Where no wood is, there the fire goes out; so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases.
As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
Strife is an inevitability of life where there are sinners involved. But wise men can and will learn to contain it. Should contention be allowed to burn out of control, it will ruin churches, businesses, and families. Therefore, it is essential that fathers and leaders be always on their guard for strife wherever it breaks out. Every city understands the potential devastation of fire, and they will keep fire trucks and firemen on the ready for when fire breaks out here or there. It is not a question of if, but a question of when it happens. As long as there are at least two people in relationship with each other, conflict will ensue.
Peacemakers will do their best to quench the conflicts when they arise, but there are two sources of fuel that only exasperate the problem of conflict: gossip and contention. If a town of 30,000 people had to deal with a fire every month or two, the fire station could keep it under control. But if one pyromaniac with 200 gallons of gasoline walked around the town and lit ten fires every day, the town would be utterly devastated within just a few months. Somebody would have to stop this madman if that community was to survive the year! In a similar sense, a church or small community simply cannot survive with a contentious person and a spirit of gossip in the mix. From the outset of any church gathering, wise leaders will be very careful to warn their congregations against the sin of gossip. Men and women must be extremely careful not to vent their discontentment or speak negatively of others behind their backs. The survival of the community depends on it.
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Words can wound, and these wounds can go deep. Occasionally, a family catches wind of criticism leveled against them, perhaps regarding something about their choice of immodest clothing or how they discipline their children. Almost without exception, they will take serious offense to the criticism. They might even internalize the hurt for years, and never fully recover from it. Even in the best of scenarios, peacemakers will work hard to resolve the conflict and make things right between the parties involved. But these wounds do not go away immediately. Sometimes scar tissue forms, and the relationships are strained for decades, until finally the church fellowship breaks apart. Ideally, the truth of Christ’s forgiveness should be so overwhelming to men and women of true faith that it will heal the deepest wounds. But in reality, there is little true faith in Jesus’ precious forgiveness with many folks. So we must be especially careful not to initiate the wounds that will never heal, whether with neighbors, co-workers, or with people who visit our church communities.
1. What are the two sources of fuel that feed contention in a community?
2. What sorts of things might we say that could hurt another family in the church?