The First One to Plead His Cause Seems Right

by Bryan Matthew Dockens

The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).

Wise Solomon observed the reflexive tendency on the part of man to accept as truth the first version of events presented in a potential controversy.

When gossip circulates through the workplace, the neighborhood, or even the church, the first version of events is usually presumed to be true. This is so because “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body” (Proverbs 18:8). Just as a well prepared meal will go untouched by a child who has spoiled his dinner with a bag of candy, similarly the truth holds no interest for those willing to accept rumors. The “other side of the story” may never be heard, and even when it is, it is often disregarded as a weak defense against the supposed facts already established in everyone’s minds.

For this reason, it is imperative to refrain from spreading rumors in the first place. “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases” (Proverbs 26:20).

God commanded, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people” (Leviticus 19:16). The behavior of a “busybody” is described as “disorderly” (II Thessalonians 3:11) because “gossips and busybodies” are those who say “things which they ought not” (I Timothy 5:13). And, Paul exposed the wickedness of “whisperings” (Romans 1:29; II Corinthians 12:20) insomuch as gossip thrives on whispers while the truth demands an open hearing.

When a dispute must be resolved, both accounts deserve fair consideration. The Pharisees opposed Jesus, but Nicodemus correctly asked, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:51). The will of God in such cases is plain: “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21), for “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).