Berean Studies / Ber08 - Evil speaking and Evil Surmising
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1. What is evil speaking?
2. How prevalent is this fault among even those who profess to be Christians?
3. What is the power of the tongue?
4. What is meant by a ‘tongue set on fire of gehenna’?
5. What are the baneful influences of evil speaking, and what are some of the excuses and subterfuges offered by the fallen ...
R2443 col. 2 ¶3 to 2444 col. 2 ¶2 - Many are the peculiar subterfuges which the fallen nature will use, in its attempt to stifle the voice of conscience and yet maintain the use of this channel of evil,--long after it has been driven from evil practices which are less common, less popular, more generally recognized as sinful.
(1) It will say, I mean no harm to anybody; but I must have something to talk about, and nothing would be so interesting to friends and neighbors as something which has more or less of a gossipy flavor (scandal) connected with it. But is evil-speaking, slander, any the more proper on this account for the children of the light? By no means. Hence it is that the Scriptures instruct us, "Let your conversation be such as becometh saints;" "Let your speech be with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man;" "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good, to the use of edifying,--that it may minister grace unto the hearers." --`Phil. 1:27`; `Col. 4:6`; `Eph. 4:29`.
But the scandal-monger, however refined his methods and words, well knows that so far from the scandal ministering grace to the hearer, it ministers evil;--that the hearer is impelled by the forces of his fallen human nature to go quickly and tell the scandal further, to others;--true or false, he knows not and heeds not: it has kindled in his heart a flame of carnal sentiment which issues from his lips to "set on fire the course of nature" in others, similarly weak through the fall. The fallen nature feasts and revels in just such things, feeling the more liberty to do so because they delude themselves that thus they are moralizing--preaching against sin, and that in thus discussing and impliedly denouncing the said-to-be transgressions of another, they are mentioning matters abhorrent to their righteous souls. Alas! poor, weak, fallen humanity's reasonings are seriously defective when the Lord's counsels in righteousness are ignored.
As for the point that there would be little else to talk about if scandals were thoroughly eliminated from Christian conversation, and were all to abide strictly by the Apostle's injunction, "Speak evil of no man," we answer: Is there not a wide scope for conversation amongst Christian people, on the subject of the riches of God's grace in Christ Jesus our Lord, expressed in the exceeding great and precious promises of the divine Word? In these things we have indeed that which not only ministers grace to the hearer, but which adds also to the grace of the speaker. It showers blessing on every hand, so far as the "new creature" is concerned, and assists in deadening the old nature with its evil desires, tastes, appetites.
This is what the Apostle had in mind, evidently, when he said that the Lord's people should "show forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light." And a heart filled with the spirit of love, the spirit of God, the spirit of the truth, and overflowing with the same at the mouth will be sure to overflow that which is within, for, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." An evil mouth, therefore, a mouth which does injury to others, either to fellow-members of "the body of Christ" or to those that are without, indicates an evil heart,-- implies that the heart is not pure. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."--`1 Pet. 2:9`; `Matt. 12:34`; `5:8`.
(2) Another excuse for gossip about other men's matters is offered by others, who say: I can talk about religious matters to those who are religiously inclined, but when I am with worldly people, or with professors of religion who take no interest in religious themes, I must be agreeable and accommodating, and must at least hear their gossip and news; and if I do not share in such conversation I would be considered very peculiar, and my company would not be desired. Yes, we answer; but this is to be one of the peculiarities of the "saints:" they are not only to be different from the world, but different also from the nominal professors of religion. Their religion is not merely to be on the surface, and on one day of the week, and under a certain suit of clothes; but is to be of the heart, related to all the affairs of life, for every day and every moment. To follow strictly the divine injunction will indeed separate you from some who are now your friends and who love such evil things,--forbidden us who have become sons of God and who have received of his spirit of sonship, the spirit of Love.
And that the Lord understood and meant this is evident from the fact that he foretold to us that the way of discipleship would be a "narrow way." If, therefore, your failure to be an entertaining visitor, neighbor, friend, is because of your fidelity as a "new creature" to the law of Christ, Love--which "worketh no ill to his neighbor," either in word or deed,--then indeed you have cause for rejoicing, because you are suffering a little, experiencing a loss, for Christ's sake, for righteousness' sake. The loss may at first seem heavy, but if you endure it for Christ's sake, in obedience to his righteous law of Love, you will soon be able to say with the Apostle that such losses are "light afflictions," not worthy to be compared with the offsetting blessings.--`Phil. 3:7,8`; `2 Cor. 4:17`.
Your cause for rejoicing is that you have the Lord's promise that such suffering shall work out for your good. Companionship with those who are not seeking to walk according to the mind of the spirit, but according to the common "course of this world," is injurious to the saints, to those who are seeking to walk in harmony with the new mind. They are far better off without such worldly companions and friends, and in proportion as they are separated from these will they find closer fellowship with the Lord himself and with his Word, and with all who are true members of his Body, and under the direction of his spirit. It is in harmony with this that the Scriptures declare, in so many words, that the friendship of this world signifies enmity against God. (`Jas. 4:4`.) God has purposely placed the matter in such a position that his people must take their choice, and lose either the divine friendship and fellowship, or the worldly friendship and fellowship; because those things which the Lord loves are distasteful to the worldly, and those things which the worldly love, evil deeds and evil thoughts, evil-speaking, are an abomination in the sight of the Lord, and those who love and practice such things lose his fellowship--they are not of his spirit. "If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his."--`Rom. 8:9`.
(3) Another way by which some otherwise good Christian people avoid this question, and justify themselves in this common fault of humanity, is by confining themselves (as they think) to the truth: tho how frequently their gossip-loving natures pervert their judgments and lead them to accept as truth things respecting which they have little or no knowledge, they never know. Nor are such anxious to know more, after they have circulated a slander with their stamp of verity on it: to find it untrue would prove them "false witnesses" and put them to trouble to correct the lie; the pride of the natural mind objects and refuses to believe the truth under such circumstances. Thus one evil leads to another.
Such will say,--Oh, I never tell anything for truth until I positively know it to be true--of my own observation, my own personal knowledge. Anything that I do not know of myself to be true I am always careful to so state, and say, I have heard thus and so, or, I am told thus and so; I do not vouch for the truth of it myself. Thus I am sure that I always avoid speaking evil of anyone. Perhaps there is no more common delusion on this subject than is thus expressed. The depraved taste hedges itself behind conscience, and declares that it is always right to speak the truth, and hence God cannot have meant that speaking the truth would be slander, but that in condemning evil speaking and slander, as works of the flesh and the devil, he must have meant the speaking of that which is false, untrue.
This is a great mistake: a slander is equally a slander, whether it is true or whether it is false, and is so regarded, not only in the law of God, but also in the laws of civilized men. True, in human law, if a suit were brought for slander, if it were proven that the charges made by the slanderer had some basis of fact, that would probably be considered by the Court and jury an extenuating circumstance, and would probably very much reduce the amount of the verdict for damages. A slander is anything which is uttered with the intention of injury to another, whether true or false, and the laws of men agree with the law of God, that such injury to another is wrong.
In other words, divine and human laws agree that a first wrong does not justify a second wrong. Human law says, If a wrong has been committed, the Courts are open to the injured one to seek redress or the punishment of the evil doer; but the injured one shall not be permitted to take the remedy into his own hands, either by making an assault with physical force nor by the use of the more subtle weapon, the tongue, to assassinate his character with the poisoned stiletto of envy and malice. True, many slanderers are never prosecuted; true also, the newspapers of the United States have sometimes escaped heavy damages for libelous slander by the plea that they did not publish the defamations as of malice, but simply as news, which, they claimed, properly belonged to the public as in the cases of politicians who were seeking the franchises of the people for positions of public trust. Then again, public men knowing that much of the false statements by the opposition press will be properly credited as falsehoods, consider it good policy to let any ordinary slanders go unchallenged in the Courts.
R2445 col. 1 ¶3- 6 - Another will object,--Oh! I could never waste so much time in getting at facts. Life is too short! Why, I would have no time at all left for my own business, if I carefully hunted up the facts so as always to speak from knowledge and never from hearsay!
Just so! and the lesson to you should be to follow the Scriptural rule--"Speak evil of no man."
(1) Because you have not the time to get at the facts, and quite probably also lack the ability to judge impartially, if you had all the facts before you.
(2) Because, if you have the spirit of Christ, love, dwelling in you richly, you will prefer to tell no one the facts, even if you have the chain of evidence complete: you will loathe the matter the more in proportion as the known facts are unfavorable. What, then, must be the condition of those who have itching ears for scandals and of those whose tongues delight in scandal as a sweet morsel, and are anxious to scatter an evil report of which they have no knowledge--only prejudiced hearsay? The most generous view possible of such is that they have little of the spirit of Christ;-- that they are deficient in brotherly love and have never truly learned "the golden rule."
6. What is evil surmising and what is its relation to evil speaking?
7. What are ‘secret faults,’ and of what two kinds are they?
8. Is an evil suggestion a sin, and how does it become a secret fault?
9. What is a ‘presumptuous sin,’ and when does a secret fault become a presumptuous sin?
10. What is the ‘great transgression’ to which these sins lead?
11. How may we purify and keep our hearts pure from these sins?
12. How is the Lord judging us?
Matthew 12:34-37 - O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. (35) A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. (36) But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (37) For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
R1937 col. 1 ¶2, 3 - REALIZING that we, the Church, are at the present time under the inspection of our kingly Bridegroom, who is now present (`Matt. 22:11`) to gather out of his Kingdom [in its present embryo or formative condition] all things that offend" (`Matt. 13:41`), and to gather unto himself his jewels, his bride (`Mal. 3:17`), we cannot too carefully consider the principles upon which this judgment and this selection are made.
The above words of our Lord indicate that the heart and the mouth are under very special scrutiny, the former representing the individual character, and the latter being an index of the character. It is in this same view of the matter that those words of wisdom were penned,--"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee." (`Prov. 4:23,24`.) The indication is clear that a right condition of heart is necessary to right words; for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," as experience testifies to every man. It is therefore just that our words should be a criterion of judgment in the Lord's estimation, as he tells us they are. True, honied words are sometimes only the masks of deep hypocrisy; but the mask is sure to drop off some time, as soon as selfish policy renders a change of tactics necessary. The fact therefore remains that the words, the entire course of conversation and conduct, are an index of the heart.
13. Why should we render to God a daily account of any ‘idle’ (pernicious) words?
14. How are words the index of our hearts?
15. What does purity of heart signify?
16. What is the importance of a pure heart?
17. How may purity of heart be attained?
18. How do we know our motive is pure, since ‘the heart is deceitful above all things’?
19. What is the relation between our conscience and purity of heart?
20. Might telling the truth be evil speaking?
21. Is it always necessary to tell all we know about every affair?
22. Is an uncomplimentary remark evil speaking?
23. Would it be evil speaking to criticize doctrines publicly uttered?
24. What is a slanderer?
25. What is ‘false witness,’ and is it possible to bear false witness without uttering a word?
26. How should we deal with a brother or sister who begins to relate an evil report?
27. How should we deal with persons of the world who do evil speaking?
28. Is evil speaking against a brother in Christ more culpable than against one of the world?
29. In order to avoid gossip, slander and evil speaking, what is the only proper and Scriptural way of redress for grievanc...
30. How should we deal in a matter of evil speaking against an Elder?
31. Why is ‘a bridled tongue’ a chief essential in an Elder?
32. How may we ask advice and not do evil speaking?
33. What is the relation between ‘busy- bodying’ and evil speaking?
34. How should the Golden Rule help us to overcome evil speaking and evil surmising?
35. What is the sole exception to this rule, ‘Speak evil of no man’?
36. What inspiration should we receive from Jesus’ example?
37. How can we overcome evil surmisings and evil speaking?
38. What additional thoughts are found in index of Heavenly Manna under ‘Evil’?
39. What special experiences and practices have helped you to overcome evil surmisings to some extent?
40. As we realize how insidious this foe of the ‘new creature,’ what should be our daily prayer?
Psalms 19:12-14 - Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. (13) Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. (14) Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.