A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. Proverbs 28, verse 25.
True confession and full disclosure time here again: I’ve been greedy and have recently, consistently stirred up dissension. See, I really like to debate, and I am somewhat intolerant of the shenanigans in government. This isn’t a new thing; ask anyone who has known me awhile and they’ll tell you I’ve been like this since about 1966. Without divulging my preference for one side or another, let’s just say the political atmosphere in the last few years has been a target rich environment. Much to talk about and debate with good people who have strong, long and sometimes wrong opinions: just like me.
Still, I have to confess that I feel greedy tonight. I feel like my greed for talk has run its course and I am weary of it. The last few days I’ve had several debates with several groups of friends and the whole thing leaves me feeling drained. We don’t agree and probably won’t any time soon. Our viewpoints are polar opposed, and for every fact I throw out someone else counters with another (or a baseless opinion, one of my pet peeves). That’s the nature of debate, I know, but it sometimes leaves me feeling exhausted. We don’t make much headway in convincing each other, and while the exchanges can be productive and spirited, they don’t really go anywhere. In the end, both sides are still polarized and I simply feel spent.
And then I do it again.
Sometimes I ask myself why and the only answer I can come up with is greed. I like to debate and I like to hoard that ‘talent.’ I’ll even admit that, sometimes, I’d rather be heard than be right. And sometimes, I’ll drive home a point long after I should have simply given up and gone silent. What this does is stir up dissension. It boils up the blood of good people who normally wouldn’t have an axe to grind, and if taken to a next logical level, it can cause dissension. I like to try to convince good people with whom I disagree why I believe their point is in error, but that doesn’t mean I’m always right. It also doesn’t mean they are wrong. It just sometimes feels overwhelming, and I don’t know when to shut up.
If I’m not careful, it could be ungodly. Not only would it then be unproductive: it would be wrong.
Mind you, I’m not a ‘leadership by consensus’ guy either. I agree with Margaret Thatcher that “consensus is the absence of leadership.” I once belonged to a good church that was, on the surface, managed by consensus. In good times, this worked well, but when hard times set in the leadership floundered. Not long after, I joined another church where the pastor bullied the council into always having his way by taking one position and then declaring that, if you disagreed, you were fomenting dissent. It too was a floundering, discouraging organization. Years after these things happened, I still wonder about them. I mean, Christ wasn’t a consensus leader. Neither was He one to encourage deconstructive dissension either. He stuck his neck out and took unpopular stands.
Here’s the difference: He was God and I’m not. I’m unwilling to bend on matters of principle, but I don’t have the Savior’s ability to see through that and let go of the arguments that really don’t matter much. It’s that whole greed thing. Jesus wasn’t greedy. Not so Dave. Sometimes, I have trouble determining when I should stop.
That’s the key, I suppose, in determining what is worth the fight. Is it something of God or isn’t it? Boil that down and the determination is pretty easy. That’s what the second part of the verse is saying. Go with God and go to God for leadership and then follow. I think back to the men’s retreat a few months ago when the discussion centered around being a fan or a follower of Christ. Are you a fan, someone who likes to dabble on the sidelines, root and cheer, maybe debate about the merits of ‘your team?’ Or are you a follower, someone who will go where the team goes, get on the field and sub for the wounded players, and commit? If you’re going to follow God, it’s going to hurt from time to time, even when you’re submitting to a higher and better will.
Why make the hurt worse by clouding it with personal agendas?
A few months ago, I wrote here that I had grown weary of arguing, so I guess the wheel has spun around. Here I am again, argued out and just tired of it. I’m tired of feeling greedy and used-up. I know there are more debates ahead, especially as the election season heats up and the lies begin to fly. Rik, Roger, Derek and DeFranco: I’m sure we’ll debate, but I’m promising to only do so when I believe there’s something more substantive than opinion to be said. The world would be better for that. Here’s to hoping both myself and my opponents recognize the fights that are worth fighting and walk away from the ones that aren’t.