Biblical References: Proverbs 17-19
Leading Question: Does Proverbs help us understand whether and when there might be times when one should actually pick a fight?
Fighting is not good (mere descriptions): In Proverbs 17 – 19, some of the Proverbs simply describe the negative results of fighting without giving any “wisdom” on how to stop it:
17:1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.
19:13 A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.
Conciliation: Each of the following proverbs suggests at least a partial solution to conflict. Can one adopt these methods by a simple act of the will?
1. Love is willing to overlook an offense.
2. Sharing information about a fight with a third party (gossip) is not helpful.
17:9 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
3. In spite of a fight, a friend continues to love.
4. The worse the condition, the stronger the commitment from a friend/brother.
17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity
5. Silence may be a great asset.
6. Multiplying words often makes matters worse
17:28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.
7. A formal mediator can sometimes negotiate a solution that is helpful to both sides.
18:18 Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart.
8. Patience and a simple willingness to shrug can often reduce tensions. (See #1)
19:3 A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Avoiding the way of fools. In a backward sort of way, descriptions of fools can also be helpful in resolving conflicts by showing how not to go about it:
1. An admonition or rebuke may not be helpful to those who reveal themselves to be fools.
17:10 A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool.
2. Revenge is simply not helpful in resolving disputes
17:13 Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil for good.
3. Just drop a potentially troublesome topic. Note: Knowing something about a person can often help us identify those matters in advance.
17:14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.
4. When selfishness motivates a person’s behavior, sound judgment is never the result.
18:1 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.
5. Listening should always precede speaking.
18:13 To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.
Confronting evil: Some proverbs suggest that corporal punishment is sometimes the only solution. Two factors militate against such action in our day: 1) Modern legal restrictions against corporal punishment; 2) the teachings of Jesus. Here is the proverb, followed by Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount. Are there situations where Jesus’ words might be overruled?
Proverbs 19:29 Penalties are prepared for mockers,
and beatings for the backs of fools.
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.