By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
Have you ever been camping? In my teen years, my oldest brother and his wife took me camping several times in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We would get some wood and make fires on which to cook meals, or just to enjoy the fire in the evening. They also took me along on winter weekends, when we would drive north from Minneapolis to Hinckley, MN. My brother would park his car just outside of Hinckley, and we would ski cross on the frozen Kettle River to a cabin up-river. The only source of heat in the cabin was a fireplace. We would gather wood, put it in the fireplace, and get a good fire going to warm up the cabin and to cook meals.
After I got married and we had kids, we went camping, too. Sometimes it was at a KOA campground, and sometimes at Woodruff Park, which is a few miles east of Miles City, MT. We would gather wood and get a fire going on which to cook food, roast marshmallows, or just to enjoy it in the evening.
One of the things all these fires had in common is that they would die out if we didn’t keep them supplied with wood. Sometimes we had to get up during the night to put more wood on the fires to keep them going. We didn’t sleep well, but we had a fire ready to use in the morning.
Those fires of long ago remind me of something stated in the Bible. The New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition, words Proverbs 26:20 and 21 this way: “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.” The New King James Version puts verse 20 this way: “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” The ESV (English Standard Version) puts verse 20 this way: “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.”
Here is what The Net Bible commentary says on verse 20: “Gossip (that is, the one who goes around whispering and slandering) fuels contention just as wood fuels a fire. The point of the proverb is to prevent contention – if one takes away the cause, contention will cease (e.g., 18:8).”
Here is what John Gill’s commentary says on verse 20: “men cease to quarrel one with another; they hold their peace and are silent, when there are none to bring tales from one to another, or any whisperer or backbiter to suggest evil things of each other; or when such are discouraged on both sides, and their tales are not listened to; or when they are detected and thrust out of doors, as they deserve, then strife subsides, and peace ensues. Contention is like a fire, the flame of which is blown up by talebearers and whisperers, who are as incendiaries, and as such are to be treated.”
You and I are responsible to help the fires of of lies, slander, misinformation, faultfinding, gossip, and discontent die out. We can do this by not giving an ear to those who want to involve us in these things. We can do this by telling such persons that they are wrong in what they are doing. We can do this by not telling others what we have heard. We can do this by exposing those who have a habit of keeping such fires going. If we do our part, there will be no wood to burn, and the fire will soon die out.
We all would profit from taking heed to what we read in Proverbs 10:19. The New King James Version puts it this way: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”