What Does A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand Mean?

A House Divided Cannot Stand Meaning 

Definition: If members in a group fight against one another, the group will fall apart.

Origin of A House Divided Cannot Stand

This expression first appeared in the Bible, specifically Matthew 12:25:

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

Many people also remember this expression from one of Abraham Lincoln’s famous speeches, where he invoked the words of Jesus. Lincoln gave this speech, known now as the “House Divided Speech,” before becoming the 16th American president.

He used it to contrast the two halves of the United States at the time. One half of the Union allowed slavery, and the other did not. His message was that if the country continued on this path, it would break in two, which it ultimately did, leading to America’s Civil War.

The teaching communicates that unless a group can stand together in unison, it is destined to crumble.

Examples of A House Divided Cannot Stand

a house divided cannot standIn this conversation, two high school students are discussing an upcoming national election.

Lisa: Hey! Are you old enough to vote?

Annie: No, not yet. I wish that I were!

Lisa: I’m actually glad that I can’t. If I could vote, both of my parents would pressure me to vote for the candidate that they like best.

Annie: Do your parents like different candidates?

Lisa: Yes, and they fight over it constantly. I tried to get them to stop by telling them that a house divided against itself cannot stand, but it didn’t help.

Annie: Hopefully they’ll stop fighting after the elections are over.

a house divided will not stand In the dialogue below, two friends are talking about current problems in their country.

Seth: Everyone disagrees so vehemently about this new law.

Jimmy: Yeah, I know. It seems like everyone is arguing about it. I’m worried that tensions are escalating over this new policy, as well as other policies. I think people might start to get more and more violent over these political disagreements.

Seth: Well, as a nation, we’d better figure out what to do. As Abraham Lincoln said, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Jimmy: Absolutely!

More Examples

This excerpt uses the idiom to describe the Berlin Wall, a wall that divided a city.

  • Lastly, surrounding the entirety of the pool and the wall itself are the words of Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” –OC Register

This excerpt is about choosing a person to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The author believes that the person leading the EPA should support working towards a clean environment.

  • If a house divided against itself cannot stand, neither can a government agency. –Chicago Sun Times

Summary

The phrase a house divided against itself is an expression that means a group must be united and not fight one another if it wishes to survive.

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