Proverbs 18:13-19 Advice For Disputes

To answer before listening—
    that is folly and shame.

14 The human spirit can endure in sickness,
    but a crushed spirit who can bear?

15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
    for the ears of the wise seek it out.

16 A gift opens the way
    and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

17 In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right,
    until someone comes forward and cross-examines.

18 Casting the lot settles disputes
    and keeps strong opponents apart.

19 A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city;
    disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.

Advice For Disputes

Foolish people in a dispute aren’t listening.  They try to be heard rather than to hear.  I have heard people walking through the streets at night yelling at each other their point of view.  In the noise, it is obvious neither of them is actually listening.  When we crush someone’s spirit and ‘win’ the argument, we have often destroyed the relationship.  How can a crushed spirit be a support?  We use the phrase ‘a crushing argument’ as if it were positive.  However, to crush a person is not a winning tactic biblically. 

Bribery in disputes is unethical.  It is manipulative.  However, if good relations exist to the point where a gift can be freely given, it can soften the dispute.  Think of a repentant spouse who brings home chocolates or flowers, for example. 

Even though our side of a dispute may seem watertight, we should pay careful attention to what others have to say.  It may be that there are two ways to solve a problem.  It may be that your argument makes sense because you are missing a key piece of information.  Listen to the details the other person brings to the table.  repeat them to the other person to make sure that you have heard them correctly.

Argumentative people find that they do not get their way easily.  People want to resist someone who seems combative.  Even if you are able to leave arguments behind, it is very common to find that those who you have had disputes with build up a caricature of you in their mind.  Now everything that you do will reinforce that caricature.


  1. What is a positive stance to take in disputes?
  2. What are negative results from disputes?
  3. What kind of disputes would someone in ancient Israel have to settle?
  4. With whom do you have disputes?
  5. Think of a particular person who you have to reason with.  Think of an idea that you might share with them.  What is their stance?  Is it possible that you have built up a caricature by not listening and exaggerating their flaws?



About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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