The Walls Have Ears!

“Also, in your understanding, do not curse the king or in your bedroom curse a rich man; for a bird of the heavens will go with your voice and the master of wings will declare the matter.”

(Ecclesiastes 10:20)

In English, we would say, “The walls have ears.” In other words, “be careful what you say.” Indeed, those things you say in secret have a way of working themselves out in public, usually to your great consternation. My mother used to say to me, “Don’t ever say or do anything that you would be embarrassed to see as a headline in the next morning’s newspaper.” Of course, newspapers are a thing of the past, but the principle holds true. Speak and act with integrity and don’t talk badly about people behind their back.

As Christians, gossip is a sin and the result of a debased mind (Romans 1:28-31), and mostly, what is said behind a person’s back falls into the category of gossip or slander. So, let your yes be yes and your no be no and speak with integrity about all you meet. And, if there is a real matter that needs to be addressed, go to that person face to face and with a spirit of love and see if you can work that out. The wicked talk about a person behind his back and then scheme to ambush him at a time of vulnerability; the righteous speaks to a person directly and with the aim of preserving the relationship. 

In Solomon’s case here, there is a second reminder found in the one’s of whom he is cautioning the reader against speaking a curse. Solomon does not say, “do not curse the poor man” nor does he say, “do not curse your neighbor.” Indeed, we are given permission to curse neither, but Solomon focuses on the rich and the king because these men have authority over those in the kingdom and you never know when you might need to appeal to them for assistance or for justice. And so, guard your lips as to how you speak of them because if word gets back to them that you have cursed them behind their backs, they will be unlikely to assist you face to face.

Perhaps one of the more practical (and spiritual) applications of this principle is found in the life of the church. Children oftentimes overhear how their parents speak about the leadership of the church and about the decisions that the leaders make. And, then tend to adopt their parents’ attitudes without hypocrisy. In other words, while the parents may speak privately of their dislike of the pastor or leaders’ decisions, the children will speak openly about them. And while the parents will still attend worship politely, the children will likely fall away as soon as they are given the opportunity. Be careful what you say, the birds will invariably “whisper in the ear” of those of whom you speak.

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