Proverbs 17:4,9-11 ESV
4An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11 An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
What defines an evildoer? He is one who practices doing evil. He is one who deliberately and habitually is sinning against God and against other humans, usually without conscience, regret, and/or genuine repentance. And he can be a professer of faith in Jesus Christ or not. He is an idolater, an adulterer, a thief, a con artist, a manipulator, a liar, a user, an abuser, a trickster, a drunkard, a hater, a slanderer, and/or the sexually immoral, etc.
Yes, an evildoer does listen to wicked lips, and sometimes those wicked lips are on the bodies of preachers and pastors who are giving them permission to continue in their evil practices, and that is why they are listening to them. For these pastors are telling them that if they feel guilty for their sin to just claim their identity in Christ and to not listen to any voices that might make them feel guilty for their sin, and so that is shutting out the Holy Spirit.
Now, this next part here about covering offenses or repeating them can be interpreted many different ways, but I believe what it is talking about here is forgiving those who sin against us and not gossiping about that person to others. But it is not talking about ignoring sin or pretending that sin does not exist, especially if it is habitual sin. Sin needs to be addressed biblically, and repentance called for, as well as calling for walks of obedience to the Lord.
For, you see that the very next sentence speaks of rebuking others, which is usually because they have done something wrong, but not for every little nit picky thing they might do, but for serious wrongdoing, especially that which is deliberate and habitual. And it is true that the person of understanding will be better at receiving and responding to the rebuke than will someone who is behaving foolishly, and who is habitually living in self-indulgence.
An evil person is not just someone who makes no profession of faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, many times the ungodly behave better than some who claim faith in Jesus, for they aren’t using Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins as a scapegoat so that they can continue living in deliberate and habitual sin. And sadly there are many professed believers in Jesus today who are seeking only rebellion, and who are living in habitual sin without conscience.
Proverbs 17:13,15,19-20 ESV
13 If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
19 Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
We, as followers of Jesus Christ, are not to return evil for good, or even evil for evil. And do you know what good is, in this context? It is not defined by us humans, but by God. It is similar to righteous, which has to do with what is right in the eyes of God. It is the opposite of evil. It is what is kind, upright, honest, trustworthy, considerate of others, patient, and bearing with one another in love, and it is sharing the gospel so others can be saved.
And there are professing Christians who are indeed returning evil for good, for they are rejecting the truth of the gospel and the Lord’s messengers who are taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. And they are speaking evil against the truth of the gospel, and against those who are sharing the whole counsel of God. And this is because they are listening to liars who are telling them that they don’t have to repent, obey, or submit to Christ as Lord.
And these liars are preachers, in many cases, but also those who have bought into the lies who are also spreading them, and who are also attacking the true gospel and those who are sharing it. For they are justifying the wicked when they tell them that no matter how much they sin that they can just claim who they are in Christ, and it should alleviate the guilt of the sin, rather than telling them to repent and to obey the Lord.
So, if you are one who is attacking the true gospel which teaches repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ, and if you are also condemning the righteous who are living righteously and who are sharing the truth of the gospel by calling them “self-righteous,” or “hyper-religious” or teachers of “works-based salvation,” then please know that God sees your actions as an abomination to the Lord.
Sadly, because the true gospel of grace has been cheapened and diluted to where it does not confront people in their sins, nor call for them to repent of their sins, nor call them to walks of obedience to our Lord, but it coddles them in their sin, and it gives them carte blanche to continue in their sinful practices, without guilt, we have many professing Christians who love sin, who have crooked hearts, and who are bent on evil without conscience.
Proverbs 17:22,24 ESV
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
Those who are sharing the truth of the gospel today, thus, at least here in America, are under attack, and not just by people making no profession of faith in Jesus, but sadly by mostly people who claim to love Jesus, many of whom are pastors of churches. And even though we have our joy in our relationships with Jesus Christ, we are still human beings, and we still get hurt, and we cry, but then we conquer the enemy in the power of God.
Those who are following Jesus Christ with their lives in wholehearted devotion to the Lord are the discerning. For they are listening to the Holy Spirit and his promptings, and the Spirit is showing them what is false and what is true, and he is opening their eyes to all the lies, the tricks, the deceptions, and all the twisting of truth that is going on. And so they follow the way of wisdom and they confront the lies and they proclaim the truth.
But many professers of faith in Jesus Christ, even when confronted with the truth, and even when being shown what the Scriptures teach, in context, they will reject the truth in favor of the lies, for they want to believe the lies, because the lies give them permission to keep living in their sin without guilt and without remorse. And there are many preachers out there, many of whom are widely admired and accepted, who are tickling their itching ears.
So, here is the truth of the matter. The Scriptures teach that faith in Jesus Christ involves genuine repentance, i.e. the forsaking of our sins, and it involves walks of obedience to our Lord, and it involves submitting to Christ as Lord (owner-master) of our lives. For if we do not submit to God, and if we do not repent of our sins, and if we do not obey our Lord, then we do not have an inheritance in the kingdom of God. So, please take this to heart.
[Matt 7:21-23; Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rev. 2-3; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8, 27; Rev 22:14-15]
Lyrics by Noah White, Music by Virgil Stamps (1935).
As I travel thru life, with its trouble and strife,
I’ve a glorious hope to give cheer on the way;
Soon my toils will be o’er and I’ll rest on that shore,
Where the night has been turned into day.
As I roam the hillside, or I list to the tide,
As I pluck the sweet flowers that grow in the dale;
A faint picture is there of a land bright and fair,
Where perennial flowers ne’er fail.
Tho’ your garden is rare, it is naught to compare
With the flowers that bloom in the garden above,
In the midst of it grows, Sharon’s perfect sweet Rose;
‘Tis the wonderful Flower we love.
Up in paradise valley By the side of the river of life,
Up in paradise valley, We’ll be free from all pain and all strife;
There we’ll live in the garden, ‘Neath the shade of the evergreen tree,
How I long for the paradise valley, Where the beauty of heaven I’ll see.
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