What Does Strife Mean? A Biblical Definition of Strife

Let’s find out what the biblical definition of strife is and what exactly strife means when used in the Bible.

Strife is…

You can look in the world today and see no shortage of strife which can be defined as a vigorous or bitter conflict, discord, or antagonism toward someone else or others. Strife could include being in a quarrel, struggle, or clash with others or another person and might even include an armed conflict but is not limited to being in competition or rivalry with someone else or with others. Strife sometimes includes a bitter and even violent disagreement even with those who are in authority.

Strife in the Old Testament

When Abraham and Lot’s herds grew large, there wasn’t any strife between Abraham and Lot but “there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land” (Gen 13:7) so in this case, strife was a competition between the two herdsmen over the best grazing land for their livestock. Abraham saw this strife and said “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen” (Gen 13:8) so Abraham graciously gave Lot the choice of which land to use for his livestock, thereby diffusing the strife between the two men’s herdsmen in a very unselfish way.

Delivered from Strife

In the great song of deliverance, King David wrote “You delivered me from strife with my people; you kept me as the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me” (2nd Sam 22:44) which is the very same thing he wrote in Psalm 19:43. Later, with this same idea, the psalmist wrote “In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues” (Psalm 31:20) because “They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life” (Psalm 56:6). It’s as if they were waiting on the psalmist as “they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord” (Psalm 59:6).


The Source of Strife

Solomon, in his great wisdom wrote about the source of strife in Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” because “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom” (Prov 13:10). If someone loses control of their emotions, it is easy to see that “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Prov 15:18) for “Whoever loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction” (Prov 17:19) so you must “Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease” (Prov 22:10). If left unchecked, “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression” (Prov 29:22). God is not ever the source of strife as Isaiah writes “If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you” (54:15).

Strife; Fruit a the Flesh

Strife, as we read in Isaiah 54:15, is not of God but of human origin and is a fruit of the carnal flesh of man. This is why Paul chastised some of the Corinthians, writing “for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way” (1st Cor 3:3). For those who have chosen to reject Christ, they “did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips” (Rom 1:28-28).  Amazingly, God lists strife alongside of murder, maliciousness, deceit, malice, evil, and such other fruits of the flesh. Paul lists the works of the flesh which are those things that the unsaved typically participate in like, “idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions” (Gal 5:20) and Paul plainly says, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21).


The Christ-follower is not totally free from strife but more often than not bears the fruits of the Spirit like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23). There is no room for strife in the church and among Christians for they have no reason to strive with one another but we should all be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:2-4) so we would do good to take the psalmist’s advice, “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.

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