Doting About Questions

Paul warns of those who are “doting about questions and strifes of words.”  (1 Tim. 6:4). The basic meaning of the English word “dote” is “to show excessive love or fondness.” The word from which “doting” is translated means “sick.” Three other widely-used translations translate the phrase thusly:  

“Obsessed with disputes and arguments over words” (New King James).

“An unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words” (New International). “A morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words” (New American Standard)

From the context it is fairly certain that Paul was talking about certain false teachers who were causing strife among brethren by using their skills at argumentation to persuade poor slaves, who were Christians, to use godliness for their own material gain by rising up against their masters. It may have been that they argued that" freedom in Christ” entitled one to demand all other forms of freedom. What ever the case, Paul tells the slaves that rather than “supposing that gain is godliness,” to consider that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”

It was not the purpose of the gospel to upset nor overthrow the social and political systems of the world, but its purpose was (and is) to give man freedom from sin and fear of the wrath to come. In order to maintain this freedom a Christian was taught to “live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.”  (Tit. 2:12). Part of living that “ quiet and peaceable life in all godliness”  (1 Tim. 2:2) was to quietly submit to those over them in the social and political realm, rather than being an agitator of strife and a rabble-rouser.

While this is the context of Paul’s warning, it is clear that God does not like for one to “dote about questions” in any context. Christians should not “show excessive love” for controversy. They must “contend earnestly for the faith.”  (Jude 3). Jesus and his Apostles left us copious examples of engaging in legitimate debate on religious questions. But we need to be careful that our affinity for controversy does not become excessive until it becomes an obsession, a sickness – so that one seeks to debate just for the love of debating or arguing just for the sake of arguing. Such a one can foment a lot of unnecessary strife and headaches among brethren in general, and within the congregation where he attends in particular, with his endless wrangling over every little question. Bible classes, preaching services, and even social conversations, with such a person present, are tension filled because most of those present wonder what brother Wrangle is going to find to argue about today. It is hard to really learn and be edified in such an atmosphere.