He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.- Proverbs 26:17
This chapter of Proverbs might be my most favorite as the wisdom about life just flows from every verse. The first 12 verses give us warnings about a foolish person. Verse 13-16 cover a lazy person and from verse 17 to the end of the chapter is rich with warnings about gossip along with a few other things.
Many years ago, this was one of the first bible verses I ever memorized on my own without being forced to for a Sunday School class when I was a child. As I was just beginning to read and study the bible as a young adult, I remember finding this verse. It struck me as so applicable that I was able to quickly commit it to memory.
The word picture Solomon presents us is quite vivid. Imagine a dog passing by your residence and you decide to go out and grab it by the ears! There is a strong likelihood you come away from that encounter with some wounds. Solomon says this is what it is like to inject yourself into a quarrel that does not concern you.
The key term here is “meddle.” There are times when we do need to intervene in a stressful or even hostile situation in an attempt to resolve the conflict. Here however, the intent of the person entering the situation isn’t positive. They meddle, possibly encouraging the conflict between the two (or more) parties. Instead of working to help solve the point of disagreement, they make the conflict worse. It may be possible they are looking to validate a separate issue in their life or they could just wish to be perceived as the great solver of relationships.
I find it interesting that this verse is found in this chapter talking about foolish and lazy people, followed by gossipers, called “talebearers” in verse 22, along with those who give false praise from verse 23 to 26. Yet right here in the middle of all these various warnings, this verse appears about not getting yourself into a quarrel that isn’t any of your business. Could it be the “meddling” is not unlike being foolish, lazy and insincere? Do we really understand the damage that can be done by sharing our opinion about someone else’s conflict?
We’d all agree gossip has no place in the life of a believer. But I wonder if we understand how meddling in a conflict can be just as dangerous?
It is only under rare circumstances should one enter into a conflict in which you are not a participant. If you do, you might find yourself in a dogfight.