WISDOM FOR LIVING DEVOTIONAL
DECEMBER 8, 2020
TOPIC: BE CAREFUL OF VERBAL TRAPS
BY T. O. BANSO
“Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. When they had come, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?’” (Mark 12:13-15 New King James Version).
Oftentimes, people fall into verbal traps. It could be because they make ambiguous statements thereby allowing people to make their individual interpretations. It could also be because they use inappropriate words by saying what they don’t mean.
Sometimes it could be because they are quick to give a direct answer, not being sensitive about the motives of the person asking the question. The consequences of falling into verbal traps vary depending on the seriousness of the matter in question.
Sometimes it could be as serious as making someone lose his position or reputation. It could even put in danger, the lives of the victims and their loved ones, or cause a breakdown of law and order in society. Many people have had to, in the past, issue rebuttals, explanations, or clarifications about what they said as against what was attributed to them. In some cases, their defence was that they were quoted out of context.
Rebuttals are just damage-control. They may not do a good job as the statements being corrected. Someone said if you don’t say anything, you won’t be misquoted; silence cannot be misquoted. But in rare cases, some mischievous persons have attributed statements to people who never said anything. Their victims wondered if the authors saw them in their dreams make the statements!
However, generally speaking, human beings must communicate. We must only be careful of verbal traps. Don’t set verbal traps for yourself by talking carelessly, thoughtlessly, or inconsiderately. Also, be careful of those who intentionally set verbal traps for you including those who are monitoring you for the slightest mistake to magnify or take out of context. Nevertheless, if anyone has chosen to quote you out of context, there is nothing you can do to stop it. You can only exercise your own right to set the record straight.
In Mark 12:13-15, the Bible says, “Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. When they had come, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?’” (New King James Version).
The Jewish leaders who sent the Pharisees and the Herodians to Jesus were insincere. They were not confused about whether to pay taxes or not. They were not trying to solve a problem. They only wanted to create a problem for Jesus. They wanted a yes or no answer. Either answer would have been used against Jesus. He knew their intention.
Sometimes the answer to a yes or no question is neither of the two. I’m not talking of an examination where a yes or no answer is required. In human communication, it could be foolish, sometimes, to answer yes or no to a yes or no question! The right answer may be a question, especially when there is a bad motive for asking the question! You allow the questioners to answer the question themselves to avoid a verbal trap.
At other times, a yes or no answer, or a brief answer could be better than giving a full explanation. In the multitude of words, you may stumble. The apostle James says, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2 New King James Version).
Therefore, listen to the Holy Spirit to guide you on how to answer. Proverbs 26:4-5 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (New King James Version). There is no contradiction between the two statements.
Jesus knew that a yes or no answer He gave would be used against Him. Therefore, He asked them a question. Mark 12:15-17 says, “But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, ‘Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.’ So they brought it. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at Him” (New King James Version).
If Jesus had said they shouldn’t pay tax, they would have set Him against the Roman authority; He would have been charged with treason. And if He had said they should pay taxes, the Jews would have considered Him a traitor because they hated paying taxes to the Roman government. In fact, despite Jesus’ answer, the Jewish Council still lied against Him during His trial before Pilate that He told the people not to pay taxes. This was one of the accusations against Him.
Luke 23:2 says, “Then the entire council took Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman governor. They began at once to state their case: ‘This man has been leading our people to ruin by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king’” (New Living Translation).
Jesus’ case would have been more complicated if He had truly told the Jews not to pay taxes. But He didn’t. If He had, the Roman government could have known. Despite the Council’s accusations, Pilate declared that He found nothing wrong with Jesus.
Be careful of verbal traps, especially in this technology-driven age. People may come to you with an evil intention to catch you in your words. They could record you and pass across the information to others, deleting what they said or recording what they have rehearsed to say, which would not put them in trouble but only you. They could also doctor your speech.
See another verbal trap for Jesus: “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, ‘Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?’” (Luke 20:1-2 New King James Version).
This was a very simple question, which if you were Jesus, you would have given a direct answer. But Jesus didn’t because He knew their intention. Who told you that you must answer every question people ask you even when you know the answer, even if it gives you a good opportunity to prove that you’re genuine, honest, or sincere?
See the way Jesus answered them with a question: “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John — was it from heaven or from men?” (Verses 3-4 New King James Version). You have a right to answer a question with a question in informal relationships if you choose to.
What was their reaction to Jesus’ question? “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet’ So they answered that they did not know where it was from” (verses 5-7 New King James Version).
Jesus replied that He would not tell them by what authority He did the things they were referring to. It wasn’t that He didn’t know the answer to their question. But since they wouldn’t answer His question, which they knew, He wasn’t bound to answer theirs. You don’t have to waste your time answering the questions of hypocrites.
Don’t be too quick to answer people’s questions. Be quick to listen, slow to speak (James 1:19). Listen to their question and listen to the Holy Spirit. Listen to what they say and what they don’t say! Sometimes people mean more than what they tell you.
Be careful about the words you use. Think before you speak or write. Whatever you say is no longer under your control. Choose the right words. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Make yourself as clearly as possible to avoid anyone twisting your Word. Sometimes in making some speeches, it could be better to limit yourself to your written addresses. If you must speak off the cuff or impromptu, be careful, be clear, be brief, and, sometimes, have your own recording.
When Jesus was arrested and brought before the Jewish Council, some false witnesses claimed that Jesus said, “I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands” (Mark 14:58 New King James Version).
That was a misquotation. Jesus never said that. Rather, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 New King James Version). Did you see the difference? If you didn’t, please read it again. Jesus was referring to His death and resurrection, not the physical temple. He didn’t say He would destroy and build another without hands.
In 1 Kings 20, Ahab, the king of Israel, set a verbal trap for himself when he called Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria his brother. How could he have been his brother? Before then, Ben-Hadad had gathered all his forces together; thirty-two kings were with him, with horses and chariots, and fought Israel. If not that the LORD helped Israel, Syria would have destroyed her. Yet after Israel’s victory twice, Ahab was naive, calling Ben-Hadad his brother.
1 Kings 20:31-33 says Ben-Hadad’s servants said to him, “Look now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings. Please, let us put sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will spare your life.’ So they wore sackcloth around their waists and put ropes around their heads, and came to the king of Israel and said, ‘Your servant Ben-Hadad says, ‘Please let me live.’ And he said, ‘Is he still alive? He is my brother.’ Now the men were watching closely to see whether any sign of mercy would come from him; and they quickly grasped at this word and said, ‘Your brother Ben-Hadad.’ So he said, ‘Go, bring him.’ Then Ben-Hadad came out to him; and he had him come up into the chariot’” (New King James Version).
Did you see that? Ben-Hadad’s servants grasped at the word of Ahab that Ben-hadad was his brother. Whatever he meant by that. They quickly said, “Your brother Ben-Hadad.” Eventually, Ahab spared an enemy that the LORD handed over to Him to kill. He made a treaty with him and sent him away. Beware of saying a word the enemy will grasp at.
Be careful of verbal traps. Some mischievous persons will want to set a verbal trap for you. Mind what you say; don’t answer everyone or talk every time; mind your language. Avoid vague statements except it is deliberate. Keep a record of what you say, including audio and video recording if necessary.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Holy Spirit, deliver me from verbal traps. Help me not to speak words that my enemy will grasp at and use against me. Guide me not to stumble in my words. Save me from mischievous persons who want to come purposely to ask me questions to put me in trouble. Help me to be quick to hear and slow to speak. I shall not speak without careful consideration in Jesus’ name.
(For over 300 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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