“he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,” (1 Timothy 6:4)
COVID-19. The 2020 presidential election. Vaccines. The Black Lives Matter riots. The riot at Capitol Hill. Racism. White supremacy. Critical race theory. Christian nationalism. Should I keep going?
There are a plethora of controversies all around us. There’s really nowhere to hide from hearing about them unless you live under a rock. I hate to say we live in unprecedented times—because everybody is repeating it—but we live in unprecedented times. The world is simply going . . . crazy. Even worse, many in the church are going crazy, too. There is division in every crevice and dissension at every corner.
In 1 Timothy 6:3-5, the Apostle Paul is addressing the character and manipulation of false teachers. In context, Paul is stating that false teachers have an unhealthy craving for controversy. This is, of course, undoubtedly true. However, this principle applies to all Christians as well.
There are many Christians in the body of Christ who have an unhealthy craving for controversy.
Feeds our Sin
I don’t think it’s fair to say that, by nature, people desire controversy. For instance, I for one have never been a fan of conflict or division. I hate arguments that get heated. I can have a friendly argument until the cows come home, but I hate to be in a situation where things are heated. Although sometimes it’s necessary.
With that said, I believe one of the reasons many Christians have this unhealthy craving is because it feeds their underlying sin. These people have always been prone to quarrels. And we know quarreling isn’t godly. “Quarreling is foolish,” Tom Hicks, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Clinton, LA, said, “because it can never win another person’s heart” (source).
When they are not actively engaging in war over their nagging sins, they become more susceptible to this unhealthy craving. And the result is you always see them fighting. They are always bickering, complaining, or needlessly rebuking. You rarely see them encouraging others, but only arguing. It’s simply distasteful.*
Though there is absolutely a time and place for confrontation (Jesus had time for it), the vast amount of quarreling we see is caused by Christians who simply couldn’t help but start something. In other words, the immaturity of some Christians prevail. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have an opinion on relevant issues like COVID-19, vaccines, the riots, and so on. It’s not good, however, to let those opinions lead to “constant friction” (v. 5a). As we see in the passage above, this type of behavior leads to “envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions” and the constant friction I just mentioned.
Christian: don’t you ever get tired of arguing and being in the center of a sin-saturated debate?
A Better Diet
I know we all hate dieting, definitely for our physical health. It’s even tougher to “diet” for our spiritual health–but it’s drastically needed!
Friends, please hear me: argumentation and controversy are not inherently bad. It’s not wrong to have an opinion on something and voice that opinion—even when it’s strong! However, doing this constantly and without restriction is the result of an unhealthy craving that needs to be cut out of your life—just like I need to cut Dr. Pepper out of my life. Or, at the very least, they need to be done far less.
Do you want to be in a unhelpful quarrel over a nonessential issue when Christ returns? Do you want the reputation of always being in a controversy? Do you want other Christians to not enjoy being around you because you make everything into an argument? I think this is fair to say: Jesus does not want that.
Jesus wants us be thick-skinned but only need thick skin on the rarest of occasions. Jesus wants us to not be afraid of controversy but only when controversy is warranted. Jesus wants us to stick up for the message of the gospel but He doesn’t want you condemning others for their views on vaccines, for example.
A Healthy Craving
We shouldn’t crave controversy. We shouldn’t desire quarrels. We shouldn’t want to be in a constant fight. Rather, we should crave edification. We should desire unity. We should want to be in a state of perpetual camaraderie.
If this is you, believer—one who has this unhealthy craving—maybe it’s high time to examine yourself. Why do you do this? Why do you always find yourself arguing or waiting for the next fight? God commands us to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). So you must-we all must!—do so.
For the sake of the gospel, let’s be better, church.
*I can’t tell you the amount of Christians I follow–or try to follow–on social media that are faithful to the gospel but are always arguing with somebody. It makes it hard to follow them because, after awhile, the constant argumentation becomes exhausting to see.