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38-GossipPut away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
—Proverbs 4:24

What constitutes crooked speech? It is talk that isn’t straight, of course. It is bowed, off-kilter, circuitous, meandering. There are a few examples we could cite.

1. Falsehoods
Telling lies about ourselves or others is breaking covenant. Even if we’re just “stretching” the truth or “bending” the truth, entertaining distortions or investing in stereotypes, we cut a line unfit to build relationships or reputations of integrity with. You can’t be square with God and neighbor if all your lumber’s warped.

2. Gossip
Talking about someone rather than to them is slantways. We all know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but gossips take the easy “shortcut” of the long way around. They might never get to you but they’ll certainly get after you. That’s crooked.

3. Hypocrisy
This is some of the crookedest speech. Somebody who misrepresents themselves, posturing success from a place of personal bankruptcy or feigning sincerity and sensitivity one moment while savaging others the next. Hypocrites preach “peace, peace” not only when there is no peace, but while they’re waging wars. They will preach love and respect while they secretly and sometimes openly behave oppositely. The Bible calls these folks “double minded.” They’re fork-tongued too.

There are certainly more kinds of crooked speech, but these are the most common. Proverbs 4:24 reminds us that the Lord loves a straight shooter.

… but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.—James 5:12

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11 thoughts on “Crooked Speech and Straight Shooting”

  1. Jason says:

    I think the correct response to this is “BOOM SHACKA LACKA!” Well done Mr. Wilson.

  2. Curt Day says:

    The demand for putting away crooked speech is a demand that we should not only make on ourselves, we should make it on all who run for public office and for all businesses.

  3. Bridget says:

    I’m confused. Doesn’t the artwork you chose paint women as the stereotypical offender concerning crooked speech? Women have been portrayed this way for centuries. Don’t you address this very thing in point 1 of the article? What does that mean regarding point 3? Should women trust a pastor (or anyone) who consciously or unconsciously portrays women in this way?

    If “A picture is worth a thousand words” . . .

    1. Nell Parker says:

      I agree with Bridget. In my experience men gossip as much as women and some of those men are pastors and elders.

    2. Jenny says:

      Hey, come on now! I doubt that was his motivation. (And it’s wrong to judge him by our uninformed assumptions of his motives.) If you google images of gossip, most are pictures of women. I bet he just picked one he liked. Besides, women do gossip too, and we make up about half of the humans, so why pick a picture of men over a picture of women?

      1. Jared C. Wilson says:

        I did just think it was a “cool” picture. I liked the comic book theme and thought it would be more eyecatching than a generic stock photo. And yes, I just Googled “gossip.” Thanks, Jenny.

        1. Phillip Barrera says:

          I admit the technique of the illustration is “cool” but the decision to use it was in poor taste. In my opinion the message it conveys is an example of crooked speech. I suggest considering an image’s editorial value before publishing.

        2. Bridget says:


          You could have responded to the many questions I posed to you in my comment. But you appear to have dismissed all of them and agreed with Jenny (since you thank her) that I might have assumptions about your motives. I think you just don’t realize what the picture looks like to many women, nor how many women are dismissed out of hand because of this stereotypical view of women. The sad part is that it happens to women in the Church as much as anywhere.

          It is something to think about.

      2. Bridget says:

        Jenny, I don’t see where I talked about Jared’s motivation at all in my comment. It seems you accuse me of ‘uninformed assumptions of his motives”, though. You make my exact point when you say, “google images of gossip, most are pictures of women.” The fact that most of the pictures are women plays into a stereotyping of women as gossipers. I’m well aware that men and women alike can gossip and I did not suggest that he should have picked a pictture of men over women. I am simply making the point that the picture is a sterotype of women and he addressed stereotyping in his article.

        Frankly, at first, I wasn’t going to read the article because I saw the typical portrayal of women along with the title. I decided to read it anyway. The article has truth in it, but it is hard to get past the stereotypical picture of women being the gossips. I think some stereopying is so ingrained in our culture that we don’t see it when it is right in front of us. If the Church is to be a light, it would help if the stereotyping stopped.

  4. Flyaway says:

    My problem in dealing with my crooked speech is that my pride gets in the way and I tend to call people out in ungracious ways. It may be true but it isn’t kind.

  5. Bridget says:

    Jenny, sorry about the typos. Hopefully the content makes sense!

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

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