Be Wary of a Contentious Spirit
Several weeks ago, I began thinking about the meaning of a contentious spirit. There was no specific event that prompted me to think about this, but it seemed to me I was being warned by the Holy Spirit to pay attention.
Some of you know that my life verse comes from Philippians 2:14 – 16a. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” The version I memorized said that you will “shine like stars in the universe.” I loved that image – a bright image in a dark world! But these verses aren’t just about the positive. For me, they are also a caution and an acknowledgement that I might also grumble, argue, be disagreeable and, yes, if I am not careful, even a “contentious spirit.”
So, when the words contentious spirit came to mind, I knew it was time to look inward. I needed to see if I had or was allowing a grumbling and argumentative attitude to take root!
I wondered what other ways the word “contentious” might be used. Here is what the thesaurus offered to me as synonyms: controversial; prickly; combative; critical; or antagonistic. “Prickly” sounded a little odd to me, but none of us would want anyone to use these words to describe us – certainly, I don’t. They imply or represent hate, brokenness and estrangement. No wonder the Bible warns us over and over to not have a contentious spirit. A combative, argumentative, grumbling or antagonistic spirit goes against everything Jesus taught about how we are to act! Indeed, he prayed that his disciples would have the exact opposite.
A contentious spirit generates difficulty. When we allow contention to take root, we will find ourselves quarrelling and often in heated disputes. From time to time and while we are on this side of heaven, we will occasionally find ourselves disagreeing with others. But, if we aren’t careful the outcome can be discord, strife, resentment, and bitterness. This is the exact opposite of what Jesus wanted for his church, his body, his bride. Jesus prayed that we would be unified. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” In John 17:11, Jesus prayed that we would be protected so that we may be one and have his peace. In John 14:27, He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” And, how could we possibly fulfill His second greatest commandment to, “love our neighbors as ourselves,” if we allow a combative, argumentative and contentious spirit rise-up within us and distort our whole outlook on life?
I want to live with an attitude that focuses only on the holiness and love of Jesus Christ. I suspect you feel the same. We would be wise to occasionally look inside and be certain the root of a contentious spirit is not taking hold!
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.