By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece. – Proverbs 16:27 (TLB)
You’ve probably heard it said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. I have even said it myself. In fact, school just ended where we live, and I remember hearing my wife say this to my daughter just the other day.
What comes to mind when most people think about this statement, is the imagery of someone who is sitting around all day doing absolutely nothing. We equate idleness with lack of activity. Since you have nothing to do you...you may become more prone to get into trouble.
But, is this what this statement means? Is it true? If it is true...are there ways an idle mind is the devil’s workshop? The best thing to do is to look at what the Bible says to help us get the full picture.
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Biblical Origin of This Phrase
If you look for these exact words (an idle mind is the devil’s workshop), you won’t find it in the Bible. The verse that comes closest (but also not exact) is Proverbs 16:27 as it is written only in The Living Bible, which, according to Wikipedia, is a personal paraphrase (not a translation) of the Bible by Kenneth N. Taylor, first published in 1971.
Taylor used the American Standard Version of 1901 as his base text.
A worthless man deviseth mischief; And in his lips there is as a scorching – Proverbs 16:27 (ASV)
The English definition of the word ‘idle’ means someone who is slothful, lazy, and who generally avoids work. Have you ever sat in the car with the engine idling? The engine was running but you weren’t going anywhere. This is the reason people often equate this word to lack of activity or laziness.
However, when you read this verse in different translations and look at the word in Hebrew you begin to get a different understanding...
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Biblical Translations of Proverbs 16:27
An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.(KJV)
A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire. (NIV)
A worthless man digs up evil, While his words are like scorching fire. (NASB)
Notice the words that describe this idle person. Worthless, scoundrel, ungodly, and some other translations even add evil or useless. These are all acceptable definitions of this word from the Hebrew beliyyaal.
A man or woman who is a scoundrel or is ungodly, is the type of person who will plot evil to harm another person or a group of people. This person is intentionally reckless with their words, aiming to do as much damage as possible with the things they say. This is truly a wicked person.
Using the Living Bible phrase, how then do we correlate the idle mind with the devil’s workshop?
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What Is the Meaning of the Devil’s ‘Workshop’ or ‘Playground?’
When you understand the true meaning of the word ‘idle,’ then the concept of the devil’s workshop or playground makes a lot of sense. Who is the one who plots evil? Who is the one who very intentionally uses words to do harm and cause damage? That person is the devil himself. Consider these two verses:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. – John 8:44
in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. – 2 Corinthians 2:11
The Bible refers to the devil’s schemes. There are two different words for schemes used in these verses:
Methodeia (from Ephesians) is a predictable (pre-set) method used in organized evil-doing (well-crafted trickery).
We get the word ‘methods’ from this word.
Noéma (from 2 Corinthians) is defined as a mental perception, an evil purpose, or thoughts that you think.
What we learn from these verses is that the devil has thoughtful, purposeful methods that are devised from within his own mind. He literally sits and plots evil to happen in the lives of people—especially the people of God. He looks for ways to try to bring you down.
When a person sits and plots evil against another person or tries to tear them down with their words, then it’s one of the ways an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Should this happen, then what Jesus said in John 8:44 becomes true—this person wants to carry out their father’s (the devil’s) desires.
The definition therefore of the ‘devil’s playground’ is the place in a person’s mind where they are influenced to plot evil or some other sinful activity.
With this background in place, knowing that an idle mind can be the devil’s workshop, how then do you guard your mind?
When Satan attacks he usually attacks the mind. There is good reason for that, because we know the actions you take first begin with thoughts in your mind. Satan looks for little footholds or entryways to gain access to your mind. We have to learn how to shut those doors and keep them closed. Here are 5 doors to be keenly aware of:
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1. Don’t Let Anger Linger
In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-27
The word foothold here means opportunity. One of the ways we give opportunity to the devil is by holding on to anger and unforgiveness. The devil will have a field day in your mind if you give him the opportunity. If someone hurts you, angers you, or offends you, don’t hold onto it. Forgive them quickly and move forward.
If you allow it, this stuff will fester and it never gets better...only worse. So, forgive quickly, and give the devil no opportunity.
2. Watch Your Company
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33
I find it interesting that Paul says ‘do not be misled,’ and some versions say ‘deceived.’ Where does deception happen? In the mind.
Paul is saying be careful who you spend your time with. They will influence you. Truly, there are some people in your life that you just need to cut off. They are not good influences on you. The deception here comes when you think you can handle it. You tell yourself they aren’t that bad. Or, they may do that stuff, but I won’t.
These are all lies and deceptions. And Satan is a master liar and a master deceiver. Who you associate with matters, so watch who you are hanging out with.
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3. Meditate on the Good Stuff
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
What do you spend your time thinking about? The things you think about are the result of the things you allow into your mind. You control that.
Proverbs 4:23 encourages you to guard your heart. This means you have to be mindful of the things you allow in. What you read, see, and hear have great influence on what you think about. You must pay attention to these things.
What do you watch on TV? Have you ever considered turning the TV off from time to time (and not just when you are sleeping)? Do you find yourself scrolling endlessly on social media? What types of music are you listening to? What about the conversations you are having? All these things will impact your thinking.
I encourage you to find things that will be uplifting and avoid things that pull you down. Before the coronavirus hit, my wife stopped watching the news, because it made her either angry or depressed and she didn’t like either of those emotions (neither did I by the way).
To combat this, she turned it off...so she could keep her heart and mind in a good place. She was trying to follow Paul’s advice in Philippians. Maybe you should consider this too; it just might make all the difference.
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4. Don’t Trip Someone Else Up
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. – 1 Corinthians 8:9
You have tremendous freedom in Christ, but that freedom comes with great responsibility. There are lots of things you can do...but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes your freedom messes up someone else.
For example, you may think it’s okay to listen to secular music. Someone younger or weaker in the faith may think it’s wrong. Exercising your freedom can create an opportunity for Satan to mess with their mind. It creates the open door. So be careful, and put their well-being ahead of your personal freedom.
5. Make Prayer a Part of Your Life
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18
There is no way you can ever overcome the devil in any capacity without prayer being an essential part of your life. It won’t happen. If you want to give the devil free reign in your life, and if you want to know one of the main ways an idle mind is the devil’s workshop—the absence of prayer is it.
The key to accessing God’s presence and God’s power to overcome the schemes of the enemy is through prayer. There’s an old expression that says: seven days without prayer makes one weak.
And remember: your mind is the battleground because whoever wins the mind, wins the man or woman. The good news is you don’t have to lose. Just like every battle you will experience in this Christian journey, you can win this one too. If you will read and apply the truth of God’s Word.
You will discover that you will have far more victories and you will be able to defeat the devil all along the way.
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