Have you ever worked closely with an argumentative person? His or her words and actions spread like poison, casting a negative atmosphere over everyone around. So, Proverbs warns, is the effect of a quarrelsome woman over the home. She is a constant frustration, like a leaky roof that does not stop dripping (Proverbs 19:13; cf. 25:15). In fact, it is better to live in the desert or on the corner of a roof than to share a home with a woman of such character (Proverbs 21:9, 19; 25:24). Perhaps these statements seem a bit harsh, but when we think about the effect contentious or cantankerous people have over those around them, we can better understand why Proverbs would speak so strongly against a quarrelsome wife.
Much of what the Bible has to say about the contentious or quarrelsome woman comes from the book of Proverbs. Written by King Solomon, this book contains multiple warnings about such a woman—and no wonder, as Solomon took for himself many ungodly wives who no doubt were the inspiration behind many of his proverbs. However, Proverbs is not the only book that speaks on this topic, nor is quarrelsomeness strictly a female issue.
On more than one occasion, Paul felt the need to admonish the church not to get caught up in quarrels over various things, as that would be unprofitable (2 Timothy 2:14, 23; Titus 3:9). As the church faced opposition from false teachers and others attempting to stir up strife within the body of Christ, they needed to be reminded not to give in to the temptation of engaging in arguments. This is the way of fools and only adds fuel to the fire of contention (Proverbs 20:3; 26:20–21). In the closing of one of his epistles, Paul speaks directly to two women who were in contention: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).
Whether we live or work with a person characterized by a contentious spirit, how might we live in such a way that God’s righteousness permeates the darkness spread by that person or persons?
First, if we are to call others to lives of peace, we ourselves must be striving to be people of peace (1 Timothy 3:2–4; 2 Timothy 2:24; 1 Corinthians 1:10–11), Jesus being our ultimate example (Matthew 12:18–20). James exhorts us, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19–20). Furthermore, we must resist the temptation to add fuel to the fire by putting up our defenses and becoming argumentative ourselves. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).
If the quarrelsome woman is a sister in Christ, we must approach her with the goal of loving correction, using Scripture to exhort her toward godly living. As Paul appeals to the believers in Philippi who knew Euodia and Syntyche, “Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women” (Philippians 4:3; see also Leviticus 19:17; Matthew 18:15–17; Galatians 6:1). If the contentious person is not a believer, we can still talk with him about the effect he is having and encourage him in a positive direction—this can even open an opportunity for us to share our faith.
Scripture makes it clear that quarrelling is a sign not of godliness, but of worldliness (1 Corinthians 3:3; James 4:1). Believers must make no room for contentiousness in their lives, taking care not to yoke themselves to those characterized by such an attitude—whether male or female—as it results only in ruin. If one is married to a quarrelsome spouse, God will provide the grace to lead by example and encourage him or her in what is right, seeking God’s glory and the good of all involved (Matthew 5:43–48; Proverbs 25:21–22; 1 Peter 3:1–2; 1 Corinthians 12:7–16).