Proverbs 20:3 (NIV) “It is to a man’s honour to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” Proverbs 20:3 (KJV) “It is an honour for a man to cease from strife, but every fool will be meddling.”
Quarrelling is one of the commonest human weaknesses and has the most serious effects; it marks one of the clearest differences between Wise and Foolish Person. Every Foolish Person is quick to quarrel because the Person is “quick-tempered” and lacks understanding:
- Proverbs 14:29 (NIV) “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly (foolishness).”
- Proverbs 16:32 (NIV) “Better is a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”
- Proverbs 17:14 (NIV) “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so, drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”
- Proverbs 19:11 (NIV) “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
It is honourable for the Person to avoid (“cease from” – KJV) strife. The phrase “ceased from” (KJV) means “a complete separation from strife.” The word “avoid” (NIV – “cease from” – KJV) has the idea of sitting still, remaining calm under a hail of insults. The world sees this as weakness and dishonour (James 3:14-16). But, as Bridges puts it, “An evil world is a fine theatre for the display of the Grace of God in the fruits of ‘the wisdom that is from above,’ that is, Peaceableness” (James 3:17). It takes far more strength to control your temper than to stand up for your right.
Strife begins when honour is impugned (call in question, challenged) and must be defended, however, honour does not come from defending it, but controlling oneself and forgiving the injury – Proverbs 19:11 (NIV) “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
The Wise Person does not get entangled with the petty grievances that often characterize life. This does not mean that the Wise Person will completely avoid addressing an issue when Principle is involved. However, the Wise Person will not get involve with the many neutral matters that give ground for quarrelling and irritation. In contrast, the Foolish Person “will be meddling” (“starts a quarrel” – Proverbs 20:3), because his lack of self-control leads him to focus on matters that would be best forgotten.