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An unhealthy interest in controversies

The Bible is full of great phrases that can be applied to issues across time—like the one I came across during my devotions this week in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy.

In the sixth chapter, when describing those who teach false doctrine and don’t agree to “the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul’s pretty blunt about the negative dynamics involved:

“…He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth…” (I Timothy 6: 4-5, NIV).

​Other translations go like this…

  • From the NKJV: “…obsessed with disputes and arguments over words…”
  • From the NASB: “…a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words…”
  • From the NLT: “…an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words…”

Any of that sound familiar?

In that particular passage, Paul’s warning to Timothy is about supposed faith leaders who may lead others astray through such dicey dynamics, but it struck me as something we’re all vulnerable to.

Although the existence of controversy is an evergreen topic, in today’s world of instant communication through social media and other types of online forums, the temptation to step into the muck of controversy to have our say is something many just can’t resist.

And even if we’re able to hold our proverbial tongues, the negativity in the interactions we’re exposed to can roil our spirits and leave us with a variety of emotions that aren’t good for us.

In the midst of all of that, we’re often left wondering why we feel anxious, depressed, or somewhat overwhelmed by a world that is seemingly spinning out of control.

Where is the peace God promises?

Why do I feel so agitated and upset?

Well…it might have something to do with all that exposure to controversies and quarrels, disputes and arguments, and quibbling over one thing or another.

I can certainly be guilty of having an unhealthy interest in controversies.

I’m not on Facebook or Twitter anymore, but I’m a newshound who just itches to read through all the headlines of the day—which is something I often find myself doing when Blue and I are enjoying our daily lunch picnic on a blanket in the yard.

Instead of savoring the beauty of nature all around me, taking that time to pray, or escaping into one of the many great novels on my Kindle, I usually scan through the headlines on various sites—which rarely offer good news. It’s a habit I’m trying to break, because I’m much more peaceful when I don’t.

Of course, it’s important to stay apprised of current events so we’ll know what’s happening in the world—particularly so we know how to better focus our prayers.

And we should be visible enough to bear witness for Jesus in the world around us—as long as we can resist the temptation to fly off the handle in response to something that irks us and tarnishes what he wants us to offer.

But in the midst of doing both, Jesus doesn’t want us to have an unhealthy interest in controversies that inhibit our relationship with him, create trouble in our relationships, or block access to the perfect peace he wants to provide.

Instead, he calls us to seek him first (Matthew 6:33), pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5: 17), love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), and engage with others in a way that provides “edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, NASB).

This post first appeared in the latest edition of The Empowered Traveler™ Newsletter. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can do that here: Subscribe to Sue’s newsletter.

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