The verse above from the Message Bible is a clear warning to those of us who make careless and bitter remarks about others, thinking that they will never reach the ears of those they are leveled against. I heard from just such a woman recently, who was lamenting over the strife and division in her household because of some comments she had made about one family member in the presence of another family member, who relayed those comments to the target of her criticism. Here it was seven years later, and the victim of her bitter words still had not forgiven her, and as a result, the entire family was divided. Each time a special occasion or celebration was planned for the family, this woman was pointedly left out, and she was reminded yet again of her careless and thoughtless words against her relative.
Solomon wrote: "Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say." (Ecclesiastes 10:20 NIV) Sometimes, when you ask someone how they discovered a secret of yours, they may respond with, "A little bird told me." That's because our words have a way of being spread around even when we never meant them to be. Jesus told His disciples: "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." (Luke 12:2-3 NIV) The Master's words should fill us with a healthy fear of God where our conversation is concerned. If we remember that the Lord hears every word we say, we will be less casual with our speech, and we will carefully consider what the consequences for our words might be down the line. There's an old saying that says, "You can't un-ring a bell." Once a sound is released into the atmosphere, it can't be taken back. The same is true for the words we speak.
Suppose instead of being the ones who are gossiping, you and I are on the listening end of gossipy speech? We can make a decision then and there that we are not going to spread the bitter words by repeating them to others. When my husband, Joe, and I were getting Christian counseling in the early years of our marriage, we got some of the best advice we have ever had. Each time we described occasions of strife or gossip in our extended families, our counselor would say, "Don't feed into that!" As we refused to engage in divisive and bitter conduct and speech with our family members, Joe and I had more peace and joy than ever before, and our marriage got stronger and healthier. Today, we have been married for forty years, and our relationship continues to improve as we apply more and more biblical principles to our daily living. Scripture says: "Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down." (Proverbs 26:20 NIV) If there is strife in your family or in your workplace, the best thing you can do is to refuse to feed into it with inflammatory, angry, or bitter words.
When we devote our lives to the Lord, He provides us with Christlike believers who we can share some of our secrets with. "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret." (Proverbs 11:13 NIV) We should never share confidential matters with those who are not "trustworthy," or who have a reputation for being gossipers. "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." (Proverbs 20:19 NIV) Beware of those who love to hear themselves talk - the ones who crave being the center of attention, and who dominate conversations. This is a sure sign of a lack of self-control, and a warning that these people will eventually give in to the urge to tell others' secrets. Critical speech destroys friendships and divides families, as the woman who wrote me could sadly attest to. "A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends." (Proverbs 16:28 NLT) Steer clear of those who thrive on creating conflict through bitter words and hurtful behavior.
Without knowing you personally, I can tell you how to be happier and healthier, how to have a closer relationship with God, how to have a stronger and happier marriage and family, how to be more successful in your work and ministry, and how to be more prosperous financially. Become a more merciful person. Resist the inclination to criticize others. Walk in forgiveness. Refuse to hold anything against anyone. Sounds like a tall order, I know. But if you have trusted Christ as your Savior, and made Him the Lord of your life, you can put these principles into practice while drawing on the resurrection power of Christ that abides in you. (Ephesians 1:19-20) God is calling you up higher today. Will you answer that call?
Prayer: Lord, when I am tempted to speak bitterly against anyone, remind me that Your Word says that "loose talk has a way of getting picked up and spread around." When I hear others gossiping, or "planting seeds of strife," help me not to feed into their sinful behavior. Please provide me with godly, trustworthy friends who I can confide in when Your Spirit leads me to. Teach me how to avoid people who cannot control their emotions or their speech. Make me a peacemaker, instead of a "troublemaker". Today, I pray according to Your Word - "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips"! (Ecclesiastes 10:10 MSG; Proverbs 16:28; Psalm 141:3 NIV)
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