Somewhere between truth and outright lies, exists the world of euphemisms (vague or mild expressions thought to be less harmful and blunt than direct language) and weasel words. The weasel is a cunning and sneaky animal in the same family as the mink and ferret. When applied to a human, it connotes one who, “reneges, misleads and evades an obligation.” We often hear these words today when a celebrity, politician or sports hero is caught in a crime or sin and issues an apology/excuse—“If my words or actions offended anyone, I’m sorry.” Most people recognize that this statement was crafted by an adviser, agent or lawyer to protect the guilty party from loss of popularity, ego or perhaps prison. Euphemisms are less blatant and may even be kind at times. Often when a person has lost a loved one, it might be appropriate to say, “He passed away” rather than he died.
Christians must be careful to avoid using either of these expressions by telling the whole truth even when fearful of losing status or reputation. Both Adam and Eve passed the buck when asked directly by God if they had eaten the forbidden fruit (Gen 3: 12-13). Cain did not admit his crime of killing his brother Abel and used the weasel words, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4: 9) Abraham told a half-truth when he said that Sarah was his sister (Ge 20: 2). Many other examples exist in both the Old and New Testaments of outright denials to clever deceptions. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit about their giving and died for it (Acts 5: 1-10). At first King David tried to conceal his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah (2 Sam 11: 1-27). However, when confronted with these sins, David did not use euphemisms or weasel words. He said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Sam 12: 13)
God, through the Holy Spirit and Apostle John, warns us that we will all sin at times (1 Jo 1: 7-10). If it is the sin of the tongue or any other type, God will forgive the ones who confess and repent. Those of us who do sin in this area need to listen again to the words of the child’s song, “Be careful little mouth what you say…” Easy to sing, hard to heed.