When I was in high school, a very long time ago (over two decades in fact), I heard a saying that always stuck with me even until this day. This saying really stuck with me because I was faced with the fact that I fell short of this somewhat. At school I was the subject of whispers, and I too, sad to say, also did the very same thing to others. The saying was very short, sharp and had some truth to it, particularly the last line. So here it goes.
‘Great minds discuss ideas Average minds discuss events Small minds discuss people’
Before I ever read the Bible with understanding, I knew this last line was the truth. Without even knowing Jesus, I realised that discussing people was wrong. Why? Because something in me felt terrible after I had finished a ‘goss sesh’ with my friends and then turned the corner of the corridor only to find the poor, unsuspecting victim of this talk, standing there, oblivious to the conversation I had just engaged in. A nice smile to push away the guilt and I was ready for the casual and careless conversation I would partake in when I saw another group of friends. This filthy habit was destroying others and myself, but I deceived myself into thinking it was all harmless enough, despite knowing what it was like to be the victim of such talk. Even more hurtful was that people believed the lies. Was that pain enough for me to realise? Nope! I kept on doing what felt good, like all sin, only to be left with an emptiness inside. For a moment I felt better because I was pulling someone else down. What a horrible look inside the human condition to falsely believe that you could ever feel good about yourself by dragging someone else down.
Fast forward a few years and I began to read the Bible and I realised that God has much to say about the sin of the tongue and the very real damage that I was doing both to the others and myself.
Let’s take a look at some of the verses:
Ephesians 4:29 ESV Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 16:28 ESV A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. Proverbs 21:23 ESV Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. James 1:26 ESV If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Proverbs 20:19 ESV Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. Matthew 12:36 ESV I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. Psalm 101:5 ESV Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. Psalm 34:13 ESV Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Proverbs 18:8 ESV The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. Proverbs 17:4 ESV An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue. James 4:11 ESV Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. Proverbs 26:20 ESV For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. Proverbs 11:13 ESV Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. Proverbs 10:18 ESV The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool. Exodus 23:1 ESV You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 1 Timothy 5:13 ESV Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. Psalm 64:2-4 ESV Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
This is by no means a complete list of Scripture here. It’s just touching the surface of what the Lord says about this sin.
As you can see, God really abhors a careless tongue. Because God created the world with His Word and Jesus was the Word that became flesh, this shows that words are powerful. Both death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
So what ideas should we think upon and discuss?
Philippians 4:8 ESV Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Suffice to say that I repented immediately, and I would love to be able to tell you that ever since I have never used my tongue for evil, because that is what I truly desire to do, but that would not be true because I have let God, myself and others down in this area at times.
It’s an awesome responsibility to bridle our tongue when we think of the consequences for not doing so, however, thanks be to Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can rule over our flesh. Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross so that we would be set free of sin and offer up our whole body as a living sacrifice to Him who deserves all honour, praise and glory forever and ever – amen? God is just and faithful to forgive us when we truly repent.
God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud. Let us pray that the Lord will help us to bridle our tongue so that we leave pools of living water behind us in a dry, parched land.
Words of life bring life!
— By Judah Ayling