WRIGHT WAY: Twisting or spinning words?

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We live in a world where people often distort the facts. It may be out of spite, to save face, to brag, to ruin a reputation, to get even or to get attention.

We’ve all seen how lies, slander and misrepresentations are used as weapons in politics, business and in the media. Whatever the reason, putting a spin on what people say can disrupt families, friends and even congregations among fellow believers.

Have you ever had your words twisted and used against you? It may not have been deliberate, but how did it make you feel? Maybe it wasn’t a straight-out lie, but even a spin on words can cause just as much headache and heartache. Where did such distortion get its start?

I believe the first spin on someone’s words was uttered in the Garden of Eden. It was a spin on words designed to undermine God’s way of ruling. It remains the most insidious spin ever put on anyone’s words and it was so subtle that many Bible scholars have yet to comment on it.

Take a look and compare for yourself. Genesis 2:16 reads, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” — KJV.

In verse 17 God then told Adam not to eat from one particular tree in the garden — the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now, visualize this: Adam and Eve could walk around and eat from every sort of tree for food except one. That was part of their everyday life for years. They were perfectly happy living this way without missing out on anything.

Now comes the spin at Genesis 3:1. It says: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” — KJV.

Look closely. Is that really what God said? Look carefully. God said, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” What was this serpent doing? Since God prohibited eating from just one tree, this serpent used that to ask, “... hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Do you see the spin? There is a major difference.

The serpent’s question is implying if Eve cannot eat from one tree it actually means she cannot eat from every tree! Do you see the spin? What was said as a positive now sounds like a negative! God’s permission to eat from every tree except one, now sound like a ban because she can’t eat from that one tree?

To illustrate: Imagine a newcomer to your congregation. He’s not sure where he can sit. An attendant tells him he can sit wherever he likes. Only do not sit in the chair on the stage because it is reserved, and if he sits in that particular chair he will be escorted off the stage and suffer embarrassment.

A troublemaker in the audience hears the conversation and whispers to the newcomer, “Is it really true the attendant said you cannot sit anywhere you want?”

The newcomer says, “No, he said I can sit anywhere I want except in that chair on the stage.”

“Then you cannot sit wherever you want!” The troublemaker insists. “Because the attendant knows once you sit in that chair you are bound to be like the one who sits on stage with all the same privileges he has!” Do you see the spin on the attendant’s words?

Being unable to sit in one seat has become equivalent to being unable to sit anywhere you like. Now, this newcomer is tempted to sit in that lone chair on stage so he can feel equal to those in authority! That’s similar to what this serpent — identified at Revelation 12:9 as “that old serpent called Devil, and Satan” — did to Eve.

God’s right to exclude one forbidden tree became equivalent to Eve being deprived of eating from every tree in the garden. That is the first recorded spin on a person’s words and it distorted the facts. It was a negative way to look at a positive gift God had given to his earthly children.

By this Devil putting such a deceptive spin on God’s command, he got Eve to talk about a subject she otherwise had no reason to discuss. Satan’s insidious play on words enabled him to undermine God’s word and introduce outright lies that led to the downfall of Adam and Eve, including our own downfall, according to Romans 5:12.

From this I learned three things: 1. Twisting words originated with an enemy of God who made God the very first victim of this sin of spinning words, including outright slander and lies. 2. All the ways we don’t tell the truth, no matter how clever, can have disastrous consequences. 3. All questions are not designed to get information. Some questions are designed to influence how we think, to get us to talk about things we would otherwise avoid. Once that happens, we are open to listening to gossip, slander and lies. Is that what you want to hear?

As a journalist, I believe there is a responsibility to report what a person says but equally important is to report what we understood a person meant to say. We should want to clarify rather than report a misrepresentation, especially when the person worded something incorrectly.

There is a higher value to the journalism of verification and an even higher value to embracing truth with integrity. No need to twist or spin. You know what I mean.

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