In Part One, we spoke about how wicked the tongue can be, how much damage it can do, and how those who control it are disciplined and wise (Jas. 3). Malicious venting is called “railing” in the Bible and includes or arises from “debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults” (2 Cor. 12:20). We determined that venting is always wrong. While it may be frequently modeled for us in popular media, making it appear to be normal and acceptable, it is not. Christians have a higher calling and must not be desensitized to the sinful behaviours suggested to us via secular pop culture. We may not name-call, curse, or hatefully scold others. Nor are we to make company with those who do (1 Cor. 5:11). Not long ago, a friend received a malicious email wherein a supposed fellow Christian told her, “Go bang your head against the wall”. Those who name the Name of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour simply do not speak this way (Eph. 4:31, Col 3:8). God also tells us that those who manifest such malice toward others are not in-dwelt with the Holy Spirit, and do not have eternal life in them (1 Jn. 3:14-15, Tit. 3:3). Their hearts are darkened with sin, and their words give undeniable evidence of this darkness (Mt. 6:22-23, Mt. 12:35, 15:19). If you speak with railing words, repent, Christian; lest you, too, be filled with darkness.
In this part, we will examine the dangerous folly which frequently precedes venting – making assumptions.
When I attended Pensacola Christian College, one of my Professors was a retired Michigan State Trooper. One day, he taught us a lesson that some of you have probably already heard.
He wrote the word “ASSUME” on the chalkboard in block capitals. He told us that when we assume something to be true without proving it (1 Thess. 5:21), we make an “ASS” (he circled the first three letters of the word) out of “you” (he circled the letter ‘U’), and “me” (he circled the last two letters of the word).
He was right. If we make unsubstantiated assertions, claim that they’re true, and behave in accordance with those assertions, we make donkeys out of ourselves. If we’re lucky, we discover our folly and are given a chance to avoid doing damage before it’s too late. If not, only God and the poor soul we victimized will know of our transgression, and judge us for it. And how, if we repent not, will that judgment play out? God will justify and avenge the victim of our folly, we will be the “persecutor” who spoke falsely against our fellow Christian, and we will be brought to shame (1 Pet. 3:16).
“It must needs be that offenses come, but woe unto him by whom the offence cometh” (Mt. 18:7).
How can we avoid making donkeys of ourselves?
The Bible tells us. There are many ways, but we’ll cover just three essentials in this article. First, we must be spiritual. Second, we must be learned and practised in the ways of holiness. Third, we must be meat-eaters.
First, we must be “spiritual”. Primarily, this means that we must be saved by faith, making a free will offering of belief in Jesus Christ as the propitiation for our sins, after which time, we are “sealed by that holy Spirit of promise” (1 Jn. 2:2, Eph. 1:13). To manifest this spirituality, we deny our flesh and demonstrate the fruits of the spirit (Mt. 16:24, Gal. 5:15-25, 6:1-10, Tit. 3:8).
One way to demonstrate this spirituality is to remove the “beam” from our own eye (Mt. 7:3). To do such a thing requires self-examination. Since it is God who knows our hearts, we must go to Him to find out what’s in them. King David said, “the Lord searches all hearts, and knows every thought” (1 Chron. 28:9). To God, he said, “Prove me, O God, and know my heart; examine me, and know my paths” (Ps. 139:23). David asked God to identify his iniquity, which is in the hearts of all of us (Eccl. 9:3).
David could see his iniquity by studying and meditating on the Word (Ps. 119). The Word of God “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It cuts us deeply. It convinces us that we are sinners and judges us for it, rendering us truth-filled and – for the truly courageous – repentant (1 Cor. 14:24-25). Without our willingness to repent, the exercise of Bible-reading is futile. Without our inward realization that we are sinners, our pride will remain unresolvable, and we will be destroyed (Prov. 16:18). If personal repentance does not come from Bible-reading, humility will not result, God will resist us, and we will continue to walk in the flesh, rendering us completely unqualified – too blind – to discern the truth about anyone.
Secondly, we must be learned and practised in holiness. One way to do this is to subject ourselves to the instruction of the aged, holy women, and consistently practise what they teach.
Titus 2 informs us that the “aged women” in the church are to “teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Tit. 2:4-5). Are you sober, discreet, chaste, and good? Do you love your husband and children? Do you keep your home and obey your husband? If not, then not only are you spiritually immature, but you have blasphemed God’s word (to blaspheme His Word is to count it as unholy). You have no business assuming to know anything about another Christian’s spiritual life because you don’t have one of your own.
Take care who you learn from. Since “widows indeed” are at least 60 years old, we have an idea of what “aged” means. Titus 2 women are Christians in the church who follow the Biblical admonition to “be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” (Tit. 2:3). They behave as the “holy women” of old, who adorned themselves with a “meek and quiet spirit”, “trusted in God”, and were “in subjection to their own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:4, 5). To be an accurate discerner of truth, we need to follow in these ways, and perform them consistently out of love for and obedience to God.
The aged women who are also “widows indeed” have unique qualifications that young women also are to develop over the course of their lifetime. They “trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day” (1 Tim. 5:5). They “have been the wife of one man” and “have brought up children”; they are “well reported of for good works”. They have “lodged strangers”, “washed the saints' feet”, “relieved the afflicted”, and “diligently followed every good work” (1 Tim. 5:9-10). It is not merely suggested that we perform these things, nor is it sufficient to practise them in our imagination alone. By doing these things, we gain experience in wisdom and holiness. We see the humanity of all those around us and recognize their great, burning need for the hope of salvation through the love of Jesus Christ.
Remember that if we don’t try to be holy in this life, we won’t be holy in the next, either. Where there is no manifestation of the Spirit, there is no Spirit (Mt. 7:20). Certainly, like the Pharisees, we can perform good works which render us pious and spiritual in the sight of others. But know this; that while we can deceive ourselves as well as those around us, we cannot deceive God. He will not be mocked.
Thirdly, we must be meat-eaters. Have you been swayed by every wind of doctrine, or does your faith stand firm in the Word of God? Have you built your house upon the sand, living in disobedience to the God you claim to serve, or are you obedient, having built your house upon solid rock? Do you see the souls of the lost wandering in your midst, having a heart to warn them of the wrath to come and sharing the gospel of salvation with them, or do you live in a bubble, unaware of the presence and power of Satan in the world, who seizes the truth from the hearts of the people, seeking to prey upon and devour us all? Do you read the King James Bible daily with a godly worldview, seeing God’s plan of salvation that He set in motion before the world began, being prophesied in His Word, fulfilled by His Son, and offered unto us all as the hope of eternal life, or do you think the King James Bible is as outdated as God’s commands, reading verses out of context, myopically, seeking the vain opinions of men via the commentaries for understanding instead of profiting spiritually through the God-given guidance of the Holy Spirit?
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14). In context, these verses speak to the Jews who could not identify God’s plan of salvation in the Old Testament even though it had been fulfilled and revealed by Jesus Christ and His witnesses (the eleven). The Holy Spirit guides us in all truth (Jn. 16:13). Not in a little bit of truth, not in a partial truth, and not in a flawed truth that needs to be perfected by man – in ALL truth.
If you are a meat-eater, you know that wisdom is not in the seminary where the Pharisees profit from your ignorance, it’s in the meek old man who loves the Lord but has no worldly credentials and few friends. If the world loves someone, you know that that person is not of God, but of the world. If another doctrine is preached, you know it’s false because as a sheep, you know the voice of your Shepherd. As a child of God, your power is from above, your wisdom is from above, and your understanding is from above. Your faith is sure. You will continue in it, grounded and settled, and you will not be moved away from the hope of the gospel (Col 1:23). You will continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety (1 Tim. 2:15).
So, before we try to examine someone else’s heart, before we speak to others about what we think might be in someone else’s heart, before we assume to know what may or may not motivate someone else, let’s first read the Word and allow ourselves to be convicted. Read the Word to learn righteousness. Read the Word to learn truth.