Proverbs 17:4 – "An evildoer listens to wicked lips..." - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)
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Biblical Wisdom Faith
November 1, 2018

Proverbs 17:4 – "An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue."

by Dr. Bill Edgar, former chair of the Geneva College Board of Trustees, former Geneva College President and longtime pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPNCA)

In this proverb, the two parts express the same idea in slightly different terms. An evildoer is simply someone who wantonly breaks God’s law. He does evil. A liar tells lies of all kinds: slander, simple deceit, and false testimony. The evildoer is “all ears” for someone’s evil plans, and the liar is happy to be part of mischievous and hurtful tales.

The father’s point in this proverb is to urge his son not to listen to wicked words. A wise son will never join evildoers or join liars. How should he behave when faced with such temptations? Not hear! Without a welcome, hurtful words, and evil schemes usually evaporate. If no one bought supermarket gossip magazines, they would disappear. If no one forwarded or reported Internet slander, it would lose its sting. The power of the mean Tweet lies in its repetition, not in itself. The more powerful the evil listener, however, the more dangerous his hearing ears! King David vowed, “No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; none who utter lies shall continue before my eyes (Psalm 101:7).” David broke his vow and allowed his deceitful and murderous son Absalom to return home from exile, opening the door to Absalom’s sedition against him and the death of many in the ensuing civil war.

Good people must make it clear that they do not welcome wicked words. Some time ago, I heard the TV financial commentator, Jim Cramer, respond to a question about Game of Thrones with these sharp words: “That show is pornography, and I don’t talk about pornography!” The on air exchange ended immediately. One of my responses to a student in class who said, “Oh God!” was to ask, “Do you pray often? Tell me about your prayer life.” That question always stopped blasphemous talk instantly.

Sometimes refusing to listen to wicked talk exacts a price. Potiphar’s wife kept saying to Joseph, “Lie with me.” When he refused one time too often, she framed him on a charge of attempted rape, and her husband had to send his most productive and faithful slave to prison. It takes courage to make it clear that lawless talk is unwelcome, but weakness or interest that listens to mischief reveal a person’s true character: there is something of the liar in him. The godly remember that they live before the face of God, who sees what happens in secret and rewards openly. They therefore do not dare to offer hearing ears to malicious gossip, illicit flirtations, slander of the innocent, or offers of stolen goods. A wise son will not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor sit with scoffers, lest he become like them and end up as chaff which the wind blows away (Psalm 1).

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