“It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.”
This proverb is an echo of what was said in verse 9 earlier in this chapter. “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” The core principle is that a contentious person (whether husband or wife) can make a relationship very difficult, and even miserable. This is true for all relationships, not just marriage.
Relationships are vitally important to everything we do in life. Relationships are also very challenging. They can be difficult and messy. Relationships are the source of our greatest joys in life, and they are the source of many of our greatest sorrows. Indeed, the effectiveness of any functional system (family, team, business, ministry) depends on the strength of the human system that supports it. The fastest way to weaken any functional system is to weaken the relationships of the people in the system. This is why we must walk in wisdom and not get pulled off-path.
God designed relationships to be the foundation of every human institution. Everyone reading this has seen and experienced the positive impact of healthy, effective relationships; and everyone reading this has also seen and experienced the negative impact of dysfunctional relationships. We have all seen people treat each other well, and we have seen people treat each other poorly.
Strong relationships empower families, businesses, teams, and ministries to accomplish incredible things. Sports provides a dramatic example. When a team wins a championship, it is virtually guaranteed you will hear them credit their success to the chemistry, cohesion, and closeness of the team. They often talk how much they love each other. When a team of athletes has an uncommon level of commitment to each other, they perform and achieve at an uncommon level.
Sadly, the opposite is also true. Broken relationships do great damage to families, businesses, teams, and ministries. And wherever there is a broken relationship, at least one of the parties is acting according with selfishness and sin. More often than not, both parties are under the distorting influence of the old nature. Humility and self-awareness are a big challenge. It is much easier to recognize the old nature operating in someone else than it is to see it operating in you. I have seen many situations of relational conflict where a person accurately sees bad attitude/behavior in another person, but cannot see that their attitude/behavior is also contributing to the discord.
Let me say it again: The effectiveness of any functional system depends on the strength of the human system that supports it. The fastest way to weaken any team or organization is to weaken the relationships of the people on the team or in the organization. This is why we must walk in wisdom and not get pulled off-path.
The Enemy knows this, which is why he often tempts and attacks us through our relationships. How does the enemy destroy a marriage? Get someone in the marriage to be foolish and contentious. How does the enemy destroy a ministry? Get someone in leadership to be foolish and contentious. How does the enemy destroy a business or a team? Get people in the business or on the team to be foolish and contentious.
Most insidiously, the Enemy blinds people to their own contribution to the discord, and deceives them into believing that the primary problem lies with the other person/people. The result will be what it says in Galatians 5.20: Some form of “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions.”
Sometimes our desire for quality relationships is greater than our willingness to engage in the hard work necessary to build them. When this happens, our relationships fall short of their potential. Or worse, they become difficult and painful. When it comes to relationships, be careful of wanting for more than you are willing to work for.
Remember: The grass is always greener where you water it.
“Let love be genuine. Reject what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12.9)