Return to:

Strife, The Sin and the Cure

Family Devotions:
M. How Strife Begins....................................................................................Proverbs 17:8 - 14
T. Strife Is Unprofitable................................................................................II Timothy 2:8 - 14
W. Do Not Walk in Strife ............................................................................Romans 13:11 - 14
T. Strife Among Christ’s Disciples ..............................................................Luke 22:24 - 27
F. Strife in the Church .................................................................................I Corinthians 3:1-5
S. Let Nothing Be Done Through Strife.......................................................Philippians 2:1 - 8
S. The Beauty of Unity .................................................................................Psalm 133:1 - 3

Devotional Reading: Genesis 13:1-8.

Memory Selection: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

Lesson Scripture

Proverbs 26:
17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.

18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,

19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?

20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.

22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.


Strife is defined in the Thorndike Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary as quarreling, fighting, and discord. Synonyms given are conflict and struggle. The Old Testament uses Hebrew words which mean contention, debate and pleading. In the New Testament, Greek words are translated as contradiction, controversy, contention, quarrel, fight, and battle. It is not difficult to grasp the fact that where there is strife, there is conflict. Such conflict has resulted in the separation of friends, dividing families, splitting up churches, and even wars among nations. The earliest use of the word is found in Genesis 13:7, which says, “And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.” While that is the earliest reference to the word strife, earlier incidents no doubt occurred. Strife can also be detected among the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ; in fact, the first New Testament reference to strife is found in Luke 22:24. It says, “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” You would think that the men who walked closest to our Lord would have learned better than to act that way. It is also reasonable to think that Christians in the early church would surely have avoided it; however, the Bible tells of times when they, too, were infected with this serious problem. It was in fact one of the chief concerns of the Apostle Paul with regards to the church at Corinth. In II Corinthians 12:20 he said, “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults.” How sad that saints of God, redeemed by the precious blood of our beloved Saviour and quickened by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, have allowed this awful sin to invade their ranks and rob them of the joys of their salvation.

1. How has strife touched you personally?

The Sin of Strife

Strife is a sin and anyone who approaches it from a biblical perspective will discover this fact. Not only is strife a sin, but also in the Bible it is tied to many other sins. Let me cite a few passages which show what I am talking about. First of all, it is connected to “hatred” in Proverbs 10:12. Solomon said, “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” He also mentioned the sin of “talebearing” in Proverbs 26:20: “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.” The sin of “pride” is also connected to strife as seen in Proverbs 28:25, which says, “He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.” It is rather easy to understand that “anger” is also a part of this notorious gang. Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.” Clearly, strife is linked to many other sins from which many difficulties arise.

There is still stronger evidence that strife is a sin. By definition, sin is the violation of God’s will and Word. We know this to be true because John said, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). It matters not who deviates from God’s teachings, when we break God’s laws and commandments, sin is the result. It was that way when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and it remains that way today. God has not changed His mind on the matter of sin; therefore, since it was God Who inspired Paul to write Romans 13:13, it is binding upon all of us. He said, “ Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” Remember, it was not Paul who was forbidding such actions; it was in reality God! God also inspired the words of Philippians 2:3 which reads, “ Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” That means what it says. NOTHING is to be done through strife, and if we do so, we have sinned against God.

If we think of past events or look around us in our present world, we should be able to understand why God has condemned strife. Throughout the ages unnumbered people have died in wars resulting from strife. The church has been torn by divisions of various kinds and weakened through strife. When will it ever end? Apparently not on this earth, but when we get home to heaven there will be no strife to afflict us with heartache and division.

1. Can you name other sins the Bible links to strife? (Read Galatians 5:19-21).

2. What should be our response to the sin of strife?

The Cure for Strife

Though strife may never cease here, it certainly can be greatly reduced. Its devastating effect can be lessened if only we obey the teachings of the Bible. God gave us His holy Word and it was intended for our good. Through Moses God said, “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). His word is not designed to injure and hurt, but to help and heal. He condemns strife that we may cease from it and enjoy peace and unity in our lives. For that to happen, we must take God’s Word to heart and obey it. We must follow the words of James 1:22: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

As we endeavor to be obedient to God, we come to recognize strife for what it is - sin. Satan will hastily lead us down the path of sin when we allow our fleshly, carnal desires to control us. Strife is a sinful act of carnality, according to Paul. He said to the church at Corinth, “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Corinthians 3:3). How can we overcome such carnal temptations? The answer is really rather simple. John said, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4). When we recognize the power of God in us through the Holy Spirit, we can overcome the sin of strife. It is this simple: when we follow the flesh, we shall likely yield to the sin of strife; but if we follow the leading of God’s Spirit, we can overcome the temptation to strive with others. I like what Paul said to the churches of Galatia. He said, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16), and, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). If we have been born again, born of God’s Holy Spirit, we can by His amazing grace resist the sinful tendency of strife. We can enjoy the blessings of unity and peace.

1. Can you explain how the teachings of the Bible are for our good?

2. How do we have power to overcome strife?


First of all, we need to remember that differences of opinions does not constitute strife for we all have different thoughts and ideas. We can even discuss our differences and reason together without strife; after all God lovingly reasons with us. He says to us through Isaiah, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). When we have differences, let us reason together and discuss them in love. Let us pray for grace not to allow such sharing to escalate into strife for when we fight over our differences, that becomes sin.

Second, if we do get involved with strife, we must face our actions with repentance. We need to recognize that strife, as a contentious spirit, displeases God, and so if we are guilty of strife, we need to pray for His forgiveness. John said, “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Third, we need to understand that it is easier to refrain from strife than to stop strife once it begins. Solomon said, “The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with” (Proverbs 17:14). When water leaks out of a container, it is difficult to stop the flow. Whether water or strife, it is usually impossible to return things to their original condition. Obviously, it is better to prevent the problem than to try to correct it.

Fourth, it must become our earnest desire to pursue peace instead of strife. The psalmist said, “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). We can seek peace by becoming peacemakers as our dear Lord taught us. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). As God’s children, we should imitate Jesus and not behave like the devil himself. If we live in peace instead of strife, others will recognize our affiliation with Christ and He will be glorified.

May we do all that is within our power to keep the unity of the faith, and to live at peace with others. God knows better than anyone else that in this world there are some people with whom you cannot get along. He inspired Paul to write, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). He is teaching us to do all we can to diffuse strife and then if others refuse to cooperate, they must answer to God. May we do our very best to live as He requires of us. Let us pray for each other in this noble and holy endeavor.

Return to:

© Copyright 2014 Light From God's Word. All Rights Reserved.
This page last updated on June 17, 2014