Mike McElroy

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. - 2 Timothy 2:14

Perhaps you were an exceptional child and never quarreled with your parents, your siblings or your friends. Good for you, I guess. But most of us learned how to quarrel when we were little children. It can become a habit, and habits are hard to break. Some adults never have broken the habit of quarreling.

I am interested in why Paul wrote that quarreling "ruins the hearers." Would you ponder that phrase with me for a few moments and allow me to share some ideas about it?

Quarreling ruins the hearers by discouraging them when they need encouragement. We cannot know when the person we're quarreling with or others around us may be so burdened that they need a word of fellowship, assurance and encouragement. Suppose a visitor came to your Sunday School class. Let's imagine that she is living in a stifling desert of strife at her job or at home. She’s so discouraged, and she decided to try going to church. She got up the nerve to come that first time and came. It would be so hurtful if she was in a class where a quarrelsome person created confusion by asking embarrassing questions or fussing with the teacher. Your guest was hoping for an oasis of peace, and only found more trouble. The quarreler either doesn't think or doesn't care about the feelings and needs of those who hear his quarrel. He only wants to argue his point.

Quarreling ruins the hearers because it displays works of the flesh instead of fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23). We all need good examples of godly conduct to help us do better. Habitual quarrelers set a bad example. They demonstrate the attitudes and actions of the flesh -- enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions and divisions. Paul said people who live like that will not inherit the kingdom of God. For the sake of our own souls as well as our influence on the souls of others, we should not quarrel.

Quarreling ruins the hearers because it fractures unity. This is especially true among followers of Jesus. We have an apostolic mandate about unity: "...walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3). The quarreler shows blatant disregard for this command. He insists on getting his way, even if it injures others and divides the church.

These things are true about our homes and interpersonal relationships as well. We discourage one another by quarreling. We hurt ourselves and our fellow quarreler when we are led by our flesh instead of God's spirit. We threaten the health and weaken the strength of any relationship when we break the bond of unity between us and our spouse or friend.

No wonder Paul specifically required that the Lord's servant "must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness" (2 Timothy 2:24). That context is especially for teachers of the word of God. But for all the same reasons, no Christian should be quarrelsome. It ruins both us and those who hear our quarrel. Jesus leads all who follow him to be gentle and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29).

Let's each be honest with ourselves as we ask and answer, "Am I following Jesus about this matter? Am I gentle, or quarrelsome?” May God help us to outgrow the ruinous habit of quarreling.