Water is a force that can be used for good when it is channeled in the right way. Think of hydroelectric energy or even a backyard garden hose. However, water can also be one of the most destructive forces if it is left uncontrolled. Think of the worldwide flood in Genesis or the many local floods throughout human history. Uncontrolled water has been the cause of some of the world’s greatest disasters. On September 30, 1911 a dam in Austin, Pennsylvania failed when the water pressure caused it to crack and spill out a torrent of water flooding most of the town, costing $140 million (2010 USD) in damages, and resulting in the death of 78 people. A small leak led to a great flood with great damage in a short time. The Bible reminds us that our words can be the same way when we allow a little bit of strife to remain unchecked. A little strife in a marriage can cause a flood of hurt. A little strife in a home can lead to a lack of peace and joy. A little strife in a church can lead to broken friendships and loss of God’s blessing.
Proverbs 17:14 says, “The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.” When water is released and left uncontrolled, its damage can be devastating. In a similar way, when strife is left uncontrolled, it can lead to great damage and broken relationships. When an argument begins and is allowed to continue it becomes more and more difficult to control. The wisdom of God teaches us to “leave off” or stop contention before it even begins. Proverbs 20:3 says, “It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.” The wise man chooses to stop the leak of strife from spilling over into a great flood that wreaks relational havoc. So what causes our mouth to leak out strife and contention? What eats away at the dam that holds back the water of contention? The Word of God is clear as to the cause of strife. “Hatred stirreth up strifes…Only by pride cometh contention…As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife…An angry man stirreth up strife…(Proverbs 10:12, 13:10, 26:21, 29:22). Strife comes from hatred, pride, a contentious spirit, and anger.
Stop the leak early before it becomes a torrent of destructive contention. Use the mortar of “self-control” applied by the Spirit of God to keep you from meddling with strife. When we are controlled by the Spirit of God, we will be slow to anger which “appeaseth strife” (Proverbs 15:18). When the water of strife begins leaking through, appease it by giving a “soft answer” which “turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Remember that “it is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife” (Proverbs 20:3).