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Don't Take It Seriously

Some people make a hobby out of badmouthing others. There is a perverse pleasure that comes from tearing a person down verbally, and many are those who indulge in it. Some engage in gossip, which is to tell stories and spread rumors about others in private conversations. Others participate in slander, which is open derision and derogatory speech that unfairly denigrates a person's character. Still others verbally abuse and curse their victims face to face. When people speak in these ways, they attempt to magnify themselves in their own eyes and in the eyes of others, they make themselves feel superior and powerful, and/or they unleash the rush that comes with unbridled anger. Whatever their motivation, their words are unjustified and inexcusable.

What will you do if you are the subject of someone else's harsh words? The word of God has some advice for how we should handle such situations. Notice Solomon's inspired words from Ecclesiastes 7:21-22:

Also, do not take seriously all words which are spoken, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you. For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others.

This message implies what we should already know, which is that many words are not worthy of serious consideration. As listeners, we must discern all the words we hear and divide them into two categories: those which are worthy of our attention, and those which are worthless and should be discarded. To make this discernment, we must consider the source from which the words came, the conditions and context in which they were spoken, and whether there is any truth in them. Words that don't pass the test of worthy speech must not be taken seriously. They should be ignored and disregarded.

Consider the reasons given by Solomon for not taking all words seriously. First, he says that it is "so that you will not hear your servant cursing you.” Obviously, he doesn't mean that you will not be able to audibly hear someone who curses you, but rather he indicates that you will not take into account those words of cursing. This calls on you to grow a "thick skin,” for it is not easy to be unaffected by the derogatory words of others. Such insensitivity to harsh words is good for you and for those who curse you. It prevents you from being unduly affected by words that have no merit, and it saves those who curse you from being held accountable for words that they probably regret and didn't really mean.

The second reason for not taking seriously the curses of others is that "you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others.” This fact turns the offense back on you. Have you ever cursed someone? Have you spoken harshly and unjustly about someone? Would you want the victims of your verbal attacks to hold you accountable for every word you have said? If indeed you "have many times cursed others,” then you cannot rightly condemn those who curse you without condemning yourself. This line of reasoning may remind you of the words of Jesus from Matthew 7:1-2:

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

Keep in mind that one's willingness to overlook the words of his accusers does not release the offenders from their responsibilities before God. No one gets a free pass to say anything they wish without repercussions. Jesus has said, "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). God will hold all men accountable for their words, and only those who obtain forgiveness through Christ will escape the judgment. Men have an obligation before God to speak words which are good. Christians especially have taken on this obligation as members of Christ, for the Scriptures say, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12:14), and, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). If anyone is guilty of cursing, then he must repent, make amends with those he has harmed, and seek forgiveness for his unjust words.

The message of Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 is good advice for all of us, for we can be easily upset, depressed, or intimidated by words that are worthless. If we can train ourselves to be insensitive to baseless, unjust, and harsh words, then it will benefit us and others around us. At the same time, we must remain open-minded and receptive to genuine criticism, rebuke, and admonition (Prov. 9:7-12; 13:1; 27:5). Moreover, we must learn not to curse others ourselves, for such cursing does harm to others, and God will hold us accountable. Instead, we should leave the shame and dishonor of cursing for others while we are made happy by the blessings of God. Consider the words of David in Psalm 109:28-29:

Let them curse, but You bless; when they arise, they shall be ashamed, but Your servant shall be glad. Let my accusers be clothed with dishonor, and let them cover themselves with their own shame as with a robe.

Stacey E. Durham



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