The Paper Pulpit
One person, after sharing some gossip with a friend, ended by saying: “I won’t bore you with the details. In fact, I’ve already told you more than I heard.”
“I would never say anything about her unless it was good — and boy, this is really good!”
“I was told not to repeat this, so I’m only going to say it once.”
These are the kind of statements people make when they have some juicy gossip about another person and can’t wait to share it with you. We should remember that gossip is like an egg — when it is hatched it has wings. Once it takes flight it is difficult, if not impossible, to either estimate or stop the damage it can cause.
Every Christian should learn two things about his tongue — how to use it and when to hold it! People who hold their tongue rarely have difficulty holding onto their friends. Those who don’t know when to hold their tongue usually have lots of difficulty holding onto their friends.
The human tongue, when it is used in proper and positive ways, has the ability to sow seeds of unity and joy. It has the power to provide encouragement to those who are discouraged. It can help to point those who have lost their way in the right direction. However, on the other end of the spectrum, a tongue only four inches long, when used improperly, has the power to slay a man more than six feet tall.
It’s been said that a dog is smarter than people. Why is this true? It wags its tail and not its tongue.
An uncontrolled tongue has sown more discord, hurt more feelings, blackened more reputations, embittered more friendships, ended more marriages, divided more organizations and communities, and split more churches than any other single thing. This is why the Bible has so much to say about human speech.
Chapter 3 of the Epistle of James cites illustrations to show the ways a person’s tongue can do irreparable damage to the body of Christ. In verse 5 the tongue is called a “fire.” It only takes a spark to set the whole forest ablaze, and hot, burning words may start a conflagration in a person’s life or in an entire community. Who among us has not seen it happen many times?
Verse 7 speaks of the tongue as a “beast.” Verse 8 describes the tongue as “poison.” The speech organ need not make long discourses to cause disruption, any more than poison needs to be administered in large doses. To a victim, gossip can be as fatal as airplane poison — one drop and you are dead!
Nearly all members of the animal kingdom may be brought under the control of mankind, “but no man can control the tongue” (verse 8). A backbiting, scandal-mongering tongue can disrupt a work that the Holy Spirit has taken years to build. A grumbling and complaining spirit is also a serious misuse of the tongue. Such expressions are deadly because they bring a dark, gloomy atmosphere to persons around us.
Words harshly spoken and with a negative spirit betray an attitude of unbelief and rebellion against God. When Christians constantly complain, it shows that God is not in control of their lives. But words, when spoken wisely and with compassion, demonstrate that God is in control.
One of the ways medical doctors measure a person’s physical health is by how the tongue looks. One of the ways the Great Physician measures a person’s spiritual health is by how the tongue acts.
During his last year as Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill attended an official ceremony. Two or three rows behind him a couple of men began whispering to each other. “That’s Winston Churchill,” one of them said, “They say he is getting senile.” The second man replied, “I’ve heard several people say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.” When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf.”
Gossip is always hurtful to those who are the objects of it, but it can also backfire on those who engage in it. The next time someone has some juicy gossip to share with you and begins by saying, “Can you keep a secret?” you should reply by saying, “Yes I can, and so should you!”
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.