God’s Word for You
Proverbs 24:28-29 Do you deceive with your lips?
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 22, 2019
These two verses take us back to the courtroom, either in the city gate or in the presence of the king. But this is not a warning for the judge. It is a warning for the witness:
28 Do not testify against your neighbor without cause.
Do you deceive with your lips?
This could easily be a proverb about a false witness; there are plenty of those (6:19; 12:17; 14:5; 14:25; 19:5; 19:9; 19:28; 21:28). But this is about a witness who knows the truth and is prepared to testify to it. Do you really need to go and present your piece of evidence? Could it be twisted by a corrupt judge or prosecutor? Do you need to speak up, or do you need to hold your tongue? This also applies outside the courtroom—perhaps even more so—to the simple act of gossip. By saying a thing, or by not saying a thing, or by saying a thing a certain way, it is easy to deceive. Paul says: “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). There is no need for Christians to tear each other down.
29 Do not say, “I will do to others as they have done to me;
I will pay them back for what they have done.”
If we take this to be about gossip, then it is easy to see why it would be paired with the previous verse. But this proverb has applications in our actions as well as in our words. Christ our Lord said, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Here in our Proverb, the terrible opposite is offered: “I will do to others what they have done to me,” meaning that if someone hits me, I will hit him back. If someone steals from me, I will steal from him. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I will get up there and do the same to him, just to teach him that he’s a stupid driver. Each of these is sinful; each of these is foolish.
Revenge is not something for any man or woman to take up for themselves. God said to Moses, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). In Tobit we are advised: “What you hate, do not do to anyone” (Tob. 4:15). And in the Shepherd of Hermas: “Refrain from evil and do not do it, but do not refrain from doing good. Do it. If you refrain from doing good, you commit a great sin. But if you refrain from doing evil, you perform a great righteousness. Therefore refrain from all evil, and do good” (Hm 8:2). A better turn of advice comes from the Holy Spirit: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29), and again, “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). And more than that: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Romans 12:20).
God’s plans are not our plans, and most often we live right in the middle of God’s plans without ever knowing what’s going on. It isn’t our task to take control of his world and shake it up for our own purposes, but to serve him with the task before us, whatever it is, to his glory.
Pastor Timothy Smith