"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be."
- James 3:9-10 NIV
When my son, John, was leading his high school Bible Club, there was one particular student who was causing some strife in the group. In an attempt to avoid confrontation, my son tolerated behavior from this girl that he should have dealt with more swiftly and firmly. As I became increasingly frustrated with the situation, I began talking about her in a gossipy, critical manner. One day, when she called to speak to John, he left her hanging on the phone while he came to tell me about her latest attempt to disrupt the club. I immediately lost my temper and began spouting bitter and critical remarks about her. When my son finally told me that she had heard every word I said, I was even more furious. But after thinking and praying about it, I realized that the reason God allowed me to go through this experience was to teach me about the devastating consequences of gossip and critical speech. Knowing how deeply I must have wounded that poor girl grieved my heart back then, and it still does today.
Many times when we gossip, we do it because we feel sure that we'll get away with it. But the Bible tells us that sooner or later, we'll be found out. Proverbs 10:20 in the Message Bible says: "Loose talk has a way of getting picked up and spread around. Little birds drop the crumbs of your gossip far and wide." And Jesus said that our hypocrisy would not be hidden forever. What we have whispered to others will eventually be broadcast for all to hear. (Luke 12:1-3 TLB) We mustn't deceive ourselves by thinking that what we say about others in private won't have serious consequences. I know from experience that trying to refrain from gossip without getting to the root of the problem is futile. Jesus said that whatever is in our hearts will eventually come out of our mouths. (Luke 6:45) That's why the Lord demands that we deal with what's in our hearts. In Zechariah 7:10 (NIV), He says, "In your hearts, do not think evil of each other." Only by obeying this command can we successfully overcome our tendency to speak negatively about others. While we can't change our own hearts, we can ask God to change us. David prayed, "Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires." (Psalm 51:10 TLB) We can pray this same prayer, trusting the Lord to answer by making us more like Jesus as we seek Him daily.
James 1:26 (TLB) gives us an idea of just how important what we say is to our witness: "Anyone who says he is a Christian but doesn't control his sharp tongue is just fooling himself, and his religion isn't worth much." If we don't make a serious effort to control our speech, we can't expect to make a real difference for God. In Ephesians 4:29 (NIV), Paul says: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Our words have the power to build up and tear down. They can either "pierce like a sword" or "bring healing." (Proverbs 12:18) And the words we speak can affect us, as well as others. Proverbs 18:21 (AMP) says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]." That's why Peter says, "If you want a happy, good life, keep control of your tongue." (1 Peter 3:10 TLB) Gossiping, or even just passively listening to gossip, can affect our physical and mental health and well-being. Proverbs 18:8 in the Message Bible says, "Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy. Do you really want junk like that in your belly?"
What if WE are the victims of gossip? Peter says, "Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and He will bless you for it." (1 Peter 3:9 NLT) May our heartfelt prayer each day be: "May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”! (Psalm 19:14 NLT)
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times I've spoken unkindly about others. I ask that You change my heart, and deal with me when I sin with my mouth. When the words of others hurt me, help me to respond in a Christlike way. Thank You that as I guard my mouth and my tongue, I will keep myself from trouble! (Proverbs 21:23 AMP)
- J. M. Farro