“Don’t Quarrel on the Way”

As I’ve studied the book of 2 Timothy for a recent sermon, I realized that the entire last half of 2 Timothy 2 has one primary theme: Don’t quarrel. Paul didn’t want Timothy rolling around in the ditch with false teachers. He was to present true doctrine, rebuke false teaching, and rightly divide the Word. But he wasn’t to allow himself to be drawn into quarrels.

I looked up the word “quarrel” in the Bible. It occurs 43 times, and there was not one occasion when anything good came from quarreling.

  • In Genesis 13, we read that quarreling arose between the herdsmen of Abraham and of Lot, and it led to a parting of the ways and sent Lot off in the direction of Sodom.
  • In Genesis 45:24, the sons of Jacob went back to Canaan from Egypt to get their old father, Jacob, and Joseph had one instruction for his siblings. These words ought to be emblazed on the wall of your home or office. He said: “Don’t quarrel on the way!”
  • In the book of Exodus, the people quarreled with Moses, leading to all kinds of problems.
  • In the book of Numbers, the people quarreled with the Lord.
  • Proverbs 17:19 says: “Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin.”
  • Proverbs 20:3 says: “Every fool is quick to quarrel.”
  • Proverbs 26:21 says, “As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.”
  • In 1 Corinthians 3, the apostle Paul told the Corinthians that as long as there was quarreling among them, they were still worldly and were acting like mere humans.
  • 1 Timothy 6 warns against people who have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, and evil suspicions.
  • The book of James says: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

This doesn’t mean we should bottle up our feelings. It means we should be mature enough to engage in conversations that build up rather than tear down. And if our conversation at home or work or school turns into something that could be described as a quarrel, we should short-circuit it and change the direction of our conversation and our attitudes and emotions.

Joseph’s advice to his traveling brothers is also good advice for our vacations times this summer: “Don’t quarrel along the way.”