In his book, Lincoln on Leadership, Donald Phillips quotes Abraham Lincoln in a conversation with the Assistant Secretary of Navy, Gustavus Fox, “A man has not time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me, I never remember the past against him.” Earlier in October of 1863, Lincoln sternly reprimanded Army Captain James Cutts, “No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper, and the loss of self-control.” President Lincoln had little patience for arguments. Rather than let himself get bogged down by incessant disputes he chose to live above the fray. At a time when America was deeply divided in war, his personal conduct created the path to restoring union.
Arguing boils the blood of our veins with a passion that can be intoxicating. In many families and work environments it is a practice that leaves an environment toxic long after the lights are turned off. Though it may heighten our feelings of self-rightness, inevitably verbal battle leaves enduring wounds. The need to be right and to talk into submission whoever has the nerve to disagree is sure to feed animosity and breed insecurity and an enduring sense of resentment.
Mark 9:33-35—Then they came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Abraham Lincoln was often slandered in the press. Frequently he met with people who were angry with his policies and blamed him for besetting problems. Yet he possessed a remarkable ability to defuse tempers with humorous stories. He carefully refrained from engaging in verbal jousting knowing that it would lead to harm. It was this great leader who in one of his more famous speeches said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe he was quoting Jesus who stated in Mark 3:25 the same words to those who accused Him of working with Satan. President Lincoln learned much from Jesus.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do everything without grumbling and arguing” (Php. 2:14). If we take pride in our ability to argue we are as bright as the dog who wags his tail as he chews up the shoes of his master. Wisdom is not reflected in effectively trouncing a person so he or she is hurt and left speechless. Wisdom knows how to communicate conviction in a way that leaves another better for the exchange because he or she knows that even if painful it was for the purpose of growth. Jesus had many a stern word for those engaged in wrong behavior. But there is no Scripture that describes Him as argumentative. In fact Matthew quotes Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus, “He will not argue or shout, and no one will hear His voice in the streets” (Mt. 12:19). He spoke truth from a context of concern. He listened and observed. Even when unfairly suffering verbal and physical abuse Scripture tells us He remained silent. His message to us is, don’t let your tongue be a whip.
We argue not for the truth’s sake, we argue to prove we are right.—Oswald Chambers in Workmen of God
©2013 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the "Click here to receive weekly devotionals" box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)