When words fly like daggers through the air you can be assured that you are dealing with a godless man. Ours is a day where it seems that the discourse in society is filled with such things. When you consider things like the news, politics, and the current climate for salcious gossip - it is a wonder that anyone in the public eye can survive it all. Many do not survive it - at least not without serious scars and damage to their character. Of course some, by their actions, deserve the things that are said about them, but others are lampooned and skewered mercilessly without cause. What we read here in today's proverb is that this kind of thing is not new to our particular time - but that there is a way that the righteous can be delivered from such things.
The godless man is the one who destroys his neighbor with his mouth. The term godless here refers to a man who is impious, filthy, and godless. The root of this word speaks of how he turns away and wants nothing to do with God. As a result we see in Scripture where one who is like this is morally unclean (Job 13:16) and whose character lacks any of the positive aspects of godliness. Consider the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This man has NONE of these qualities. We also read in Scripture that because of this he often clashes and is in conflict with the righteous. And of course from what we read here, he is cruel to others. This godless man seeks to destroy his neighbor with his mouth. This destruction can be through perverting someone, corrupting them - but the eventual goal is to spoil or ruin or destroy them.
I hesitate to use politics as an example, except for the fact that we have watched our political discourse turn so bitterly vicious over the past 10-15 years. I know that some would assert that the political discourse has always been this way. You can read some pretty horrible things that were said about our political leaders in any generation - but - the way in which the two parties want to destroy each other has reached fever pitch in the last couple of decades. The way we speak of our President - whether he is a Republican or Democrat has really reached the level of gutter speech. I was able to vote for the first time in the Reagan election. Since that time I've watch EVERY president treated with greater disdain and with more incidiary rhetoric in the media since then. The goal is no longer to point out bad policy and direction for the country in what is said. The goal now seems to be to utterly destroy the person - and to do so with a scorched earth strategy. We seem oblivious to the fact that regardless of which side of the aisle this person sits - they are still our neighbor.
The greater problem that exists here is that what we see carried out in the public eye - is guaranteed to trickle down to the streets of our cities and the homes in which we live. When we tolerate and even participate in the open destruction of our leaders - we will not escape the climate of destructive speech that it creates in our entire society. We should learn from Paul the apostle that we are not to speak evil of a ruler of your people (Acts 23:5). In that situation Paul was being treated wrongly in a trial by none other than the chief priest of Israel. Yet Paul rebuked himself when he responded with words that were not only critical of his actions, but filled with too much vitriol for biblical standards. He caught himself, prompted by the Spirit and the Word, and pulled himself back from the brink of being one who sought to destroy with his mouth. Some might assert that we need to fight fire with fire. When we do this - we only assure that everything will be burnt down in the end. Contrary to the spirit of this world, we fight fire with the gospel.
We read here that the rightous will be delivered through knowledge. I believe this deliverance is two-fold. First, we will be delivered from the godless who want to destroy us with their words. Several times in the New Testament we are urged to let our behavior be such that when the wicked seek to destroy us with accusations and lies - our actions and lifestyle will be such that it will answer their lies. The way we live consistently will be a rebuke to them. We will not have to answer or come back with our own attacks, because those around us will laugh them to scorn. They know us - and they will reject such attacks. That deliverance comes through "knowledge." Knowledge here is the word "daath" which means not just a head-knowledge, but one that results in discernment, insight, and wisdom. We get such knowledge from God's Word - and from a life spent seeking Him and walking with Him.
The second way I believe we will be delivered is that we will not be led into "the fight." When someone tries to destroy you with their mouth - the natural thing to experience is a strong desire to launch a counter attack. They throw stones - we throw knives. They shoot bullets - we drop bombs. You can imagine where this all leads. The righteous is delivered in part by "killing your opponent with kindness." You do not respond in kind - you respond in kindness! This changes everything. They may continue to attack, and often will(sometimes kindness drives a person who is seeking to destroy you crazy with anger). But as those around us watch the proceedings - they see clearly the one who is acting godly - and the one who is spinning out of control. In the end, we are delivered from our greatest foe - and that is not the one attacking us. We are delivered from ourselves. Something deep within wants to rise up and take control - and by the way - that is our flesh. Instead, we need to have Christ in us respond. He will grant us power to respond with kindness and love - with mercy and forgiveness. Know this - respond like this and two things will happen. First, you will be delivered from your own worst aspects of your flesh. Second, you WILL win in the end. Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter - and as a sheep before His shearers is silent - so He did not open His mouth. That response, dear saints, won in the end. It did at the cross - and it will for everyone who embraces Him responding like that in their lives through His Spirit now.