It was a calm autumn afternoon as the sun approached its full vigor. In the far end of George’s backyard, dead undergrowth and loose debris had been piled up pretty high. A short time before, his dad had lit the pile, and it wasn’t long before its flames engulfed the odd collection of twigs, leaves and pieces of old paper they had found around the property and in the garage.
Fire and blazes had always fascinated George. In fact, when he was seven he almost destroyed his uncle’s shed. He thought he could prevent a cigarette lighter from igniting by placing a piece of tissue over the area where the flame would appear, but he quickly discovered that it easily ignited too. By impulse, he dropped the mass of burning paper into a plastic trash bin full of paper towels and even more tissues. If he had not quickly kicked the billowing container out the door, the whole shed would have gone up in flames—possibly with him in it!
Within a few hours, the mountain of burning debris had dwindled to the size of an oversized campfire. Then George’s dad appointed him watchman and tender of the shrunken blaze. George dutifully watched over it, but he just couldn’t bear to let it burn all the way out. Finally, the flames died down and all that still remained was a collection of large charred pieces of wood, which would glow every time a strong breeze stirred up. George kept poking around, looking for a few more items to add to keep the fire going. A little while later, his dad came out to relieve George of his duties so he could eat dinner, but was very dismayed when he discovered that the burning pile had instead increased its intensity.
“George! What were you doing here?” his dad shouted angrily.
“But Pop—I didn’t want the fire to go out right away. I really enjoyed watching all of the flames dancing around in the pit!”
“I don’t care what you were enjoying—we’ve got to get this taken care of before bedtime. I’m not going to stay up all night tending it, and neither are you! Don’t you remember your mother telling you this morning that we have to get up very early to visit Aunt Maxie in Texas tomorrow?”
“Aw, Pop, it won’t harm anything to leave the fire alone. The wind is dying down, and nothing is nearby that it could burn.” Then, before his father could respond, George impulsively blared out, “And I never did want to see old Aunt Maxie in the first place! She talks funny, wears those ridiculous looking clothes from the sixties, and can’t even fix a decent meal!”
“As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”Proverbs 26:21
George’s father came close to grabbing one of the nearby unburned limbs and hitting him as he bellowed, “What did you just tell me? Why, I’m going to…”. George cut him off before he could finish.
“I don’t have to obey or listen to you. I’ve been silent before, but now I’m going to really tell you a thing or two about how I feel!”
There are people in this world who love to add more fuel to an argument. As a result, each member of the disputing party builds upon the other, until the whole affair gets way out of hand. George’s situation illustrates the simple proverb: “As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife” (Proverbs 26:21). Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are to contribute more fuel to a quarrel or fight. Not once did Jesus encourage a heated exchange. As children of God, He wants us to try to bring about peace, not strife.
There will always be occasions for disagreement, and these all too frequently transition into fierce shouting matches. We are not exempt from getting involved in these vigorous quarrels. Yet we are the ones who have a connection with the One who is greater than these clashes. Jesus always used the right words to defuse an explosive conflict, because He was in constant fellowship and communication with His Father. God would give Him the words or means to resolve or avoid such encounters.
Our best defense against being caught up in contention and angry debates is to avoid entering into them in the first place. We need to turn the matter over to the Lord instead and let Him take care of the problem. Our lives are not long enough to allow us to become involved in endless disputes or making our defense. These debase us and reduce the effectiveness of our testimony. Even if we do win in an argument, what do we gain in the end? The other party has been hurt, and God receives no glory. In fact, God is pushed right out of the whole situation, and we become the center of it instead.
As we develop and grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, we’ll find that we have the power to control ourselves in an argument, because we are being directed by God. This is a lesson for us. Let’s not be like George, who enjoyed seeing the billowing flames in his backyard bonfire so much that he repeatedly contributed to it. This then carried over into his own life, where he ended up stoking the disagreement with his father. No fire can burn without fuel. Even if someone else started the blaze, denying it fuel will effectively extinguish it right on the spot.