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Sunday, May 22, 2022


In his second letter to Timothy, Paul urges him to "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God" by "accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15). Then he says,
But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness. (2 Tim 2:16)
Ain't that the truth?

Look at that for a moment. He starts with "but," contrasting with the previous instruction. "Handle the word of truth accurately" is in contrast to "worldly and empty chatter." Avoid those. The NASB translates "bebēlos" as "worldly." The KJV goes with "profane." I think the ESV's "babble" sounds the closest, but the word really refers to crossing a threshold, and, given the instruction to rightly handle the word of truth, this is probably what he's referring to -- that which violates the truth. "Empty chatter" is a single compound word -- kenophōnia -- where "kenos" means "empty, vain" and "phōnē" is "sound" or "voice." So, in contrast to being a good workman and rightly handling the word of truth, give empty conversation that opposes the truth a wide berth; it's just a lot of hot air. Literally "walk around it." Why? It will lead to further ungodliness.

Note, first, there, the word "further," because, apparently, worldly and empty chatter is the first step into ungodliness and standing in it will take you further into ungodliness. But what is this "ungodliness" thing? The word is literally impiety, one of the two things God's wrath is toward (Rom 1:18). Unrighteousness refers to the bad things we do, but ungodliness is about a lack of reverence, specifically against God. It is a lack of devotion to God. In that Romans 1 reference all mankind suffers from it. You and I suffer from it to varying degrees. No one does not suffer from it. And mere worldly and empty chatter promotes it.

Mind you, Paul is specific here. In the next verse he says, "Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus" (2 Tim 2:17). Odd that he refers to "worldly and empty chatter" as "them." Clearly Paul is referring to false teachers. Avoid them. "Their talk will spread like gangrene" (2 Tim 2:17). Avoid them. They "have gone astray from the truth" (2 Tim 2:18). Avoid them. You don't need the gangrene. You certainly do not need further ungodliness. I can find it on my own, thank you very much.

Proverbs says, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself" (Prov 26:4) and this sounds a lot like that. However, the very next verse says, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes" (Prov 26:5). Apparently, then, it is good to avoid worldly and empty chatter -- the teaching of false teachers -- and it is most often wise not to answer a fool or you might become one yourself. You might find yourself stepping further into ungodliness. I've seen it. I'm sure you have, too. Good Christians bravely taking on false teachers and succumbing to bad manners and "righteous indignation" instead of "gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). Sometimes we are called to address it, to "make a defense," to answer a fool according to his folly. Just be aware that it is dangerous ground. You need to be aware of the fundamental problem -- ungodliness -- and guard yourself against it. Ungodliness on their part and the ungodliness that it can spawn in you. As we become perturbed about their war on truth, we may lose sight of the Truth we are to defend -- godliness. A right relationship with God. Too often I think we lose sight of these kinds of warnings.

1 comment:

Marshal Art said...

A tough task indeed. I feel compelled, however, to push on. I see a need to have a counter for every expression of "worldly and empty chatter", hopefully to provide truth to those who won't get it from those promoting that "worldly and empty chatter". At least, I hope I'm given the right words to do it. I have a hard time allowing falsehoods to remain unaddressed.

"In that Romans 1 reference all mankind suffers from it."

Careful. This implies there is no one good but God, and "wordly and empty chatter" assures us that is not so!