Do not believe everything you read

We may never know who first said, “Do not believe everything you read,” but we can be reasonably sure the person was trying to correct some erroneous print piece about something important.  

Just recently, I reached out to a national leader after seeing a blog post accusing him of heretical beliefs. I shared the article with him and mentioned that I didn’t think it accurately represented his views, but wanted to hear directly from him. He was incredibly gracious in his response and shared his position on the matter in question along with a sermon he had preached verifying his views on that same issue.  

That simple action confirmed what I already believed to be true and allowed me to see that his view was not the problem, but instead the problem was with the person who wrote the erroneous article. 

Proverbs 18:17 addresses the importance of hearing both sides of a story when it says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” 

With the plethora of written and verbal communication available today, how can we be sure we are reading or hearing the truth? Outside the written word of God, we should fact-check most everything else we read.  

How can we verify the accuracy of written or spoken commentary? 

1. Consider the source: What is the reputation of the writer or the publication? Are they known for truthful comments, or are they given to exaggeration and half-truths? Are they fair in their assessment of the facts, or do they jump to conclusions that may not be justified? There are a handful of bloggers who are known for half-truths and wild accusations against the SBC. It is wise to read their work with a healthy amount of skepticism.  

2. Verify the facts: Do other reliable sources say the same thing? The proverb mentioned in the opening of this post indicates that a wise person will hear more than one telling of the story before reaching a conclusion. None of us have time to track down every morsel of gossip and rumor, but we must take the time to verify accuracy before we repeat it or share it with others.  

3. Reach out to the party: Common decency requires that we give others the benefit of the doubt. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love believes all things.” If you are reading or hearing disparaging comments about another person, then do them the service of reaching out to them to hear their side of things. Being a Christian requires that we go the extra mile in hearing the other side of a story.  

4. Pray for discernment: The ninth commandment admonishes us not to bear false witness. The truth, as well as the reputation of others, is too important to take rumors and slander lightly, and spreading false information is a damnable sin. We must pray and ask the Lord to give us great discernment in the days in which we live. We do not want to be naïve believing all we hear, nor do we want to see a new conspiracy behind every event.  

5. Be careful before repeating: Followers of Jesus will want to observe the highest standards when passing along information we have read or heard about others. Doing otherwise can damage another person’s life and career and can be criminal activity if defamation of character can be proven. 

As followers of Jesus – who is the way, the truth and the life – we must strive to be accurate in our communication. Every one of us has made mistakes in repeating information that we discovered later to be false. If we can be more careful on the front side and do the necessary legwork to determine the accuracy of what we are reading or hearing, we may be able to avoid the sin of slander in our communication and not make the dreadful mistake of damaging another’s good name.

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