The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out (Proverbs 17:14).

As I continue to work my way through the book of Proverbs through my morning devotions, this verse captured my attention this morning. Look at it again; do you see the word picture?

The word “strife” refers to quarreling…it’s not just an argument but dissension within a relationship. It is used in Proverbs 6:14 of the worthless person who is continually sowing discord; of the hot-tempered man in Prov. 15:18 who stirs up strife; of the dishonest gossiper who spreads strife in Prov. 16:28; and of the quarrelsome wife in Prov. 21:9.

The beginning of this discord or strife or quarrel is the prelude to an uncontrollable flood that will yield irreparable damage. The first sign of such discord in a relationship is a flood warning. How does wisdom react to this? It “quits before the quarrel breaks out”. The word “quit” means “to abandon”. It’s the picture of one who just abandons the dissension…in 20:3 we read “it is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.”

Just quit it…stop it as soon as you hear the first “drips” of strife in your relationships, that is wisdom. Don’t be a person who is given to quarreling. This is especially relevant in a marriage. Sadly, on more than one occasion in 25 years of marriage I have allowed the small leak to become a flood and destruction.

If I am going to heed this flood warning (“quit before a quarrel breaks out”) I must do at least three things:

  1. Willingly accept rebuke (17:10- “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows to a fool.”). The wise man is known for listening to a rebuke and seeking to learn from it what he can instead of seeking to justify himself at all costs.
  2. Meekly humble myself (17:19- “Whoever loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction.”) The wise man does not “make his door high” ( a picture of pride, cf. 29:23) but rather is approachable.
  3. Wisely restrain my words (17:27- “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”)