Summary: If we decide to get involved in another person's business, chances are we will be told to mind our own business. In some cases we should do that but there are other situations when it's appropriate to not mind our own business.
"MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!"
A few weeks ago, I did a sermon on opinions. My first point was about people who are opinionated. I talked about those who interject themselves into conversations they weren't invited in to offer their unsolicited opinion. When we do things like that, people might say, "who asked you?"
It's one thing to insert yourself into a conversation but what about when it's an argument? In this case, it's less likely you'll see someone get involved. But that doesn't mean we should automatically avoid it, either. We may get told to mind our own business but does that mean we should? What are we getting ourselves into when we do?
1) Like seizing a dog by the ears.
Prov. 26:17, "Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own."
Solomon makes quite an interesting comparison here, doesn't he? What happens when you seize a dog by the ears? I haven't done this myself but I can't imagine anything good comes from it. Grabbing a dog by the ears causes pain and injury...and the dog won't like it much either. You can almost picture the 'yelp', the growling, the twisting of the head to get loose and then the teeth latching onto one of your arms. Seizing a dog by the ears is going to provoke him and he will attack you.
Likewise, meddling in someone else's argument will likely cause one or both parties to respond like the dog-the sudden intrusion causes initial pain and anger and then you have the vicious, turn and attack reaction.
I remember walking nearby the church one day and I encountered a man screaming at a woman I assumed was his girlfriend or wife. He started to manhandle her and I intervened. Of course, he told me to mind my own business. I told him when he took it to that level it became my business. Then she gave him the business and it pretty much ended there; although I'm sure that wasn't the end of it.
But I remember a story John told me about how he did the same type of intervention and both the guy and the girl turned on him. I'm sure he wasn't expecting that type of response from her since he was there to try to help her out. But she was probably scared and now the guy was going to be incited even more so she was probably like, 'thanks a lot; now I'm really going to get it later'.
Does that mean John or I shouldn't have intervened? No, not in those cases anyway. But there have been plenty of times when I didn't get involved in people's arguments. Quite frankly, if I got involved in every argument I heard around here I'd be a whole lot busier. Part of the reason I don't get involved in them is because I know the reaction I'll likely get-like Solomon pointed out.
One of the key words in this verse is passer-by. Think about it-you can get a grab the dog by the ears type of reaction when you get in the middle of an argument between two people you do know. How much more of a firestorm are you going to ignite when it's between two strangers?
When two people are angry and yelling and you try to intervene, that anger is now going to be redirected at you. And if you don't heed the not-so-subtle warning to mind your own business and get out of there, you may be given a stronger warning that it would be best if you kept it moving.
But what about Jesus' words in Matt. 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." Part of being a peacemaker would be trying to help people who are arguing to reconcile and make peace with one another.
Does Prov. 26:17 contradict what Jesus said? No. Prov. 26:17 is not saying don't be a peacemaker; it's just telling you what to expect if you try. You can attempt to bring peace to the situation but you better be prepared for some push-back. Not that it happens in every case, but in most cases the reaction will be to mind your own business.
Another key word in Prov. 26:17 is meddle. To meddle means to interfere, intrude, stick your nose in, pry. When we do things like this we can guarantee they won't be received very well. When you're a stranger who butts in to someone else's argument you should expect a harsh response. People don't like it when someone's intrusive.
But that doesn't mean you should never get involved and that you will automatically fail if you try. But it's important to use wisdom and discernment. Your approach, what you say and how you react to being told to go take a flying leap will make or break how things go from there.