Proverbs 17:4

A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.


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Listening to lies and sinful ideas makes you as wrong as those speaking. Can this be true? Consider this proverb closely, for it is easy to miss the powerful lesson of these words. Birds of a feather flock together, and the only way to redeem yourself is to reject fools!

King Solomon often condemned false lips, naughty tongues, and an evil mouth (Pr 6:17; 10:18,31-32; 12:13,22; 18:6-7,22; 21:6; 24:2,28; 26:24,28). And he praised godly and gracious speech just as often (Pr 13:2; 15:23; 16:13; 18:20-21; 22:11; 24:26; 25:11).

The valuable lesson of all these proverbs is simple: a person who cannot control his speech to speak righteously and wisely is a wicked person and a fool (Lu 6:45). A certain measure of a man’s character and heart is to hear him talk, for he will reveal himself.

But notice, this proverb does not condemn false lips or a naughty tongue. It condemns the person who listens to such speech, and here you can learn much wisdom. To be truly holy and wise, you must avoid, reject, reprove, and eliminate foolish talkers and their words.

It is easy to agree that certain speech is wicked. But if you listen to it, you are as wicked as those speaking it. The only reason to listen is a profane heart that enjoys it or fear of the consequences for standing up for godliness, truth, and wisdom. Wise men reject foolish talking and wicked speech, and they reject just as quickly those that talk that way. Sometimes these evil speakers will be your friends, which means you need new friends.

Solomon taught that godliness and wisdom include guarding both tongue and ears. This proverb condemns the fault and folly of choosing to be around wicked speakers and their words, and he taught this elsewhere as well (Pr 14:7; 13:20; 19:27; 20:19; 25:23). David and Paul taught the same wisdom (Ps 101:3-8; Eph 5:3-11; Rom 1:32; Titus 1:10-11).

This rule of wisdom even condemns an entire government as wicked, when the ruler listens to lies, for he has the power to end them (Pr 29:12). What does this say about parents who allow the words of a backbiter or tattler in their home? Foolish jokes of a jester? Testimony of only one in any matter? Disrespect of authority? Or exaggeration?

What about music, television, the Internet, and other false and naughty content? Parents that allow entertainment for their children that they would not allow their children to say in public are hypocrites and horrible parents. God condemned the wicked nature of man as doing things he knows are wrong and taking pleasure in others doing them (Ro 1:32).

When you are in the presence of a backbiter, you should stop them cold with an angry countenance (Pr 25:23). David, in his great desire for a holy life, purposed to cut off all slanderers and liars from his household (Ps 101:5-7). This should be your noble goal. If you are in any position of authority from parent to pastor, you must enforce this rule.

A whisperer could do nothing, if told to shut up and go away. The backbiter would have clean teeth, if told to stop her sinning. The jester would stop joking, if hearers stared at him like he was crazy. The slanderer would be alone, if her evil surmisings and false accusations were rejected. The talebearer could only talk to himself, if he were denied.

Men continue in their wicked speech only because they have an audience. But woe unto that man who listens to ungodly conversation, for he is revealing the same evil heart as the one speaking. Let each person called a Christian refuse to ever hear evil speech again!