Pearls From Proverbs: Mischievous Meddling

By Irvin Himmel

He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears (Prov. 26:17).

No lesson could be more obvious than that taught and illustrated in this proverb. However, some people have not learned the lesson.

It seems difficult for certain persons to tend to their own affairs and avoid meddling in things “belonging not” to them.

Why There Is Meddling in Affairs of Others

Before turning attention to the mischief caused by meddling, consider some basic reasons for meddlesomeness.

(1) Not usefully occupied. The fellow who has too much free time on his hands is more likely to pry and intrude into things that are none of his business. One who keeps busy with his own work has not time to delve into another’s business.

Recognizing the mischief to which idleness can lead, Paul issued a warning about young widows who “learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” He advised therefore “that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house,” in other words, keep fully occupied with useful domestic duties (1 Tim. 5:13, 14).

(2) Nosiness. It appears that some people are obsessed with curiosity, especially about the personal affairs of others. They are preoccupied with the desire to pry, ask questions, inject themselves, pick up tidbits of news and gossip, and intrude into all the concerns of others.

This inquisitive disposition leads to unwelcome and harmful intrusiveness.

(3) Conceit. Many times it is one’s ego that contributes to his being a meddler. He really thinks he can manage the lives of others better than they can manage their own; he believes he can solve their problem better than they can; he is convinced that he has superior knowledge.

I know a preacher who has the reputation of meddling in the problems of young people (especially girls) in their relationship with their parents. I suppose he is egotistical enough (1 Pet. 4:15,16). to think he knows more about how parents ought to be raising their daughters than the parents know. He had made a real nuisance of himself in some cases.

Meddling Invites Trouble

To interfere in disputes which are not our concern is to invite trouble. “We should be sure of our call to act before we meddle in others’ affairs. It is rare that it can be our duty to volunteer the office of judge” (E. Johnson).

One time a certain man said to Jesus, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” Some who claim to follow Jesus would have jumped at the chance to get involved in this domestic problem. Jesus answered, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” (Lk. 12:13,14) Jesus refused to be drawn into this case.

The meddler in strife invites double trouble. Both parties may become enraged. He is indeed as foolish as one who grabs a strange dog by the ears! The old Septuagint translation renders this proverb as follows: “As he that lays hold of a dog’s tail, so is he that makes himself the champion of another’s cause.” Well, whether you take the dog by the ears or by the tail, you invite barking, snapping, biting, and injury to yourself!

The Mischief of Meddling

The meddling spirit leads to misunderstanding and much mischief. People who fancy that everybody they come across is somehow under their jurisdiction cause more problems than they solve.

Both Paul and Peter warned against our becoming busybodies. Adam Clarke describes busybodies as “impertinent meddlers with other people’s circumstances and domestic affairs; magnifying or minifying, mistaking or underrating, every thing; news-mongers and telltales; an abominable race, the curse of every neighborhood where they live, and a pest to religious society.”

But, as Albert Barnes aptly notes, “there is no class of persons who will so little heed good counsel as those who have a propensity to intermeddle with the affairs of others.”

The meddler in strife belonging not to him often brings suffering to himself. He needs to learn the difference between suffering as a busybody and suffering as a Christian

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 13, p. 405
July 2, 1987