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Monday, August 09, 2010

Where Is The Balance? When Do You Speak Out & When Do You Keep Your Mouth Shut

Something I say all the time is, "God is in the balance." Well, I have a question for you to meditate on. Where is the balance between not speaking evil against others and speaking out to expose sin? The Bible tells us to do both. Isn't that contradictory? Actually it isn't. With careful study of His Word we can determine the balance.

Let's start with Numbers 12:
And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite (Ethiopian) woman whom he had taken (married). For he had taken a Cushite woman. And they said, Has Jehovah indeed spoken only by Moses? Has He not also spoken by us? And Jehovah heard. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all the men on the face of the earth. And Jehovah spoke suddenly to Moses and to Aaron and to Miriam, You three come out to the tabernacle of the congregation. And the three came out. And Jehovah came down in the pillar of the cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both came forth. And He said, Hear now My words. If there is a prophet among you, I Jehovah will make Myself known to him in a vision, and will speak to him in a dream. Not so, My servant Moses. He is faithful in all My house. I will speak with him mouth to mouth, even clearly, and not in dark speeches. And he shall behold the likeness of Jehovah. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses? And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against them, and He moved. And the cloud moved from the tabernacle. And behold! Miriam became leprous, as snow. And Aaron looked on Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not lay upon us the sin in which we have done foolishly, and in which we have sinned. Let her not be like one dead, of whom the flesh is half gone when he comes out of his mother's womb. And Moses cried to Jehovah saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech You. And Jehovah said to Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? Let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received. And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days. And the people did not pull up stakes until Miriam was brought in.
(Num 12:1-15)

In this passage, we see that Moses had married a Cushite, an Ethiopian woman. His first wife, Zipporah, was a Midianite and he had been married to her since before God called him to lead the Jews out of Egypt. It is possible that Miriam and Aaron had taken a dislike to Zipporah and referred to her derogatively as a "Cushite." But it's more probable that Zipporah had died and Moses had re-married. Miriam and Aaron found it offensive to the national pride which characterized the Jews. Neither one of Moses' wives had been an Israelite. The Christian fathers note that the marriages of Moses with a Midianite and an Ethiopian were a foreshadowing of the Gentiles being included in God’s covenant and promises. The complaining of Miriam and Aaron was a type of the discontent of the Jews at the Gentiles being included: compare with Luke15:29-30. At this time in their history, God had specifically forbidden the Israelites to marry a Canaanite, someone from the land of Canaan. This did not include Cush, so it was evidently not forbidden by God and therefore not a problem between God and Moses. In fact, the Scripture says that Moses was meek and faithful and still in direct contact with God. But Miriam and Aaron had gotten a little too big for their britches and they spoke out against Moses. Pride is one of the easiest sins to fall into. Miriam was a Prophetess and first among all the Israelite women and Aaron was the first High Priest specifically picked by God. They fell into error by speaking against Moses. They thought they were in the right! But God privately called them on the carpet for it. God called them apart and He spoke to them and struck Miriam with leprosy.

Put them in mind to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no one, not being quarrelsome, but forbearing, showing all meekness to all men. (Titus 3:1-2)

In Titus, we are to be submissive to rulers, be obedient, meek, not trouble makers and "speak evil of no one."

Not giving back evil for evil, or curse for curse, but in place of cursing, blessing; because this is the purpose of God for you that you may have a heritage of blessing. For it is said, Let the man who has a love of life, desiring to see good days, keep his tongue from evil and his lips from words of deceit:
(1 Peter 3:9-10)

All of us do many wrong things. But if you can control your tongue, you are mature and able to control your whole body. By putting a bit into the mouth of a horse, we can turn the horse in different directions. It takes strong winds to move a large sailing ship, but the captain uses only a small rudder to make it go in any direction. Our tongues are small too, and yet they brag about big things. It takes only a spark to start a forest fire! The tongue is like a spark. It is an evil power that dirties the rest of the body and sets a person's entire life on fire with flames that come from hell itself. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures can be tamed and have been tamed. But our tongues get out of control. They are restless and evil, and always spreading deadly poison. My dear friends, with our tongues we speak both praises and curses. We praise our Lord and Father, and we curse people who were created to be like God, and this isn't right.
(James 3:2-9)

Who is the man that desires life, and loves days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:12-14)

In the abundance of words transgression is not lacking; but the one who refrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19).

If we read these Scriptures and stopped here, we could assume that we should never speak against anyone. We should just keep our heads down and our mouths shut. We could see how seriously God takes gossip, evil speaking, slander, lying. Some people would concentrate on these Scriptures and be afraid to speak out against anyone. But, remember, God is in the balance! So let's look at some more Scripture.

"Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture, says Jehovah. Therefore so says Jehovah, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who feed My people, You have scattered My flock, and have driven them away, and have not visited them. Behold, I will bring on you the evil of your doings, says Jehovah...For both prophet and priest are ungodly; yes, in My house I have found their evil, says Jehovah. So their way shall be to them as slippery ways in the darkness; they shall be driven on, and fall in them; for I will bring evil on them, even the year of their judgment, says Jehovah...I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My wisdom and had caused My people to hear My Words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings...I have heard what the prophets said, who prophesy lies in My name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? But they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who plot to cause My people to forget My name by their dreams which they tell, each one to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten My name for Baal..."(Jeremiah 23:1-2, 11-12, 21-22, 25-27)

Does the Scripture above sound like God is holding His tongue, keeping His mouth shut? It sounds to me like He is using the true Prophet, Jeremiah, to tell it like it is. Jeremiah (as did all the true Prophets) had to speak the words God told them to speak and it wasn't always nice. In fact, the prophets were given strong words to try and lead the Israelites to repentance. The prophets had to confront the people and their leaders and it wasn't always pleasant.

Years later, John the Baptist started preaching in the desert of Judea. He said, "Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here"... Many Pharisees and Sadducees also came to be baptized. But John said to them: "You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment? Do something to show that you have really given up your sins. And don't start telling yourselves that you belong to Abraham's family. I tell you that God can turn these stones into children for Abraham. An ax is ready to cut the trees down at their roots. Any tree that doesn't produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into a fire..." (Matthew 3:1-2, 7-10)

In this Scripture, John the Baptist confronts the Pharisees and Sadducees. He isn't tiptoeing through the tulips! He is confrontational and he tells it like it is.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tried to test him by asking for a sign from heaven. He told them: "If the sky is red in the evening, you say the weather will be good. But if the sky is red and gloomy in the morning, you say it is going to rain. You can tell what the weather will be like by looking at the sky. But you don't understand what is happening now. You want a sign because you are evil and won't believe! But the only sign you will be given is what happened to Jonah". Then Jesus left. (Matthew 16:1-4)

Jesus often confronted the Pharisees and Sadducees. He wasn't sweet and meek when talking to them. He stirred their pot and the rotten stink came out. He pointed out their sin in no uncertain terms.

The Sadducees did not believe that people would rise to life after death. So that same day some of the Sadducees came to Jesus...Jesus answered: "You are completely wrong! You don't know what the Scriptures teach. And you don't know anything about the power of God..." The crowds were surprised to hear what Jesus was teaching. After Jesus had made the Sadducees look foolish, the Pharisees heard about it and got together. (Matthew 22:23, 29, 33-34)

Jesus doesn't hesitate to tell them they are wrong. He was so confident at pointing out their sin that the crowds were surprised. He made the religious leaders look foolish and it didn't sit well with them.

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. So obey everything they teach you, but don't do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else. They pile heavy burdens on people's shoulders and won't lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels for everyone to see. They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers... You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won't go in yourselves, and you keep others from going in. You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You travel over land and sea to win one follower. And when you have done so, you make that person twice as fit for hell as you are. You are in for trouble! You are supposed to lead others, but you are blind. You teach that it doesn't matter if a person swears by the temple. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gold in the temple. You blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also teach that it doesn't matter if a person swears by the altar. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gift on the altar. Are you blind? Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Anyone who swears by the altar also swears by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple also swears by God, who lives there. To swear by heaven is the same as swearing by God's throne and by the one who sits on that throne. You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you're in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin. Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either. You blind leaders! You strain out a small fly but swallow a camel. You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you're in for trouble! You wash the outside of your cups and dishes, while inside there is nothing but greed and selfishness. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of a cup, and then the outside will also be clean. You Pharisees and teachers are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You're like tombs that have been whitewashed. On the outside they are beautiful, but inside they are full of bones and filth. That's what you are like. Outside you look good, but inside you are evil and only pretend to be good. You Pharisees and teachers are nothing but show-offs, and you're in for trouble! You build monuments for the prophets and decorate the tombs of good people. And you claim that you would not have taken part with your ancestors in killing the prophets. But you prove that you really are the relatives of the ones who killed the prophets. So keep on doing everything they did. You are nothing but snakes and the children of snakes! How can you escape going to hell? I will send prophets and wise people and experts in the Law of Moses to you. But you will kill them or nail them to a cross or beat them in your meeting places or chase them from town to town. That's why you will be held guilty for the murder of every good person, beginning with the good man Abel. This also includes Barachiah's son Zechariah, the man you murdered between the temple and the altar. I can promise that you people living today will be punished for all these things!" (Matthew 23:1-7, 13-36)

Again, Jesus directly accuses them and reveals their sins. He calls them snakes and tells them they are due punishment and are going to hell. He wasn't quiet. He wasn't meek. He wasn't sweet. He wasn't afraid of hurting their feelings.

Psalm 94:16 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

Ephesians 5:10-12 Determine what pleases the Lord, and have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness. Instead, expose them for what they are. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by people in secret.

Then I solemnly witness before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, He being about to judge the living and dead at His appearance and His kingdom: preach the Word, be urgent in season, out of season, convict, warn, encourage with all long-suffering and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

"Offspring of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings out good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings out evil things. But I say to you that every idle word, whatever men may speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned". (Matthew 12:34-37)

Now that we've read these verses let's see if we can determine where the balance lies.

First we should pray. Before we open our big mouths, we should pray. We want to be sure that what we are going to say is sanctioned by God. God knows when we should say something and when we should be quiet. He knows whether our words would help and heal, leading someone to repentance and pointing them towards Christ. He also knows whether our words would hurt, destroy, and bring harm to the cause of Christ.

I could be talking to a friend and say, "The grass is green." This simple phrase could be taken by my friend as, "The grass is a beautiful color and we should praise God for colors!" or, "The grass is always green and I'm sick of green and I think I'll kill myself!" I have no way of knowing how my friend will take my words but God knows.

We should also make sure that we do a spiritual inventory with God. We need to check ourselves regularly and repent for any sins that God points out to us. We don't need to wait, but to be quick in confessing and asking forgiveness. It's important that we have our own lives in order as much as we, being human, can.

We should also check our motives. If we are speaking out with a wrong motive, then we are compromising our message. It's important that we try to have the right motives. If we hate someoneand speak out just to hurt them, then we have sinned. We can have righteous anger and even hatred for sin. There is nothing wrong with this.

Psalms 119:104, Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

Matthew 6:24 - You cannot have two masters. You love one and despise the other.

God and His Son, Jesus, showed righteous anger and hatred for sin. But they did not hate the sinner. Everything God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit says or does is in love for the human being. Jesus died to save us all. He died while we were sinners. He didn't die because we are such good people. We are sinners, transgressors, full of evil and He still chose to die for us in order to save us and have a relationship with us. If God wants us to confront someone about their sin, we should be sure it's not in hatred towards a person or people. As a Christian we do not hate a homosexual but we hate the sin of homosexuality that ensnares and holds people in bondage to a sinful lifestyle. We should desire that the people be set free from their sin, we should love them enough to present them with the truth and be willing to point them towards the Savior.

We are compelled to confront sin so that people will realize their error and turn from their wicked ways. It is for their good. It is what's best for them. It is essential to their eternity. But once we've laid it out for them, it is between them and God. We have done our part by shining the light of God on a dark area and pointing them to Jesus and we must leave it to God after that.

Are we to stand up to evil government leaders, erring pastors, tyrannous authorities? If we keep our mouths closed and don't cause any trouble we would be following the first Scriptures that we read. We would be peaceful, submissive, meek, obedient and not quarrelsome and causing trouble. By doing this we could be allowing evil to multiply. If we lived in Germany during the 1930's it would mean not standing up against Hitler. If we were members of the Branch Davidians, it would mean not standing up to David Koresh as he had sex with your children. According to the latter Scriptures that we read, we are to confront evil and speak out. God would have us stand up and say something when evil is being done. I think there is a correct way to do it.

Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days. (Proverbs 28:15-16)

If a ruler gives attention to false words, all his servants are evil-doers. (Proverbs 29:12)

God's Word is NOT confusing or contradictory. It must be taken as a whole. We must know the whole counsel and search for the balance.

We are not suppose to gossip and slander, be critical and mean spirited. We are not suppose to use our tongues carelessly, or for evil. God gave us a tongue and He needs us to use it for Him. Sometimes it is in correction, rebuke, reproof, warning, admonishment and shining a light. Live and let live is what we hear. When people sin, they want to sin, and they do not want to be rebuked for it because they would rather sin at that moment than follow the Holy Scriptures. But this is where the rebuke is necessary – men must be confronted with their sin if they are ever to be delivered from it. But we must do it with humility and love. Don't let your emotions get out of control. Keep calm and be willing to let angry words slide off like water off a duck's back.

"... Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt." (Leviticus 19:17)

"Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning." (1 Timothy 5:20)

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother trespasses against you, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)

I am not writing to embarrass you. I want to help you, just as parents help their own dear children. (1 Corinthians 4:14)

I have heard terrible things about some of you. In fact, you are behaving worse than the Gentiles. A man is even sleeping with his own stepmother. You are proud, when you ought to feel bad enough to chase away anyone who acts like that. I am with you only in my thoughts. But in the name of our Lord Jesus I have already judged this man, as though I were with you in person. So when you meet together and the power of the Lord Jesus is with you, I will be there too. You must then hand that man over to Satan. His body will be destroyed, but his spirit will be saved when the Lord Jesus returns. Stop being proud! Don't you know how a little yeast can spread through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast! Then you will be like fresh bread made without yeast, and that is what you are. Our Passover lamb is Christ, who has already been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:1-7)
At the time I wrote, I was suffering terribly. My eyes were full of tears, and my heart was broken. But I didn't want to make you feel bad. I only wanted to let you know how much I cared for you. I don't want to be hard on you. But if one of you has made someone feel bad, I am not really the one who has been made to feel bad. Some of you are the ones. Most of you have already pointed out the wrong that person did, and that is punishment enough for what was done. When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won't give up in despair. You should make them sure of your love for them. (2 Corinthians 2:4-8)
Of course, we were glad to see Titus, but what really made us glad is the way you cheered him up. He told how sorry you were and how concerned you were about me. And this made me even happier. I don't feel bad anymore, even though my letter hurt your feelings. I did feel bad at first, but I don't now. I know that the letter hurt you for a while. Now I am happy, but not because I hurt your feelings. It is because God used your hurt feelings to make you turn back to him, and none of you were harmed by us. (2 Corinthians 7:7-9)

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:22-23)

There were false teachers in the first church, trying to seduce new Christians with their false teachings. The Apostles Paul and Peter warn the churches in their letters. Paul instructs Timothy to warn off these false teachers.

Timothy, because of our faith, you are like a son to me. I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind and merciful to you. May they bless you with peace! When I was leaving for Macedonia, I asked you to stay on in Ephesus and warn certain people there to stop spreading their false teachings. (1 Timothy 1:2-3)

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who secretly will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction.
(2 Peter 2:1)

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

When do you speak out against evil? When is it right and, even, necessary to speak out? When do you expose corruption? When is it right to be bold and say what needs to be said? Jesus and the Apostles offended many. They told the truth. If we know that we ought to speak out against sin and injustice, but refuse to do so, then we are guilty of sin. For in keeping silent when we know God is urging us to speak, we are essentially giving those who are caught up in wrongdoing the impression that we support them in what they are doing in defiance against God’s commandments.

Don't be afraid to speak up and shine a light but do it the right way. Make sure you are in God's Will and have the right motives. Use your words carefully and wisely. Watch your tongue and your body language. Keep your motives pure and your emotions under control. Do not resort to gossip, slander, cursing, and other sins of the tongue. Make sure you are telling the truth. Exercise restraint and humility.

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