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The Biblical Meaning of Strife

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Strife is a word that often comes up in discussions of relationships and conflict, but what does it actually mean? In the Bible, strife is a term used to describe conflict, discord, and division between people. It’s a concept that appears frequently throughout the scriptures, and it has important implications for our lives and relationships today. In this article, we’ll explore the biblical meaning of strife, what causes it, and how we can overcome it.

What is Strife?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, strife is “bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension.” The Bible uses the term in a similar way, referring to disputes and disagreements that arise between people. Strife can take many forms, from minor arguments and petty disputes to full-blown conflicts that threaten to tear relationships apart. In all cases, though, it’s characterized by a lack of unity and a breakdown of communication and trust.

The Roots of Strife

So where does strife come from? According to the Bible, there are several possible sources of strife. One is pride, which can lead us to insist on having our own way and refusing to listen to others. Proverbs 13:10 says, “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” Another source of strife is envy or jealousy, which can cause us to resent others and harbor negative feelings towards them. James 3:16 says, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”

Still, another source of strife is a lack of love. When we don’t genuinely care about others or are unwilling to show them grace and forgiveness, conflicts are bound to arise. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.” If we lack love in our hearts, we’re more likely to get into arguments and disagreements with those around us.

The Dangers of Strife

Strife may seem like a minor issue, but in reality, it can have serious consequences. Proverbs 17:14 says, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.” Like a small crack in a dam that eventually leads to a catastrophic flood, strife can quickly escalate into full-blown conflict that causes irreparable damage to relationships. It can lead to bitterness, anger, and resentment, which can eat away at us and rob us of the peace and joy that God desires for us.

Furthermore, strife is antithetical to the character of God. The Bible teaches that God is a God of peace and unity, and that He desires His people to live in harmony with one another. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” When we allow strife to take root in our hearts and relationships, we’re acting contrary to God’s nature and His will for our lives.

Overcoming Strife

So how can we overcome strife? The first step is to recognize its source. As we’ve seen, pride, envy, and a lack of love are all potential causes of strife. If we find ourselves in the midst of conflict, we need to examine our hearts and see if any of these attitudes are present. If so, we need to confess them to God and ask Him to help us repent and turn away from them.

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Another key to overcoming strife is to practice humility and forgiveness. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.” When we’re wronged, our natural inclination may be to hold onto bitterness and resentment. However, the Bible teaches that we should seek to forgive others and extend grace to them, just as God has forgiven us. Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

In addition to these personal attitudes, there are also practical steps we can take to overcome strife. One is to seek wise counsel from others. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Sometimes, we need outside perspective to help us navigate conflicts and find a path forward. It’s important to seek counsel from wise and godly people who can offer sound advice and help us stay focused on what’s truly important.

Another step is to work towards reconciliation. Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:23-24 that if we have an issue with someone, we should seek to resolve it before coming to worship God. This means actively seeking out the person with whom we’re in conflict, listening to their perspective, and seeking to find a resolution that honors both parties. It may not always be possible to reconcile fully, but making a good-faith effort towards peace can go a long way towards healing relationships and overcoming strife.

Strife in the Bible

The Bible contains numerous examples of strife and conflict between individuals, families, and even entire nations. Some of the most well-known examples include:

  • The conflict between Cain and Abel (Genesis 4)
  • The feud between Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27-33)
  • The rivalry between Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37)
  • The power struggle between Saul and David (1 Samuel)
  • The division of Israel into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (1 Kings 12)

In each of these instances, strife was caused by a variety of factors, including jealousy, pride, greed, and a lack of trust. These conflicts often resulted in violence, betrayal, and long-lasting consequences that affected generations to come.

Strife and the Christian Community

As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to strive for unity in the body of Christ. However, even within the church, we can experience strife and division. This may be caused by differences in doctrine, personal disagreements, or conflicts over leadership and authority.

One passage that speaks directly to this issue is found in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, where Paul writes, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

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This passage reminds us that our ultimate allegiance is to Christ, not to any particular leader or denomination. We are called to be unified in our faith and to work towards resolving any conflicts that may arise within the church.

Overcoming Strife in Personal Relationships

Strife can also occur in our personal relationships, whether it’s with family members, friends, or co-workers. When conflict arises, it can be difficult to know how to navigate the situation and restore harmony.

One key principle for overcoming strife is found in Proverbs 17:14, which says, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.” This means that we should seek to address conflicts as soon as they arise, rather than allowing them to fester and grow into full-blown arguments. This may involve having a difficult conversation with the other person, acknowledging our own role in the conflict, and seeking to find common ground.

Another important step is to practice active listening. James 1:19-20 says, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” When we listen to others with an open mind and a desire to understand their perspective, we can often find solutions that work for everyone involved.

Finally, we should always seek to extend grace and forgiveness to others. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.” When we’re wronged, our natural inclination may be to hold onto bitterness and resentment. However, the Bible teaches that we should seek to forgive others and extend grace to them, just as God has forgiven us. Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Strife and the World

Strife is not limited to our personal relationships or the Christian community; it is also present in the world around us. We see conflict and division on a global scale, whether it’s between nations, political parties, or cultural groups.

One of the main causes of strife in the world is a lack of understanding and empathy towards those who are different from us. James 4:1-2 says, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”

When we view others as enemies or as inferior to ourselves, it becomes easy to justify conflict and violence. However, the Bible teaches us that all people are created in God’s image and are deserving of love and respect. We are called to be peacemakers and to work towards reconciliation, even in the midst of difficult situations.

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Practical Steps to Overcome Strife

While the Bible provides us with a clear understanding of the meaning of strife and its consequences, it is not always easy to know how to overcome it in our daily lives. Here are some practical steps that we can take to overcome strife and build stronger relationships:

1. Practice humility

One of the main causes of strife is pride. When we believe that we are always right or that our way is the only way, it becomes easy to argue and fight with others. However, the Bible teaches us to be humble and to value others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). By practicing humility, we can be more open to hearing the perspectives of others and find common ground.

2. Seek to understand

As James 1:19 reminds us, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Active listening is a critical skill in overcoming strife, as it allows us to hear and understand the perspectives of others. When we take the time to listen to others, we can gain insight into their experiences and feelings, which can help us to empathize and find solutions together.

3. Choose forgiveness

Forgiveness is a powerful tool in overcoming strife. When we choose to forgive others, we release ourselves from the burden of bitterness and anger, and we can begin to rebuild relationships. As Colossians 3:13 reminds us, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

4. Practice gratitude

When we focus on the things that we are grateful for, we are less likely to be consumed by anger and frustration. Gratitude helps us to maintain a positive outlook and to see the good in others. As we cultivate gratitude in our lives, we are better equipped to handle difficult situations and to respond with love and kindness.

5. Pray for wisdom and guidance

Finally, as Christians, we are called to seek wisdom and guidance from God as we navigate relationships and conflict. James 1:5 reminds us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” By seeking God’s guidance and relying on his strength, we can overcome strife and build stronger relationships.


Strife is a common experience in our lives, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent one. By following these biblical principles and practical steps, we can overcome strife and build stronger relationships with those around us. As we seek to live out God’s call to love others, we can be agents of peace and reconciliation in our homes, churches, and communities.

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