Category Archives: speech

Psst! Don’t tell anyone…

gossipWhen we talk about the use of the tongue, it makes sense to talk about gossip. We all have a vague idea that gossip involves telling others about things that we ought not to share.  We understand gossip to involve things like whispering, rumors, slander, but sometimes we are a little unsure about when we cross the line into Gossip.

Is it not Gossip simply because the information is true? Is it not gossip if you share information so that your audience know how to pray better?

Many passages talk about gossip and its “sister”, slander which give us some good clues. If the passage does not say “gossip”, it will use the word “slander”.  Read the following passages:

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, (Rom 1:29-30)
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.  2Co 12:20)
Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.  (1Ti 3:11)
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. (1Ti 5:13)
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, (2Ti 3:2-3)

We can learn about Gossip from the company it keeps. These passages show that gossip associates with those who refuse to have God in their knowledge, it is accompanied by slander, malice, idleness, and inappropriate conversation. Who wants to associate with that? Birds of a feather, flock together and we should avoid this particular group of birds.

Of course, not every negative communication is gossip and that leads to some of the confusion. In the following passage, you clearly see negative information was communicated to someone else (Paul) when others were not present:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. (1Co 1:10-11)

In the following posts, I will offer definitions of gossip, explain why the above passage is not an example of gossip, and mention some “not so hypothetical” situations of gossip. However, if you would like to hear a sermon about gossip, here is a link to one which you can listen to.

Question: What normal conversations have you heard that were actually gossip?

 

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Sins of the tongue

What would the sins of the tongue be? Do you think of lying, slander, gossip, or abusive language? Yes, most of us would think about these things, but what about silence? I think most of us would consider misuse of the tongue to be a sin of speech, but sometimes it is a sin of silence.  You can listen to a sermon on this topic by clicking here. Yet, if you don’t have time to do that, you may read some highlights below.

sin of silenceWe should not be silent when…

1. We can help others by saying something.

The lepers in 2 Kings 7 found that the army afflicting the city had left suddenly without taking anything. They ate, they drank and then went and hid clothing, gold and silver. However, they soon came to their senses and realized that what they were doing in remaining silent was not a good thing, so they went and told the king.

Esther was warned that if she kept silent at the time her people needed her that God would deliver the Jews anyway but her house would not escape.

Sometimes fear causes us to not speak up.  We fear people won’t understand, we fear they will not listen, sometimes (such as in the case of correcting sin in their life) we fear rebuke from them even as we try to help. Still, we need to help.

2. Our actions were not good ones.

When Adam sinned in the garden and afterward heard the Lord walking in the Garden, he did not speak, he hid. Only when God called out searching for him, did Adam speak. When the disciples were arguing on the journey about which of them was the greatest in the Kingdom of God (Mark 9), Jesus asked them what they were discussing, but they remained silent.

When our actions are not right, silence is the last thing we should keep.  Adam should have ran to God for help. The disciples should have owned their petty conversation. We should confess those wrongs and look for forgiveness, whether from God or from a brother whom we have offended not remain silent as if it makes the wrong go away.

3. When your brother offends you.

One clear principle in Scripture deals with the times in which we are offended. Some have no problem letting a brother know that they have crossed a line (sometimes it is done too harshly) but most of us, seeking to avoid conflict fail to let a brother know when he has done so.

Silence in these cases can lead to grudges, strained relationships, and according to Leviticus 19:16-17 slander and gossip are not so far behind.

4. When God needs to be praised.

I would suggest that all of our words should praise God. Of all of God’s creations, mankind is the only one that does not praise its Creator all the time and in all ways.  Jesus said that if his disciples did not speak out, the stones would have cried out praising Him as He entered Jerusalem. It is right and normal and natural for us to praise God.

We need to praise God and not be silent when people put down spiritual things; ridicule Christians, Jesus, or God; or try to intimidate us into silence by threats or fear. We should be as the Apostles were: Speaking out and praising God that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name. (Acts 5)

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is a time to speak and a time to keep silent. May God grant you courage and wisdom to know when you should do each.

Question: What other times do we fail to speak up when we should?

Putting the Scriptures into action

One of my favorite verses comes from Acts chapter 17:

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (Act 17:11)

It is my favorite because the spirit that the Bereans had is the same that we should have today.

First, they received the word with all readiness.

They did not simply say “we have the Scriptures already and there is nothing new to learn.” In fact, those Scriptures which they had (our Old Testament) were pointing to a coming Messiah. When Paul showed up preaching that the Messiah had come, he appealed to those Scriptures to make his point. You can see in verses 1-5 that Paul first reasoned from the Scriptures in Thesolonica and some were persuaded of the Greeks, but not so many of the Jews.

Second, the Bereans searched the Scriptures to see:

To see what? To see if what Paul was saying was true. Did the Messiah come from Bethlehem? Would he be rejected? Was Jesus the prophet Moses had promised?

When I go to a place to preach or study for the first time, it is my custom to read verse 11 and explain to the audience (or individual) that we have a responsibility to search the Scriptures to see if the things presented are, indeed, from God. What we are doing, in this case, is saying that we accept the Scriptures as God’s Holy word and as our standard to measure our teachings.

That which is not from God is rejected, that which is from God is retained. Book, chapter, and verse is what we look for.

This means that when we hear someone who wants to impart to us something from God, we can afford to be courteous and do as the Bereans did: Listen. Yet, we also search the Scriptures, as they did. And a final step in that process is to discuss the message with the messenger.

Aquilla and Pricilla did just that with Apollos. They heard him, took him aside, and shared a part of the message that he was missing. He didn’t have all of the Gospel. (Acts 18:24-28) What I write, I hope (I believe) is in line with the Scriptures but it is for my audience member to search the Scriptures and see. They then are encouraged to offer information which they think would be relevant, even if, it is the opposite of what I said, or supplies more than what I said. The goal is not which of us is right but, knowing that God is always right, to make our message in agreement with his.

Which brings up another thought and the motive for today’s blog:

I am sure you have seen on Facebook, or other social media outlets, chain posts that go something like this:

I wanted to see who reads my posts (only about 7 of you) so you need to write one word on my wall and repost this on yours so I can do the same.

Or, If you don’t re post this then you are going to have to start paying for Facebook.

Or, Like this post if you are still my friend, I will delete the rest. Blah, blah, blah!

Why can’t we offer something to others that is truly inspiring?  Why not inspire a person with something that will encourage them to live better or do better? Posts about how your life is going, what the kids did or are doing are great;  we keep up with our friends, family, and current events. That can be encouraging. But posts like the ones above do not inspire a person to greatness.

While I  hope all my posts which I pass on to Facebook and twitter are thought provoking and encouraging, it isn’t like I am the only one who shares good things. So, I am going to take my own advice and try to share a blog post or two from someone else that I think hits the mark. The point of my blogs, and those that I will share, is to present the Scriptures and let my audience search and see if they are from God. If they are: put it into action. If they are not, ignore it.

Your challenge is to do the same. You don’t have to post mine, you can post someone else’s, but share another blog, either on Facebook or your own blog post. Why? Because you will introduce people to another’s perspective, writing style, and way to explain things. It is not the one who waters or who plants but the one who gives the increase (God) that we should be trying to glorify and point people toward.

How much better an inspiring post than a chain post?  Of how much more value? How much more a better use of the readers time?

Question: Who do you read that writes good inspiring blog posts? Share the link below. (Yes, you can share your own blog link!)

Photo credit: sbarkley

 

 

we don’t know the future

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.   (Jas 4:13-14a)

As mentioned in the last post, there seem to have been distinctions between those who were rich and those who were poor. This was not a proper means to distinguish a person’s value or standing with God so James corrected it in chapter 2. Still, there is more to be said about the gaining of riches and he is going to say it now. We will look at these next few verses in several sections. I love this part of James because it seems to fit so many of our lives today. We are always so busy and making plans. I don’t know if it is any different than in the days James wrote this but I do know that it seems few people will take the time to credit God’s will and grace for things that happen in our life.

As he starts off with “Come now” I am reminded of Isa 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD…” It is an invitation to form a  meeting and to discuss a situation. I think  that discussing and debating rights and wrongs is a lost art. There is a way to do it (with love) and way not to do it (with envy and jealously in your heart).  In making this invitation, James is saying “Let’s look at this practice….” and let’s do it with a view of finding out if it is right to do.

Before we go on, let me do the same thing for purposes of illustration:

Come now, you who say or type, “OMG!” Do you not consider what it means? Is it nothing to you to invoke the name of God?

Now, some who say that phrase or text it or completely say each word, will look at that illustration and dismiss it. Others will look at it and think “Wow! I never thought of that!” and a few will say “Never gonna do that again” In reasoning with someone on this, I would look at what the Scriptures have to say about our words and meanings. I might point out that we will be held accountable for every idle word, or that God did not use many words in the Creation. Words mean things and have power. The implanted word is able to save your soul (James 1:21)

James is going to appeal to well known facts like: Everyone dies and no one knows when. There is nothing faulty about James’ reasoning skills. One thing that you should know is that our faith is not a blind, illogical faith. There may be parts of it that we don’t fully understand but in this point, James is going to be very logical.

The people he is inviting to this discussion are those are making plans about  things that they have no control over, specifically, the future “Today or Tomorrow”, and “a year from now” as well as  the profitability of a particular venture. That James invokes the action of speech “you who say” should keep us mindful that we have been looking sinful, incorrect, unchristian uses of the tongue for sometime now.

First off, the future: There are so many ways that “today or tomorrow “will not come for an individual that they can’t be counted. We don’t have to go to the preposterous like a meteor landing on your head. We can stay with the mundane, like a heart attack, a stroke, a broken leg, a strained back (while loading the trailer with your product that you will sell for a profit). If nothing affects you, perhaps your spouse or kid gets sick or dies. A fire breaks out and burns your house to the ground (see Bastrop, Tx.), your car could break, the river could rise, and on. (One of the young college students in our congregation, just posted today (I am writing this on Thursday) that a college friend passed away. Not even 25 and gone! Fortunately she was in Christ but all her plans for the future in this world will not happen.

Even if you get to the city you are going to, you could be robbed, or shot, or told to go away because there is no room in the Inn.  Knowing if you will be alive in 1 year is not even within your ability.  Meteorological reports (weather) have gotten much better over recent decades but they still get it wrong a few days out but no one attempts to tell you the weather a year from now.  Better to trust in a God who does not have a problem seeing the future.

Profit is always hoped for any any venture. I don’t know anyone who says “I opened up the store so I could lose money” but these folks seem to be making confident assertions about things that are not in their realm to control. “It WILL happen.”  rather than ‘”Lord willing, it will happen” Those that bought homes in the big housing market boom of the early 2000’s were thinking, no doubt, to make a huge profit. It didn’t turn out that way. Why? I am sure they did their due diligence in the purchase but when the market turned against them, the losses were growing rather than their profits. There is, is seems, no Prophet for profit.

A big freeze can hurt the orange crop in Florida, a hurricane in New York city can cause beach front homes to be evacuated (and rents to be lost), mail prices can go up and upset a mail order company whose stock then plunges. We have very little control of our own life events and even less for those things that affect economies, regions, and world markets.

James will show them a better way to deal with those uncertainties; depend on God. We will look at that tomorrow…(Lord willing)

Don’t become the judge

Jas 4:11-12  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.  (12)  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

It is easy to think of James as a collection of proverbs and wise advice, each section or couple of verses being separate from the whole but James is very contextual. He just has a lot to say and so it takes a few verses to get to every point he wants to make. Remember, the Bible was not written in chapters and verses, these were actual letters written to an audience and we, we are reading someone else’s mail even though it can and should be applied to our own lives.

The thoughts James expresses here combine several thoughts he has already discussed: The law was discussed in chapter 1 as a person looks into it and views it and sees what he needs to correct. Judgements were discussed in chapter 2 as he dealt with the way distinctions were made, on the basis of status and wealth, but not, (as would be acceptable) on sinful living as in I cor 5.  In chapter 3, he talks about talking. How we use our speech. Some misuse it by praising God and, with the same sanctified, holy mouth(?) belittling a brother. Chapter 4 starts off with quarrels and fighting. Whew! One might get the impression that James’ theme is the speech of a Christian. It is one of the themes.

Do NOT speak evil of a brother can be broadened so much. Do not criticize a brother. Do not gossip about a brother. Do not ridicule a brother. do not slander a brother. Do not rebuke a brother? No. Rebuke is a different matter, however, I do not think that James’ audience would recognize the difference between rebuke and criticism.

If we look at some of the differences in James audience two are apparent. Status differences and teacher vs. non teacher differences. Those who want to be rich and those who want to be teachers are the problems in this group. Those who are content to go about doing what they see in the perfect law of liberty and mind their own business are not the problem.  Those who are not content, who give into their passions and desires (for fame, riches, prestige needs to be included) create all sorts of problems.

Who are you to criticize a rich brother? Or for that matter a brother who does not have so much (e.g. lazy, no good for nothing bum)? The teacher who studies and tries diligently to bring out the meaning in God’s word but who does it with poor speech, an accent, or in writings with poor punctuation.

Any of these people might have the problem we attribute to them. The rich brother might be stingy, the poor brother might be lazy, the teacher might stutter or, perhaps, really shouldn’t be teacher (as not all have that gift) but to be speaking against a brother is not the correct answer. To stir up others against him, is not conducive to peace. You might not even be in a position to be able to help him since you don’t him but certainly if your are envious and jealous of what he has, you certainly cannot help.

What should you do? Show mercy. Be kind. Pray for him. Befriend him (and as the friendship grows you can help direct him by both your example and, in studies with him).  If there really is a problem, show him the problem but be humble about it.

If you put yourself in the position of having judged him (and I think the context means that you not only do not know all the facts, but that there is no interest in this brothers best interest) you put yourself in the position of the law. The law, as we know, simply says “You lived up to my standard” or “you did not live up to my standard.” When you make yourself the standard, you are in effect making yourself God because God is the standard of the law. So you say to your brother “you did not live up to my standard, so you are to be condemned”.

Wow! Would you want to be judged by that same standard? Even if you got to pick the standard? I hope you would say NO, because we all realize that we do not even live up to our own standard. So guess what, our standard, our law, the one we used to condemn a brother with, we, the god of our life, must also stand condemned and without remedy because we do not have an only begotten Son to die for the sins of others, much less for ourselves, which they (and we) commit against our precious law.

But the One lawgiver? He can destroy AND he can save.  Don’t put yourself in His place, just try to be more like Him. Also remember, Mercy triumphs over judgement. Let God be God. He will judge righteously.

None of what James says can be applied to those who are living in sinful activities. Adultery, drunkenness, and a whole list of things from I cor 5 or Gal 5 are not things to be tolerated in the Lord’s church. They do need to be removed for the sake of the congregation. However, I don’t think that in this letter James is talking about that kind of person. Yet even in those cases, the withdrawal from a brother has one other purpose, the salvation of the soul, so putting him down and not trying to exhort him as a brother would also be wrong.

What other ways might we be able to apply this passage in our lives? Share if you want to.

Dangers of being a teacher.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. (Jas 3:1-2a)

It seems appropriate that James would start a lesson about the use of the tongue with teachers. James gives two reasons that closely link together for not becoming a teacher. One is that teachers are judged with greater strictness and since two, we all stumble in many ways, it is imperative that we exercise caution.

It is not that James doesn’t want brethren to grow to the point where they could be teachers. The Hebrew writer chastises his audience for not yet being teachers. (Heb 5:12) However, it seems that James’ audience was only too anxious to be teachers…even if they were not ready.

 To be a teacher is to open yourself up to many different criticisms. Timothy was under pressures that would be brought up against him because of his youth. Paul exhorts him not to let men despise his youth. In all likelihood, “don’t give them a reason” to look down on your youth. (I tim 4:12) Timothy was to set an example to the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. All of those items that Timothy is to exemplify would be the same thing that James would want his audience to have.

Paul tells Timothy that those who are to become elders are not to be novices or new converts or else they MAY fall into conceit and the condemnation of the devil. So one thing that we could conclude is that if some of these people James was writing to were new converts, it is better to urge them not to be teachers. 

Peter shows that even great teachers can stumble. In Galatians 2, Paul recalls the time he had to rebuke Peter for an error that he made which caused a great problem between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. Even Barnabas was carried away with the problem.

Looking just at speech, since this is the primary context, what should a teacher be teaching?

Not another Gospel (Gal 1:8): Don’t teach something other than the Gospel that Jesus authorized. All Authority belongs when him and so Peter’s admonition to speak the oracles of God so be our rule. ( I peter 4:11) Teachers might get caught up in explaining God’s and wind up contradicting it . (Mt 15:3) or debating questions that are of no vaule. (I tim 1:3-4)

Not what people want to hear: (2 tim 4:3) It may be easy to fall into the trap of not preaching the Gospel people need to hear but we do not need to give into ‘itching’ ears. The truth is that many do not endure sound doctrine. Churches spring up all over the place catering to the whims and desires of the audience. When the Lord died for us, he said “Follow me” he didn’t take a survey to see what would be more palatable to the audience. Paul assured his audience he was trying to please God not men (Gal 1:10)

Not what brings the teacher glory: (Acts 20:30, 3 John 1:9) Everyone likes to be praised for doing a good job and it is no different for a teacher.  Sometimes we like to think we know all things and have all wisdo, so we spout of this or that theory. Gaining followers after one’s particular viewpoint is not uncommon through the ages but, for the teachers of the Gospel, the only one that should receive the glory is God.  Take Paul’s perspective: As long as Christ is preached, it doesn’t matter who does it. (Phil 1:18)

As I read through James’ letter, it seems that many of his audience would not be ready to even avoid the ‘nots’ that were listed. How could they avoid other problems both of the tongue or action? It may well have been a teacher in James 2 who said to the poor man “you sit here at my feet” or taught a faith that did not have works.

We should all strive to mature in Christ to the point that we can teach, just be aware that there are difficulties in the job, and glamour should not be the attraction and motive. We need to be ready for those trials and it comes with maturity. Even Jesus waited until being 30 years old to start his ministry. We should be willing to let other take the lead and learn from them before wanting to be teachers.

One other thought worth bringing out. Humility is an important part of being a teacher and knowing your own short comings will help you a lot. I am impressed that James say “we all” stumble and also with Paul’s request for prayers:

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:18-20)

Paul is asking for prayers to preach the Gospel!!? The same Paul who traveled everywhere confronting false doctrine, wrote much of the NT, established congregations, trained preachers, appointed elders, had the gifts of the Spirit!? THAT Paul asked for prayers?!?

If Paul needs prayers…..Well, who am I? but one who needs even more prayers!

Study hard….

Treat your tongue like a horse: Bridle it!

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
(Jas 1:26)

Even though we are looking at this book slowly, one verse or two at a time, the larger context cannot be forgotten. In the book of James, this is not the first time, nor that last, that he counsels on the speech of a Christian. Here, it is very definite, that he is taking seriously the connection between what a person says and the worth of his religion. A person can THINK that he is religious and still have that religion be worthless based on how he speaks.

In Matthew 6, Jesus said that the prayers (speaking) of the Pharisees were of no value in their relationship to God. In fact, one parable (Luke 18) in the NKJV the Pharisee is said to pray ‘thus with himself” and while the context means that he was standing off by himself, the joining of those words can leave the impression that he prayed by himself, to himself and not really to God.  Worthless speech indeed. He also in Matthew 6 warns against empty phrases or vain repetitions which the Gentiles use.

James talks about an unbridled tongue and if you look back to the preceding verses we again might see some examples of when a tongue needs to be bridled:

  • Asking of God, but in faith, according to His will v5
  • Poor brothers who need to boast in exhalation v9
  • Rich brothers who need to boast in humiliation v10
  • During temptations-so that he doesn’t say “I am tempted by God” v13
  • As he hears the word that can save his soul-so that he doesn’t erupt in anger v 19

In addition to the previous verses in which speech is indicated or implied, James will have much more to say on the use of the tongue starting in chapter 3.

We see then, that while James has illustrated in verses 22-25 that actions (hearing with the doing) are important, speech is equally so.  We might not think of speech as important but it is also type of action. A person’s speech can invalidate his religion. Again, James says “do not be deceived” and isn’t that just the way with us. We fall so easily into a ‘that’s not so bad’ mentality.

This has to go beyond taking the Lord’s name in vain. Or, maybe we don’t understand what a vain use of God’s name is. We all recognize that profanity with the name of the Lord is wrong. However, I would suggest to you that calling out to God in an unserious way is just as bad. I refer, of course, to those who, in their excitement use ‘God’ as if it some expression of Joy.

While it could be an expression of joy (cf  Jn. 20:28), it is not the meaning given when someone shouts out “Oh my–” or abbreviates it “OM-!” in a text message.

Bridling the tongue in both sad times and joyous times is still an essential part of the Christian life. While we DO things that let our faith shine forth, we also need to SPEAK in a way that lets our faith shine forth. Hebrews 11:14 says that there is a speech that let’s people know we belong to the world above. I would also suggest that “Lord willing” is a good phrase that should grace the Christian’s tongue quiet often.

Let us not speak lies or half-truths, let us be kind in our words and not cutting with clever phrases. Let there be no filthiness or foolish talking, or crude jokes, or innuendos but rather let there thanksgiving. (see Eph 5:1-6) I once had a roommate who, while professing to be a Christian (God knows if he was) insisted in using what he called ‘Man language’ (as opposed to the innocent language of boys).  I reject that premise. I think James would too.

Cursing men and praising God with the same tongue? My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

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