Friday, 08 February 2013 15:43

The Contentious “Man”

Written by  Lou Priolo
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The book of Proverbs identifies several types of individuals who are especially prone to mishandling conflict. (The common denominator in the life of these individuals is several Hebrew words generally rendered as strife or contention.) When an individual continually gives himself over to a particular sin, he eventually becomes bound by that sin. At some point the individual may rightly be categorized according to the name of the sin that he allowed to master him.  


Most Christian men are aware of the distress associated with being married to a contentious woman


It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

(Proverbs 21:9, 25:24)


A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike; He who would restrain her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand.(Proverbs 27:15-16)


Few, however, have considered that there is such a thing as a contentious male (a man of contention or quarrels).  But whether man or woman, it is vexing to encounter this person—especially in the midst of conflict. To restrain him is as impossible as it “is to restrain the wind, or to grasp oil with one’s right hand.” 


A preacher friend of mine describes the book of Proverbs as “portable truth.” Pregnant with meaning these pithy passages paint pictures in your mind that you can easily take with you wherever you go. Have you ever tried to picture the following passage?


Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”

(Proverbs 26:21)


If you put a piece of charcoal next to a couple of embers, it will only be a matter of time before a fire ignites. If you place a piece of dry wood in close vicinity to a blazing fire the wood will ultimately burst into flames. If you stay too long in the presence of a contentious person, it is just a matter of time before your conversation will detonate into a quarrel. I think the point Solomon is making here is that you shouldn’t stay in this person’s presence longer than is absolutely necessary unless, of course, you are married to her. (In case you’ve ever wondered about this: the aforementioned verses about the misery associated with marring such a “contentious woman” is not intended to justify divorce, but rather must be seen as “premarital counseling.”)


How should one respond to a man of contention? Basically, we must be circumspect with our words when around such a person. As a general rule, it would be wise to 1) let our words be few when he is around, 2) not linger too long in his presence, if possible, and 3) be prepared to communicate to him that his behavior displeases us (and God, if he is a professing Christian). It may even be necessary to warn him of the consequences of being contentious, not the least of which is the potential negative impact on (if not the loss of) our relationship (or friendship). If you are married to such an individual it may be very helpful to seek biblical counseling (if for no other reason than to learn how to respond to your spouse.)


What if I suspect that I am a man of contention? To begin with, here are a few things to consider that might help you determine if you populate that category.


1.  When others do not do things exactly as I would or in a way that I think is best, I am critical of them.

2.  When talking to someone who holds a differing opinion than I do, I immediately try to persuade that person that he/she is wrong, rather than demonstrating respect for that person by trying to understand more completely his/her point of view.

3.  When other Christians disagree with me on minor doctrinal issues, I find it difficult to fellowship with them.

4.  When I am discussing political issues with someone who holds radically different views than my own, I become sinfully angry or end up saying something that I later regret.

5.  When I am in conflict with someone, I find it very difficult to let him have the last word.

6.  People “shut down” or change the subject of their conversation when I arrive on the scene.

7.  I’m known for giving people lots of “push-back.” (Some people might even say that I’m argumentative).

8.  I tend to be a bit of a gossip (a tale bearer).

9.  I find it entertaining to annoy certain individuals.

10.  People have told me I am uncompassionate, insensitive or rude.

11.  I can be rather spiteful and vindictive.

12.  I am way too proud. (“Through insolence comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel.”  Proverbs 13:10)


If you do believe you have a few too many “contentious man or woman” traits, you should seek by God’s grace to replace your contentious spirit with its biblical alternative. I don’t have time in this brief article to unpack every biblical alternative to (everything that must be put on in order to put off) being contentious, but I think the term “peacemaker” is a good place to begin. Having a calm spirit that tranquilizes rather than agitates (stirs up) others is the big idea. A peacemaker knows how and when to contend without being contentious.


Christians are exhorted to be cool-spirited, cheek-turning, quarrel abandoning, peace makers who make every effort to maintain unity. And, of course, on the other side of the same coin, we are exhorted to avoid being contentious, to keep away from strife, to not quarrel, or fight or battle and a dozen other things that are usually thought of as conflict. If you still have any doubts as to whether you may be a contentious person, ask the people closest to you. If your friends and loved ones confirm your suspicions, you might want to find someone who can offer you hope and help from God’s Word.



Last modified on Friday, 08 February 2013 15:50
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