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The Sin of Listening: By Dave Gumlia

Romans 6:13 says: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments (weapons) of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments (weapons) of righteousness.”

Often when we think of offering the parts of our bodies to the Lord as weapons of righteousness, we think of offering our hands, our feet, or perhaps our mouths. But have you ever thought about offering your ears as weapons of righteousness to the Lord?

In this article I would like to talk about how vital our ears are as weapons in the battle for righteousness. For who and what we listen to will affect our thoughts, our actions, and our speech — indeed our whole life.


The following is a true story about a family living in a small town in North Dakota.

They were happy even though the young mother had not been entirely well since the birth of her second baby.

But each evening the neighbors were aware of a warmth in their hearts when they would see the husband and father being met at the gate by his wife and two small children. There was laughter in the evening too, and when the weather was nice, father and children would romp together on the back lawn while mother looked on with happy smiles.

Then one day a village gossip started a story, saying that he was being unfaithful to his wife, a story entirely without foundation. But it eventually came to the ears of the young wife, and it was more than she could bear.

That night when her husband came home there was no one to meet him at the gate, no laughter in the house, no fragrant aroma coming from the kitchen — only coldness and something that chilled his heart with fear.

And down in the basement he found the three of them hanging from a beam. Sick and in despair, the young mother had first taken the lives of her two children, and then her own.

In the days that followed, the truth of what had happened came out — a gossip’s tongue, an untrue story, a terrible tragedy.

— G. Franklin Allee.
When I first read this story, I thought, “That gossip was certainly a wicked person to spread such slander.” But as I thought more about it, I began to realize that the young mother was just as responsible for the tragedy. If she would have responded properly, the tragedy would have been averted and the wicked communication could have ended up actually strengthening the family’s relationships. But instead she sinned by accepting an evil report. She was just as unrighteous as the gossip.


We need to see that in God’s eyes it is just as wicked to listen and accept an evil report as it is to give it. Proverbs 17:4 says: “A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious (destructive, vicious) tongue.” If we listen to a malicious, destructive tongue, the Bible says that we are wicked and are liars.

In Exodus 23:1-2 the Lord forbids that we “spread (repeat, carry, or raise) false reports. Do not help a wicked man by becoming a malicious witness. Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong,” If we accept an evil report as truth, we will invariably end up helping wicked men and further spreading their lies and thereby become as guilty as they.


Proverbs 25:24 says: “The partner of a thief hates himelf; he heard the curse but says nothing” (Berkeley version). In other words, if a man does nothing to stop a thief from robbing another, he is not only hating the victim, but also himself. He becomes a partner to the crime and will share in the punishment.

If we hear and accept evil speech, we are actually robbing others of something more valuable than riches — their reputation. Proverbs 22:1 says: “A good name is more desired than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.[”]


Proverbs 21:28 tells us that “A false witness will perish and whoever listens to him will be destroyed forever.” Undoubtedly throughout the course of our lives we will encounter countless situations where we will hear gossip or slander against others. How we decide to handle what we hear will determine our success or failure in life. If we accept the accusations of godless men, we will be divided from those who love the Lord. We will be defeated and eventually our lives will be “destroyed.” If we refuse to listen to evil speech and reprove those who bring it, we will be able to forge ahead in holiness to do ever-greater exploits with ever-increasing unity.


It just takes one proverb to turn your life around in this vital area. For example, Proverbs 12:6 in the Living Bible says: “The wicked accuse, the godly defend.” In other words, if you are not defending a brother, you are accusing him and are wicked! “If you love someone … you will always stand your ground in defending him” (I Corinthians 13:7, Living Bible).

Before God’s throne there are two voices — there is the voice of the wicked one accusing and slandering the people of God (Revelation 12:9ff). But before the Father is our Defender and Vindicator, the Lord Jesus, who “speaks in our defense” (I John 2:1-2). We should purpose to work together with the Lord in defending our brothers and sisters in Christ and not side with the evil one and join with those who slander and accuse.

We must not simply stop at rejecting evil reports. We must go one step farther, as Paul said in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We also need to choose to give good reports of others, for “good reports nourish the bones” (Proverbs 15:30).

“He who covers an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates intimate friends” (Proverbs 17:9).

David Gumlia is a pastor of Great Commission Church in Silver Spring, Md. David lives in Silver Spring with his wife, Barbara, and their five children.


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