Monday, February 8, 2010

Pride and evil speaking

Prov. 6:16-19
16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

I have recently been meditating on these verses, considering that if something is said to be hated of the Lord and even abominable to him; I ought to also hate it and examine myself closely to ensure I am not caught up in something found on this list. As I thought about each of these sins, how they interacted with each other and what they looked like extenuated out to their furthest end, I was struck with a startling truth. Every one of these sins are engaged when we gossip about someone in order to elevate our position or reputation.
It starts (as so many sins do) with pride, we view ourselves as deserving of some recognition that we are not currently getting and so go about to change that, by dragging someone else through the mud.
Secondly, it moves to that member that James said was the hardest to control, the tongue. We craftily work in barbs, "white" lies or simply exaggerated truths, about whoever we need to cut down, into our conversations with those we wish to impress.
We are now guilty of hands that have shed blood. Not only is the hatred in our heart considered murder by God, (Matthew 5:21-22) but to wreck someone's reputation has long been considered a physical offence in courts of law because of the damage it does to their ability to interact in society and even make a living.
Of course none of this just happens. Bitterness builds up in our hearts as we allow our pride to steep and continue to tell ourselves that deserve better, that we've been wronged. We decide which words will do the most damage to our victim with the person to whom we plan to speak, we decide what lead-ins will be the most effective to portray ourselves in the most innocent light and our comments the most natural to the flow of the conversation. All of this is followed by a justification in our minds for doing what we did or what we're about to do.
It is now time to execute our plan, we've decided what to say, who to say it to, how to say it, and we now find the most convenient time to say it, preferably sooner than later. The longer it goes unsaid, the longer we remain in our current state and the longer we have to watch the one we hate deserve recognition we think should be ours.
There is here the assumption that what we are about to say is not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is the crucial link and the one we work hardest to convince ourselves we are not committing. For sure, there are times we can speak the truth with malicious intentions, but most of the time we, like Daniels opponents, have to fabricate something in order to maximize the effect it will have on cutting them down and ultimately building us up.
The last sin is exactly what we are hoping for; this entire process has been devised and executed with the sole purpose of driving a wedge. Many commentators say that when these lists are given ("six, yea seven", "three, yea four" etc.) the last item is the one with the strongest emphasis. When we consider the seemingly endless list of passages that call us to love the brethren, walk with them in unity, edify one another, forgive each other, and so many commands that are contrary to the notion of discord; we begin to understand how much God hates the one that sows such among his children.
Perhaps I've used some superlatives in this post, maybe I used words that you considered over-the-top or too strong for "such a small sin", but that is my great fear; that we are minimalizing something God sees as huge. Gossip, slander, lying, bearing false witness, sowing discord... these are sins that God despises and we are fools if we commit them and then try to justify ourselves by minimalizing them, they are wickedness of the highest sort!