21 October 2008

Evil Speaking – 10.21.08

Titus 3:1-2 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

Did you catch that piece of instruction in verse 2? Speak evil of no man. You might not have known that's in the Bible. But there it is. And God expects us to live up to that standard. However, before we can live up to it, we probably ought to make sure we properly understand exactly what it means.

In order to do so, let's define the central word – EVIL. According to Webster's 1828 Dictionary, evil is defined as:
  1. Having bad qualities of a natural kind; mischievous; having qualities which tend to injury, or to produce mischief.
  2. Having bad qualities of a moral kind; wicked; corrupt; perverse; wrong; as evil thoughts; evil deeds; evil speaking; an evil generation.
What is obvious is that this verse is not a prohibition on speaking out against error. In fact, we are commanded to do just that in many other scriptures, and God's commandments never contradict themselves.

In light of the definition of the word, we see that this is a prohibition on speaking with any intent of causing injury or mischief (definition 1). In addition, this is a prohibition on speaking WRONGLY against another (definition). Exodus 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness AGAINST thy neighbor. For me to say something about my neighbor that just plain isn't true or that I don't know to be true (GOSSIP) is to speak EVIL of them. For me to say something that might or might not be true for the purpose of stirring up strife or causing division is to speak EVIL. Both those things, then, are what is prohibited in this passage.

So this doesn't mean that I can't point out that those men on TV are fake-healers not faith healers or that Clay Aiken is wrong to say that he is a homosexual AND is comfortable with his "Christianity" – so long as the statements are true and are not spoken to cause injury or mischief. If my motive is to state the facts for the benefit of others and what I am stating is indeed a fact, then it is not evil speaking, even though it might not be all that positive.

Now, a similar and somewhat less general piece of instruction is found in James 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren…

It'd sure be great if all God's people would abide by this principle. Thumper might justly be condemned as a wicked reprobate for playing in a Disney movie (ha, ha), but in this case, we'd do well to heed his advice:

If you can't say anything nice [to or about your brothers and sisters in Christ], don't say anything at all.

Let's leave it to the world to speak evil of the brethren. I'm pretty sure they've got it covered. Let's speak the truth in love for the purpose of building up the people we go to church with. Let's not spread falsehood or say anything for the purpose of causing injury of mischief.

The devil is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). Jesus is the Advocate of all believers (1 John 2:2). I'd rather my words serve His purposes than Satan's. Wouldn't you?

1 comment:

  1. By the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, listening to Brother James sermons and now this devotion I have received help in Loving the Bretheren more and stopped speaking evil of them. I appreciated the point about how this does not limit us from speaking against error; although that is some very dangerous ground in itself, and rarely are those discussions profitable. If we will let the Holy Bible be our final authority we could discuss those errors without EVIL speaking being the end product. Yours in Christ