Proverbs 26:20 “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”
When I lived in West Virginia, our home had two wood-burning stoves to keep us warm in the winter. Every summer, I got wood delivered so that I could cut it and stack it for the wintertime. When the weather got cold, I brought wood into the house and used it to start a fire in the wood-burning stoves to keep us warm. One thing that became very evident was that the more wood we put into the stove, the hotter the fire in the stove became.
This is what God is trying to get across in the verse above about feeding the fire of contention. God says, “Where no wood is, the fire goeth out:…” In other words, if you don't feed the fire of strife, you can cool the flame of contention. The only reason contention continues to get hotter is because someone is fueling the fire.
I was out soul winning in one of the apartment complexes near my church on a Saturday morning when I came across two women verbally going after each other. Sadly, these women didn't care that the whole complex could hear what they were saying. I knew one of the ladies from soul winning and asked her what happened. She told me what happened in between her yelling at the other woman. I suggested that she just walk away because it wasn’t worth it. She responded that she was not going to let this other woman just get away with what she was saying. I walked away, and a few minutes later, those women got into a fistfight. Sadly, the whole thing could have been avoided had they not fed the fire of contention.
My friend, there is no benefit to fueling the fire of a feud between you and another person. By fueling the fire of contention, you are ruining your testimony for Christ, and you are likely ruining a relationship for a lifetime. There are a couple of things you should do to avoid feeding the flames that cause contention.
First, don't listen to gossip or hearsay about others. The verse above says, “…so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.” Most contention is often the source of someone saying something that they really don't know anything about. Many feuds have been caused because of gossip and hearsay. If you don't want to live your life in contention, avoid listening to the talebearer who feeds the fire of contention with their gossip.
Second, don't be the feeding source of contention. Just like you shouldn’t listen to gossip or hearsay, you also shouldn’t be the source who spreads gossip or hearsay. Just because someone has asked you something doesn't mean you have to respond. If you know something will cause strife, why would you say it knowing that contention will follow? There are times when what you think you know is not the whole story; therefore, don't be the spreader of hearsay or gossip even if you think you know the whole story.
Third, learn to walk away. The fire of contention will go out if you will swallow your pride and walk away. The other person in the strife cannot continue their contentious conversation if you walk away. Instead of continuing to feed the fire, walk away for the sake of your testimony and for the sake of ending the strife. Who cares if walking away makes it look like you lose? Nobody wins with strife and contention; so walk away and be the winner.