Speak . . . with Knowledge

February 26, 2019

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: This is not a political statement (wink). I was driving with the radio on and heard an update on a situation that turned political. People ran with the story, spread it widely, and now the details are proven to not be true. Embarrassing and damaging.

Unfortunately, that happens all the time. It happens on a very public scale, as in news stories and reporting, and on a lesser but just as serious scale, in personal relationships. It happens in our communities, workplaces, churches, homes. Relationships are fractured, people get hurt, and even God’s name is damaged.

We don’t hear much about it. We excuse it or ignore it, and focus on what we might consider bigger issues or more significant sins. Yet the writer of Proverbs speaks the wisdom of God on what happens when our lips are too quick and too loose.

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. Proverbs 6:16-19

That sounds serious to me. Lying, giving a witness that is false, and stirring up conflict with our words are all clearly identified as things God HATES and finds DETESTABLE. Strong words. Seems as though God pays careful attention to things we don’t think are that major.

Then the Proverb writer speaks a word to us who tend to draw conclusions without getting all the information.

There are two sides to every story. The first one to speak sounds true until you hear the other side and they set the record straight. Proverbs 18:17

When was the last time you listened to a story and expressed outrage or disappointment with a person who was not present, and later found out they had been misrepresented? I hope it broke your heart. I have done that, and I feel great shame at allowing a person’s name to be tarnished without opportunity for defense or explanation. We allow injustices we hope and pray no one else is allowing about us. We want others to give us the benefit of the doubt until they hear directly from us, but we too often find it hard to give it to others.

Making a decision based on hearsay is unfair, unjust, and shameful. Solomon, the wise author of Proverbs, says there’s a big problem.

What a shame—yes, how stupid!—to decide before knowing the facts! Proverbs 18:13

You not only LOOK stupid when you pass on unsubstantiated or unnecessary information—you ARE being stupid.

On the other hand, Proverbs 13:16 reports, “Every prudent man acts with knowledge.” In other words, wise people don’t speak unless it is necessary and they are absolutely sure of the facts. They don’t offer opinions on hearsay, and don’t unnecessarily stir up conflict. They work to build.

The New Testament wisdom makes it even more clear.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

The King James translation calls it “corrupt communication.”

Before you say that next thing, post that next Facebook post, share that tweet or Instagram, you might want to slow down and act with knowledge. Ask yourself, “Is this helpful? Will it benefit people who hear it/read it? Am I certain of the facts? Have both sides been fairly represented?” We’ll save ourselves regrets, relationships, and the pleasure of God if we do.