This Week's Focus Passage

Proverbs 18:13 ‘He that giveth answer before he heareth, It is folly and shame unto him.’

 This verse powerfully suggests a common scenario among men. We should say mankind for, surely, it has infected both man and woman; both men, women,  and yes, the offspring of these men and women; that is, their progeny; their children. We are reminded of the psalmist’s asseveration when he cried, All men are liars! This, happily, is not absolutely true. Even the author of that verse from Psalm 116, eleventh verse, admitted that he had spoken the words in haste. Nevertheless, that it is surely a truism in our society must be sadly acknowledged. ‘In our society;’ by which we intend the population of the world from Adam unto our day, and among every kindred and nation since the world began. It began with a lie from the chief of liars, the devil himself, when he brought our first parents into sin when they believed the lie that he uttered with his slithery tongue; that they would be as gods themselves:

And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.

Consider the folly of Eve’s response; did she not give answer before she had heard from God; before she had even rehearsed in her mind what it was that God had said? Is this not the painful reason that, so often, rumors and gossip obtain influence so rapidly among the sons of men? How did the woman respond to the serpent’s charge? What was her language in her words to Adam; was she not aping a serpent?

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.

She clearly gave her imprimatur to her husband with her. He was with her. He was in on the hearing of the serpent’s words. He was culpable as the apostle Paul spoke, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in 1 Timothy 2:14:

And Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression.

It almost appears as though Paul is saying that the serpent beguiled—deceived, tricked, mislead, deluded—Eve so that she fell, while Adam walked right in, eyes wide open, and sin entered into the world through one man. They each sinned, of course, but the man was given headship, and in this he failed miserably.

While our focus passage is speaking directly to the folly of giving a hearing to the first claimant, yet this is closely related to the issue of tale-bearing and the gross error of giving primacy to the first tale that we hear thus being prejudiced toward the next. Being careful to obtain both sides of a story is a means of protecting ourselves from falling into ‘folly and shame.’ This corresponds with the teaching of the Bible in both the Older Testament (Deut. 17:6) and the New Testament (Mt. 18:16) that there ought to be ‘two witnesses, or three’ to determines a matter. Even in the book of Ecclesiasticus, Sirach says in 11:7, ‘Before investigating, find no fault; examine first, then criticize. Before hearing, answer not, and interrupt no one in the middle of his speech.’

What we are here being advised of is the fault of pre-judging a matter. We can do nothing but pre-judge when we have not heard the ‘rest of the story’ as Paul Harvey used to put it from his radio program. Or even worse, perhaps, when we have only heard one side of a matter and draw a conclusion with simply half the story. This is a sad case of pre-judging a matter. The noun form of that verb, of course, is prejudice. Naturally, most people like to think of themselves as having no prejudices, but, of course, we all do; hopefully however not in the cases of ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, etc. Most persons invariably imagine themselves to be open-minded. But as one has remarked rightly, ‘some people are so open-minded, their brains have fallen out.’ In reality, they have closed their ears. Or, perhaps, we might say they have opened only one ear to hear only one side of a tale. We find Scripture teaching that those hearing a lie—loving a lie (Rev. 22:15)—are as culpable as the liars. Give consideration to the ‘Prince of Preachers’ and his remarks on ‘all men are liars;’

“In a modified sense the expression will bear justification, even though hastily uttered, for all men will prove to be liars if we unduly trust in them; some from want of truthfulness, and others from want of power. But from the expression, “I said in my haste,” it is clear that the Psalmist did not justify his own language, but considered it as the ebullition of a hasty temper……………Speaking in haste is generally followed by bitter repentance. It is much better to be quiet when our spirit is disturbed and hasty, for it is so much easier to say than to unsay; we may repent of our words, but we cannot recall them as to undo the mischief they have done. If even David had to eat his own words, when he spoke in a hurry, none of us can trust our tongue without a bridle.”—C. H. Spurgeon. We are told that St. Basil proposed the following sophism (plausible, but unsound reasoning); ‘If every man be a liar, then David was a liar; therefore he lies when he says, every man is a liar—thus contradicting himself, and destroying his own position.’ Bellarmine said the answer to this sophism is easy, for ‘when David spoke he did so not as man, but from an inspiration of the Holy Ghost.’

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. It appears that the writer of this proverb is warning us to keep our tongues and our ears. We are guilty of sharing in a falsehood when we give our tongue or our hearing to just half of an account. It becomes a ‘folly and shame unto [us].’ This is indeed the crux of gossip, is it not? Proverbs wisely advises us in, 26:20, that, For lack of wood the fire goeth out; And where there is no whisperer [talebearer; KJV, NKJV], contention ceaseth.

It was a question asked by many of the 60s love-generation, ‘What if they gave a war, and no one came?’ We may ask, ‘What if there were gossip, and no hearers?’

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church  


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