Staring a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out.
On August 29, 2005, there were over 50 failures of the levees and flood walls protecting New Orleans, Louisiana, and its suburbs following passage of Hurricane Katrina and landfall in Mississippi. The levee and flood wall failures caused flooding in 80% of New Orleans and all of St. Bernard Parish. Tens of billions of gallons of water spilled into vast areas of New Orleans, flooding over 100,000 homes and businesses. There were over 700 fatalities in New Orleans as a result.
The trouble in New Orleans started with the failure of one “floodgate”, and so it is when we have quarrels with one another. Most quarrels are short-lived. Hurtful words…a condescending glance…a heated exchange. The Book of James reminds us of their simple origin: we don’t get what we want (Jas. 4:2). As we have seen time and time again in the Book of Proverbs, God calls us to control our passions, put a leash on our anger, and set a boundary on our desires. Christ calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Lk. 9:23). The life of a Christian is characterized by restraint as much as it is characterized by generosity and when we stray from that, there is always a price to pay.
We have all gotten into arguments that started small and then escalated into a major dispute. At some point, when you come to your senses, you might not even remember what started the big mess in the first place! Our sin nature tends to operate in extremes…overreactions…indulgences. The prophet Jeremiah’s words about the darkness of our hearts (Jer. 17:9) should haunt us in a way and remind us how easily our sin can fan the small flames of a quarrel into a major dispute lasting hours, or days, or weeks, or sadly…even years. The pain can be deep and the damage widespread.
This will probably be the first and last time that I include a Disney Princess reference in one of my devotionals…but Queen Elsa in Frozen is a perfect picture of today’s point: she decided to indulge her darker thoughts and emotions and sang, “Let it go…the cold never bothered me anyway.” She became angry, bitter, and isolated. Don’t let the same thing happen to you or the people you care about. End your petty quarrels before the levee breaks.