he has come to know and understand much [of divine things, without love], he does not yet perceive and recognize and understand as strongly and clearly, nor has he become as intimately acquainted with anything as he ought or as is necessary.  But if one loves God truly [with affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, and grateful recognition of His blessing], he is known by God [recognized as worthy of His intimacy and love, and he is owned by Him][2]


The man or woman of God, who has carefully studied the scriptures for themselves, showing that the Lord approves them, does not need to get defensive.  They can speak the truth when it is appropriate, and do it in love.  They are confident because they took the time to seek the truth and obey it. 


This is not to say that mere study of the scriptures will produce godly conversation.  It is the foundation however, for a believer to begin the lifelong process of maturation.  First they must live out what they have learned in God’s word.  Then, and only then can they speak with assurance and love when sharing truth with others.


It takes many years to become skilled in communication.  They must have a humble relationship with God and must not be given to a hot temper. Rather, they should learn to be mild-tempered, patient, forbearing, and willing to suffer wrong with an attitude of mercy and compassion.


·          2 Tim 2:23-26 But refuse (shut your mind against, have nothing to do with) trifling (ill-informed, unedifying, stupid) controversies over ignorant questionings, for you know that they foster strife and breed quarrels.  And the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome (fighting and contending). Instead, he must be kindly to everyone and mild-tempered [preserving the bond of peace]; he must be a skilled and suitable teacher, patient and forbearing and willing to suffer wrong.  He must correct his opponents with courtesy and gentleness, in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the truth [that they will perceive and recognize and become accurately acquainted with and acknowledge it], and that they may come to their senses [and] escape out of the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him, [henceforth] to do His [God’s] will.[3]


Notice that the proper way to correct and teach another person is to do so with “courtesy and gentleness.”  Unfortunately Christians are more courteous to their pagan co-workers on the job than they are to their brethren in Christ!  This is particularly true whenever two stubborn and pride-filled believers clash over what they believe.


If Christians were to show the same respect for others that they expect for themselves, their words would be received a great deal of the time. This would result in a much more open and honest debate among believers, with a greater likelihood of hearts and minds being changed by the truth of God’s word.


·        Prov 16:5-7 The LORD detests all the proud of heart.  Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.  Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.  When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.  (NIV)




There is an abundance of scripture teaching us the path of life concerning our speech.  Christians need to remember that life and death lie in their speech.


·        Prov 18:19-21 An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.  From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied.  The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.  (NIV)


Once you have offended your brother, it becomes difficult to restore the relationship.  Why allow your speech to be a source of cursing instead of blessing?


·        James 3:8-18 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.  Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?  Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs?  Neither can salt water produce fresh.  Who among you is wise and understanding?  Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.  This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.  And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  (NAS)


So what is the end of the matter?  How can we change and become like Jesus?  Is it possible to share the truth with others who disagree and not quarrel?  Yes, according to scripture it is possible!  We must take heed to the commandments, for they are the light that shines upon our path.  We must look to the Author of our faith, Jesus the Christ, the son of the living God.


Finally, as you reflect on the following passages, incline your heart toward your maker, and choose to do His will:


·        Titus 3:8-11 This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.  But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.  You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.  (NIV)


·        James 4:1-3 What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you?  Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members?  You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers.  [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.]  You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask. [Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures.[4]


·        Prov 17:14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.  (NIV)


·        Philippians 2:12-15 Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world,[5]



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[1]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.

[2]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.

[3]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.

[4]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.

[5]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.