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This is such an important proverb for us to consider and obey.  Proverbs 17:14 says, “The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.”  Let’s read this verse in the NIV translation, which might make it a little easier to understand.  That says, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”

I’m sure most of us remember the story of the little Dutch boy that found a small leak in a dike.  To stop the leak, he put his finger in the hole, and prevented the collapse of the dike.  This illustrates how a small effort to prevent a great catastrophe can be very effective if done quickly enough.  Our proverb teaches us that to start a quarrel is like a dam that has sprung a leak.  Although the leak may start out small, and it may go unnoticed by many; soon it will give way to more and more leakage until a great flood pours out of it.  We see that it is better to drop the matter before this can happen.

What is strife and what type of person causes strife?  Strife is contention or discord.  When something or someone causes strife it brings a division where there should be unity.  The book of Proverbs gives us several examples of the types of people that love to cause strife. I’ll point out a few.  Proverbs 15:18 says, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife…”  Proverbs 16:28 says, “A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.”  Proverbs 26:20 says, “…where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”  Proverbs 28:25 says, “He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife…”  Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirreth up strife…”  So, these are the people that cause strife: a wrathful or spiteful person; a forward or dishonest person; a whisperer, or teller of secrets; a talebearer, or a gossiper; a proud person; and an angry person.  I think each one of us probably bears some of these characteristics at one time or another, so we are all capable of causing strife.

Strife can cause so much harm to families, to friends, and to church groups.  A little thing can grow into a great disaster if it is not taken care of quickly.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:2-3, “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.”  These were two ladies in the Philippian assembly that were obviously at odds with each other.  Paul states that these ladies had labored with him in the Gospel.  These were two Godly women who had allowed some contention to come in between them.  This can be devastating to a gathering of the Lord’s people.  Two ladies are at odds with each other.  Before long, people begin to take sides and before you know it…a division takes place.  It is so vital that strife never begins, or at least, that it is ended quickly before a great flood of harm and division takes place.

Does this mean we should keep our disagreements to ourselves and never speak of things that others may not agree with?  No, it doesn’t mean that at all.  Let’s read Galatians 2:11-12 where the Apostle Paul writes, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.”  Paul confronted Peter because he was not acting in a way that was consistent with the Word of God.  Paul did not speak out of anger or pride.  His intent was not to cause strife, but to encourage Peter to act according to God’s Word.  We are told in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”  Using the Word of God, we may be called upon to reprove or correct a fellow believer on the Lord.  Does that cause strife?  Not if we act according to Colossians 4:6 which says, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”  We who are married realize that when we do not talk out our differences with our spouses, the problems tend to get greater and are not resolved.  It is important to talk of such things, but with a heart for unity, not to cause division or discord.

Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us, “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”  Let us all labor to prevent strife and discord.  We can prevent so much harm when we do this.