The Sin of Evil Surmising
What does it mean to “surmise?” Webster’s Dictionary defines surmise as “a thought or idea based on scanty evidence”. It lists synonyms such as “to guess, to suppose, to conjecture.”
And so, evil surmising is to suppose something evil about someone or something else.
Evil surmising starts in the heart. It begins as a thought, the thought continues to dwell inside and at some point plays out through words and actions. Evil surmising is a bit more difficult to detect than straight up gossip because the surmiser of evil is sneaky. Many times, the surmiser puts his thoughts into another’s mind by asking direct and pointed questions. He or she says something like “Hey, why is that Jim doesn’t like to be touched?” It seems like a simple enough question, but then it usually goes something like this. “What do you think happened in his past that causes him to be like that?” And the thought is planted. The other person chimes in, “well you know, people who don’t like to be touched are usually children who had suffered some sort of abuse when they were young.” “Oh” the other replies, “so he may have been abused. I wonder who would have abused him, the questioner continues.” By the time the ‘surmiser’ is finished, Jim had been beaten or abused by a close family member. They have it all figured out and yet the truth is contrary to what they had thought.
This happened a few years ago. There was a young Preacher who had gone to visit his girlfriend one evening for dinner. He had parked his car outside her apartment, she met him outside, they left and went for dinner together in her car. After arriving back at her apartment parking lot later that evening, the young man got back into his car to drive home. The only problem was that his car’s engine would not start. Since it was late and no car repair shop was open, his girlfriend drove him to his house and dropped him off. The following day he had his car battery changed and he drove the car home.
The following morning, you should have heard the talk. “This preacher stayed all night at his girlfriend's house. After all, his car was there from 6 pm and the next morning his car was still there and it had not moved because the dew was still fresh on his car.” And enquiring minds wanted to know. And soon the young preacher was scolded and threatened and harassed because one person had an evil thought. One person decided to allow their own corrupt mind to hurt a brother in Christ.
But, how did the story start? Like this: One person who lived near the girlfriend’s place saw the car that night and saw it in the morning. She began to think.... the thought turned evil and then began to linger. It then played out in her actions. She went to one sister and asked, what appeared to be a ‘simple, harmless’ question. “Hey, is brother ‘John’ dating sister ‘Jane’?” “Yes, they are dating.” “Hmm....” says the evil surmiser “That is interesting.” “What is interesting?” Replied the now curious friend. “Well...” the evil surmiser continued, “I wonder what John was doing at Jane’s house overnight?” Unfortunately for all parties involved, this sister ended up spreading this ‘news.’ and in fact, she would get the blame for spreading the gossip. But, in reality, God knows, that the evil surmiser is the one who did wrong. Yes, the gossip is also a sin, but it was the evil surmiser who struck the match that would ignite the fire.
And the sad thing is the reply. When called into question about this scenario, the evil surmiser says “Oh, I was simply asking a question, an honest question.” Please! You and I both know, the question was not honest. It was full of innuendo. It was loaded with pre-judgment and it was meant to place a wayward thought into the mind of the person to whom she was talking.
It was the spark that would start a fire and burn one brother to the ground.
Yet this person thinks that they can escape the “gossip” label, because “all I did was ask a simple question.” No, that is not all you did. Oh, on the surface it may appear to be all you did, but God who searches the hearts of men knows that you did much more than “ask a simple” question. You were evil surmising. You were out to start the gossip mill running and a young preacher’s life may have been ruined all because you decided the Bible does not apply to you.
We can find examples of evil surmisers in the Bible. It was the evil surmiser in Moses’s time that caused a rebellion among the people and God would destroy the wicked for their actions against Moses. It was the evil surmiser in Christ’s day that would eventually put him on the cross.
We can see these evil surmisers in action in Acts 21:18ff.
And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. (v 18-21)
Notice, Paul was preaching the gospel of Jesus, which did not include the law of circumcision and some of the Jews did not like it. They began to speak evil against him. The Jews convinced Paul to take a vow and follow a Jewish custom and sacrifice (which in my opinion was wrong for him to do). But be that as it may; notice what happens after that.
And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. (vs 27-30)
Notice what was in their hearts? Paul had apparently been traveling with or had been seen ‘hanging around’ with an Ephesian (a Gentile) in Trophimus, whom they SUPPOSED that Paul had brought into the temple.)
These evil surmisers put 2 and 2 together and came to the wrong conclusion. They THOUGHT Paul had brought this Gentile to the temple, they told all the people what they thought he had done, they got the people all stirred up, and then the people had him arrested.
This is still the way it works today. Evil surmisers do not have the guts to confront the person themselves, so they simply plant thoughts in others minds and have them do the “dirty work.” But, know this: God still knows your heart, he sees your actions and no matter how you try to hide; one day your sins will find you out. (Num. 32:23)
There is little distinction made in the Bible between a gossiper and someone who is an evil surmiser. In fact, many times what we put under the umbrella of gossip the Bible calls backbiting, evil surmising, talebearing, tattling, and whispering. All of these words describe the sin of revealing or spreading secrets in order to agitate, despise, divide, harm or undermine someone else.
You can find it and it’s conclusions listed in what we call the “7 deadly sins:”
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Notice, almost all of these can be applied to the one who gossips, whispers, talebears, and evil surmises about others. A lying tongue, a heart that devises wicked imaginations, people running to mischief, and the one who sows discord among brethren. In fact, the “hands that shed innocent blood” Jesus connects this kind of hatred, with the power of the tongue in Matthew 5:21-22.
So, if the bible said nothing else about this subject, (which it does) the fact that God hates these things, ought to discourage any of us from having hearts of evil and mouths that would speak poorly of other people.
The fact is, the evil surmiser tells us more about himself than the person he intends to harm because we know that from out of the heart, the mouth speaketh. We know, that if a person speaks evil of another person he first had to think evil of him. If a person thinks evil of another, then evil is what is TRULY in the heart of this person.
Let us, whether we be the evil surmiser or the person whom the evil surmiser tries to help spread their evil thoughts; let us learn to keep our thoughts pure and our conversation as that which would not harm but build others up.
Let us see the evil surmiser for what he is and may we never aid him in his evil scheming.