By Frank Jamerson
The wise writer of the Proverbs said a number of things about the sin of strife or contention. He said that the source of it is pride. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (13:10). Also, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out” (17:14). “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle” (18:19). “Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, even strife and dishonor will cease” (22:10). “Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife” (26:21).
The word “strife” or “contention” is “the expression of emnity” (W.E. Vine). It is translated in the King James Version as “debate” (Rom. 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20). The apostle Paul listed it as a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:20) and said that it is produced by a carnal, or fleshly, mind, instead of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 3:1-3). Strife, then, is a work of the flesh, produced by following one’s own feelings rather than the word of God, and it results in eternal destruction.
Let us look at some other fruits of strife. James said, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (Jas. 3:14-16). The word “confusion” means “instability, disorder, disturbance.” The same word appears in 1 Corinthians 14:33, where Paul said that God is not the author of “confusion, but of peace.” The expression “every evil work” means “good for nothing, trivial.” It is used to describe one who deals in trivialities for the sake of showing his “wisdom.” When brethren are contentious over trivial things, disturbance and instability are the results. No church can grow with such an environment.
Another result of strife is infidelity. Jesus prayed for unity “that the world may believe” that God had sent Him (John 17:20,21). Though men must realize that the Lord’s church is composed of human beings, and human beings are imperfect, those of us who are Christians need to realize that the world is “turned off” by contention. Jesus knew that such would be the result of strife; therefore, He prayed for unity. When I realize that by being contentious I may cause someone to turn from Christ, it will cause me to weigh every word and action.
A third result of contention is that Christians are destroyed. Paul said, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). The figure of speech here is of two dogs that engage in a fight till both fall over dead! That is the sad result of many “church fusses.” Someone has rewritten a portion of a song to suit church fusses: “The strife is o’er, the battle’s done; Our church has split and our side won.” Won? How can any “side” win a battle that results in all concerned losing their souls? The contentious brother has the same end as the fornicator, drunkard and murderer (see Gal. 5:19-21). We insist on withdrawing from the fornicator and drunkard, but how often is anything done about the contentious member? He will do more damage to the cause of Christ than the drunkard.
The inevitable fruit of contention is confusion, infidelity and destruction of Christians. Let each of us commit ourselves to seeking peace by being considerate of others and learning to “distinguish the things that differ.”
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 21, p. 648
November 1, 1984