Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26, verse 20.
I’d like to talk about two sides to this verse. The most obvious is about fighting. The writer sure does seem to say that quarrels start over some kind of trivial thing. And let’s be real: all gossip is trivial. The motive behind the gossiper may not be, but the gossip itself, the content, usually is. Sometimes you argue over real issues; sometimes you just fight over pride or, as mentioned, gossip. One side is slighted and the other responds. Usually, gossip leads to conflict, so it only stands to reason that, without the gossip, the conflict can die down. Just like a fire that is denied fuel.
Then there is the other side of it, a side that has nothing to do with quarrels but, instead, with relationships. A friend of mine once told me that people come into our lives for seasons or reasons. We make friends and acquaintances for a time being or for forever. When they are for the time being, we have common purposes and common mission, sort of like a project team. When they are forever, they are people with whom we share everything, open ourselves to vulnerability, and become true friends. With chemistry and time, we love. These are the kind of friends we can count on to ‘be there for us’ when we need them. Years can come and go between our times together, but we always have a connection. We’re friends for a reason.
With ‘season people,’ when the fuel or need goes away, the relationship does too. Just like a fire that goes down, so do relationships. It doesn’t mean it will be forever; only God knows whether it will or not. But the primary reason is satisfied and the relationship ebbs. Whatever it was that drew you together is done or gone and the relationship wanes. Maybe it is circumstances, or you drift apart, or there could even be a fight: the fire dies out and so does the friendship.
The reason for contrasting these two obvious differences is to ask the question: what could make both common? You know the answer. God can bridge the gaps in an argument, and God can bind friendships and relationships when nothing else will. Especially between men and women, when quarrels come and lead to an impasse, our human ability to heal usually breaks down. We break up, we fall apart, we leave; we drift apart, we come back together, we reunite. The glue that can hold all those things together is supernatural. It is love. It is the author of love.
Knowing that, I think it’s amazing to note that, if you rewrote the verse as “With God a fire never goes out; with God a quarrel never starts up” that it makes just as much sense (and is just as instructive) as if you’d left it alone in the first place. Try putting your name (or mine) where “God” is and see if it would hold true. You know the answer to that one as well.
It doesn’t work because we aren’t God. Try as we might, we can’t even play God. We bicker, we quarrel, we are ourselves. That isn’t what He does. If we hope to be happy, to repair hope from hopelessness, to find love in a world hostile to it, we need His help. It just doesn’t work any other way. Fans try it on their own; followers try God. Fans see the fire go out when hope wanes; followers see opportunity when hope wanes by calling on Him for help. Me, I choose to follow, even when I don’t always do a good job at it. I don’t like gossip and I don’t like it when the fire goes out. How about you? How about let’s avoid the former and stoke the latter by fueling our inner fire with He who was in the burning bush?