By Mike Willis
As modern medicine has worked to increase the longevity of life, some have become concerned with the quality of life which is prolonged. I doubt that any of our readers has any desire to spend the last few years of his life hooked up to some machine which merely keeps him alive. Hence, we are concerned with both the length of life and the quality of life. So was the Psalmist.
He asked, “Who is the man who desires life, and loves length of days that he may see good?” (Psa. 34:12, NASB). Just about all of us desire life and love length of days in order that we may see good. Certainly, none of us desires length of days to endure evil. The method in which one obtains long life and sees good is revealed in the verses which follow in the thirty-fourth psalm, a psalm written in remembrance of David’s providential preservation when he feigned madness before Achish. The answer given is quoted by the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:10-11. Let us notice the different things which David revealed were necessary in order to have long life and enjoy good.
Control Your Tongue
The first instructions which David gave, as he taught us the fear of the Lord (Psa. 34:12), was this: “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” There are so many different kinds of sins which can be committed by the tongue; they include each of the following:
Lying Railing Profane usage of God’s name
Backbiting Cursing Blasphemy (against man and God)
Gossip Filthy jesting Whisperings
There is no attempt in the above to make this list comprehensive; however, one can easily see that “keeping thy tongue from evil” certainly prevents one from being involved in a number of different sins.
James taught that the tongue “can no man tame” (Jas. 3:8). Rather than being tamed, as a result of which it can be trusted, one must constantly control his tongue. It is an unruly evil (Jas. 3:8). The man who can control his tongue has gone a long way toward manifesting self-control.
Despite the plain statements of Scripture, I have had occasions to be around brethren who made no effort to control their tongues. I have heard some baptized believers tell some of the filthiest jokes that I ever heard. Some excuse their profanity with such comments as, “Pardon my French.” I am afraid that whether I pardon it or not makes little difference; the sin is not committed against man.
Hence, the Christian must learn to control his tongue, even as he practices temperance in other areas of his life.
“Depart From Evil and Do Good”
There are two things required by this command: (1) to depart from evil and (2) to do good. Let us consider both of them individually.
The Christian must, first of all, learn to abstain from every form of evil (1 Thess. 5:22). He must put away from his character every form of evil condemned in God’s word. Such tables of works of the flesh as mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21, Romans 1:28-32, and 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 are important portions of God’s revelation because they show what things one must avoid in order to be pleasing to God.
In today’s society, there are some who act as if there are no moral absolutes revealed by God. The idea of a religion built out of “Thou shalt not’s” is obnoxious to not a few Americans. Yet, the man who wants long life and wishes to see good realizes that this can only be done through avoiding those things which God condemns. The things which a Christian must avoid are not viewed as opprobrious burdens to be borne; rather, they are indications from God as to the kind of life which is best for man and most pleasing to Him. Every one of God’s “thou shalt not’s” must be respectfully obeyed. Every form of evil must be departed from.
However, a religion which stops at obedience to the “thou shah not’s” will not suffice to please God. David added that the man must not only depart from evil but that he must also do good. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, both the priest and Levite had departed from evil. Neither one of them would have thought about being guilty of what the thieves had done. Yet, neither of these men were pleasing to God because they failed to do good when they had the opportunity to do good.
Christians are to be a people of good works. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). How brightly is your light shining? Would anyone be moved to glorify God because of the good works which you do? When Christians reach the point that they fail to do good works, their avoidance of evil will probably be looked upon as self-righteousness. The good works which a Christian does disarms his critics.
The man who would have long life and see good things must be involved in both of these activities – the abstinence of those things which are wrong and the practice of those good works which the Lord demands.
“Seek Peace, and Pursue It”
Another attribute of the man who would desire long life and to see good things in this life is that of seeking peace. We have seen men whose long life was wasted because of the bitterness of character which they developed because of their many enemies in this life. The Christian recognizes that peace is important and pursues it.
Paul wrote, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). I suppose that it is possible to be at peace with a great many more men than we normally think so. Earlier, Paul had instructed the Corinthians regarding brother going to law with brother before unbelievers; in the course of that chapter, he stated, “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7). The man who is willing to be abused rather than have enmity between him and his fellow man is indeed “seeking peace.” I wish that there were more among us who sought peace in this fashion.
Recently, I visited Amish country. During one discussion which I heard, the peacefulness of the Amish people was emphasized. The man, an Amish lawyer, discussed how Amish people would handle a property dispute. If one Amish farmer thought that another farmer had his fence on his property, the second farmer would reply, “Brother, let us go walk through the field and you show me where you think the fence ought to be and we will put it there.” Usually, the one claiming that the fence was in the wrong place would be so moved by this attitude that he would drop his claim.
Although I am not so naive as to believe that all Amish people act this way, I commend the attitude related in this discussion. If all of us sought peace with our neighbors to this extent, the court load in this country would be drastically reduced. For the sake of our reputation as Christians in a given community, brethren must be peace lovers and peace makers.
Some have pressed this point to such a degree that they have erred tremendously. Understanding the beauty of peace, some have pursued it all the way into the pasture of compromise. Desiring unity and peace with their religious friends and neighbors, some have compromised principles of divine revelation, sacrificing them on an altar to a distorted god called “Peace.” Jesus recognized that peace could not be had with all men. He Himself revealed, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matt. 10:34-36). Hence, Jesus recognized that there would be necessarily divisions brought about through the preaching of the gospel.
I can have no peace with those who forsake the commandments of God, other than the normal peace granted to one’s neighbors and fellowmen in general. However, I cannot be at peace spiritually with the man who forsakes the gospel of God for the traditions and commandments of men. Jesus set the standard for religious people: all of those who love God and obey His commandments can have peace with each other. There can, however, be no religious peace betwe-n a man who loves God and tries to obey His commandments with one who does not love the Lord enough to walk in His commandments.
Peace can be had with only those who continue to walk in the light. It cannot be had with those who have forsaken the light to grovel in darkness. The conflict which Christ has with Satan extends to the children of each; the children of God are at war with the children of Satan. Hence, there can be no peace between the two!
The application of this to issues which have divided God’s people is not one which some among us are willing to make. However, even the most blind person among us surely recognizes that the divisions which have occurred in the church in recent years has not been occasioned through an absence of the normal attitudes which make it possible for men to live with men peaceably. The divisions of which I have had knowledge did not occur because of sinful attitudes; they occurred because men started practicing things in religion which were not authorized in the scriptures. Consequently, God-fearing, conscientious brethren who could not go along with these innovations were forced to pull out. On the other hand, those who were liberal among the churches with which I worked have left because of disagreement over doctrinal positions, not the absence of moral attributes regarding seeking peace.
I say this to emphasize this fact: to say that the divisions which have occurred among us can be healed through love and proper attitudes is ridiculously naive. We did not divide because brethren did not love each other enough. Quite the contrary! On most occasions where divisions occurred, hearts were rended because love which existed between brethren who disagreed on what the Scriptures authorized. The disagreements occurred regarding what the Scriptures authorized, not because of an absence of brotherly love. Hence, any solution for peace which suggests that our divisions have simply occurred because there was not enough love among brethren is obviously false. All of the brotherly love in the world will not erase the doctrinal disagreements between the atheist and the theist, the Jew and the Christian, the modernist and the fundamentalist, or parties to any other doctrinal divisions (whether they be church supported recreation, the sponsoring church arrangement, church support of human institutions, or instrumental music in worship).
“The Eyes of the Lord”
David continues in this psalm by stating that God’s providential care extends to take care of those who are seeking to do what is right. He said, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” (34:15-16). God loves those who control their tongue, depart from evil, do good, and seek peace.
It is, indeed, a comforting blessing to know that God pays attention to our prayers and watches out for us. Indeed, with David, we can say, “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men” (Psa. 31:19).
Truth Magazine XXIII: 38, pp. 611-613
September 27, 1979