When 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?
This post is not to try and tell you what gossip is, the purpose is to ASK what gossip is. I want your definition. When you read this, please take a moment and jot down a comment, even if it is half a thought. I am going to be preaching a sermon (or two) on gossip and want to see what others think about it.
Let me start with this: In First Corinthians, Paul starts off telling the Corinthians that he has heard bad things about them and he names Chloe’s house as the source of that information. Question: Why was that not gossip?
No, I am not accusing Paul of gossip. I am convinced that it was not and have my thoughts on why but would like yours.
Lord willing, in a few weeks, I will have a lesson together and yes, I will share! 🙂
Thanks in advance for any comments left here or on Facebook.
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.
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?
This post by Steve Higginbottham is well worth reading and sharing. James, indeed, would have taken the brethren to task for an uncontrolled Facebook comments had he written in this century. Happy Reading.
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (Jas 5:12)
People have a tendency to swear and boast when they are expressing the seriousness and intention which they have in accomplishing some object. “I swear i will do this or that”, ” I swear on my mother’s grave that what I am saying is the truth”, or perhaps:
Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” (Mat 26:33)
Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. (Mat 26:74)
No one would no better the advice James gives than Peter would but we all fall into the trap of promising more than we can deliver.
I know that some use this passage as a reason not to take the oath to tell the truth in court. I don’t think the context here supports that use of it. In fact, the Yes, Yes and No, No might be more akin to what you promise to do anyway. There should be know need to promise to tell the truth if you always tell the truth. Of course, people don’t so if they are caught in a lie, perjury charges result.
God doesn’t need to result to perjury charges, we have all bitten off more than we can chew or let our eyes fill our plate with more than our stomach can handle. We have assured people of things that we had no intention of fulfilling and also have assured people of things we had not ability to guarantee we would fulfill.
When a bank lends you money to buy a house, the house stands good for the money owed. You promise in effect to pay the note or return the house. Most of our ‘swearing’ doesn’t even offer a tangible collateral and so we put ourselves in jeopardy by promising what we cannot promise. James refered to this in chapter 4 by saying that we should say “If the Lord wills, we will both live and…” fulfill this promise or that one.
When you promise something and do not fulfill it, it is a mar on your character and God’s. We should be slow to speak and that would include slow to promise but when you promise something be humble about it. If you cannot do a certain something with reasonable certitude then don’t take it on. When you do take it on, don’t give false hopes as to its finish. It is always important to verify both the expectations that another person has and your ability to promise to do something. If you promise, then do it. Don’t had oaths and lofty words to your speech, just say “yes” or “no”
Jas 4:14-16 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (15) Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
Yesterday we just looked at the problem with making plans for the future as if that future was already a done deal. Certainly planning to go somewhere and profit is a reasonable exercise. No one builds a tower without counting the cost but to do so without considering God in the equation is not a smart thing to do, nor, dare I say, is it a Christian thing to do.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (psalms 127:1)
Today, we consider plans from the perspective of “what is your life?” For time-bound mortals, we generally have a pretty self-absorbed opinion of ourselves. Jesus said We can’t even make one hair white or black, and he wasn’t talking about L’Oreal or Grecian formula. We really cannot do anything that will give us a significantly longer life and yet we walk around as if we have all the years in eternity.
James tells us that our life is an exceptionally, inordinately, undeniably, very, super short in duration event. Have you ever seen the fog in a valley sit there in the morning and burn off? In a couple of hours it is gone. By the next day, it is a question: “Do you remember that fog yesterday?” A year later, the duration of that fog means so little as to simply be a phenomenon rather than a significant event. Something that happens from time to time but does nothing to change or effect the valley in any way.
We should never think that even if were to gain the whole world, that we have a significant lasting effect on the world.
The rich man in Luke 12 grew a great crop and was going to retire for years. He planned to build big barns to store everything in and take it easy. Yet God called him a fool. Why? He was going to die that evening. Of what value was all that wealth to him then? None! Jesus said we must be rich toward God.
James is not saying that a business man can’t plan for the future but these guys were boasting in their arrogance. Just look what happened to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4. It is arrogant when you can’t control all the events to think that it will all work out for you. Besides, all that is temporal earthly stuff, it will not be of value to you in the life to come.
“Lord willing” is a phrase that we do not hear much today. We are more likely to say “if the sun comes out and the creek don’t rise.” Christians have a way of speaking and it should be apparent to all. There is a humility in “Lord willing” it says “I don’t know everything but I trust that God does. Win or Lose, I will serve the Lord.”
I seriously doubt that Joseph knew he would not be coming home for dinner before his brothers sold in to Egyptian bondage, nor do I think Daniel knew how God would help him as he bravely decided to eat only what was proper for the Jews to eat. Yet, I can see in their lives and in their words, you can see the “Lord willing” attitude.
I would challenge you to add the phrase “Lord willing” to your vocabulary more. It will no doubt sound strange and we should not go overboard (I guess it can be done) to the point of making it meaningless. However, I think you will find that your attitude will say it even when your words don’t if you get in the practice of letting your plans be “Lord willing.”
And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:18
When I was about 13 or so, we had a garden. I learned two things in the couple of years that we had that garden. The first thing I learned was that, sometimes gardening is fun but mostly, it is hard work.
The hard work is not in the planting of the seeds, although it does take some effort to do that. Some seeds you can just place on the top of the soil and it works out ok, several, like corn you have to bury a little ways down. No, the hard part in gardening is not the sowing; it is the preparing of and the tending to the garden. Anyone can scatter seed and some of the seed will grow but not generally enough to outpace the weeds, animals, and what little you have that grows will not be that great, that tasty, that worth it.
The second thing I learned was that no matter how much I might want peas, if I planted carrots, I would get carrots. I would not get peas. You reap what you sow, and depending on how you tend to that garden, you may not reap much.
In life, we are always sowing and reaping. If we sleep late, we miss the interview and the job. If we study hard, we get a good grade. If we don’t save money, we have none in retirement. If we sow to the flesh, we shall reap the flesh; if we sow to the Spirit we shall reap the Spirit. God is not mocked (Gal 6:7-9)
James says that a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace. If you sow righteousness, you will reap righteousness. We should go about our business. We should tend to our garden. By preparing and weeding and watering it, the harvest will result. A man busy in the responsibilities of his own life will not have so much time to get involved in the affairs of another. He will neither take the time to judge him, nor meddle, nor gossip, nor quarrel. In other words, there is peace not war. Righteousness can be sown and harvested.
Since James did not write in chapters, verses, or paragraphs, I would ask the question: Which chapter does this verse go with? Let’s have it work double duty and go with both. Perhaps it is a transition between the thoughts of chapter 3 and 4.
First, if a person wants to be a teacher so badly, let him control his tongue, which also means his heart, the garden of his life in which his fruit (good or bad) grows. Gossip, slander, anger will not promote peace and without peace, righteousness cannot be sown, nor will it be harvested. Such incorrect uses of the tongue show that a person truly is not wise because, if a person can’t see those weeds in his own garden, how can he see clearly to pull the weeds in a brother’s garden. Besides, if you are so busy tending to your own garden, preparing, weeding, watering, you will be too busy to even notice when people are admiring your abilities and wanting to learn from you.
Second, the next chapter is going to show the problems this group of Christians had. There was fighting and jealously and overall, just a basic misunderstanding of the way God will work in their life. There was no peace. Certainly, no peace with God; they still wanted to be friends with the world. Their prayers were not answered. If you want to be righteous people, and more importantly, if you want people in the world to be able to see your good works (and glorify God), you need to learn how to get along. Not just with each other, but with God.
But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. (Jas 3:8-12)
Perhaps this should be a warning to us. I honestly have to ask if it the case that man cannot tame the tongue or chooses not to tame the tongue. It probably makes little difference in the long run; the fact is that we need to bring even the tongue under control and by doing so, we bring ourselves under control.
God’s word offers us many instructions on the proper use of the tongue. We, of course, have to be willing to put it into practice. Again, we see the need to have action in our walk of faith. We need to bring the “want to” into line with The Faith. “So speak and so act as those to be judged by a law of liberty.” (James 2:12)
That the tongue is full of poison and can cause lots of destruction was discussed in the last post. In this one, James gives us an example of the characteristics that the tongue has: Inconsistency, hypocrisy and even a lack of love.
Here James gives us an example of a great truth: You cannot Love God if you do not love your neighbor. This time he shows it by the improper use of the tongue. Who is your fellow man? A soul created in the image of God. In the case of those who are Christians, he is a saved soul and an heir of the promises of God (2:5), in the case of the unsaved; he is a lost soul in need of the Gospel (words of Good news-not curses).
James is astonished. All this comes from the same mouth: Blessings and Cursings? A question you might hear asked after a profanity laced tirade is “Do you kiss your wife with that mouth?” or something like it. James says these things “ought not” to be. “Ought” carries with it idea of moral requirements. Phrases like ‘speaking out of both sides of your mouth” or “forked tongue” all hold the idea of a tongue that says one thing one time and different the next time.
Even nature shows this principle. In Ashland, Oregon there is a park called Lithia. There are drinking fountains there that tap into the sulfur/mineral water at Lithia Park. When I lived there during my 3rd grade school year, I would go there for a drink (it was a novelty) and the water was always awful. Every time I tried it, it tasted the same-an awful mineral taste. It never changed. You couldn’t go one day and get sweet refreshing cool water and the next day rancid, sulfur tasting water.
After 20 years, I went back for a visit. I went to try the water (the inner child calling I suppose) and guess what? It was just as awful. It hadn’t changed. In the same manner, you don’t go out to the grape vines and pick figs, nor collect olives off of a fig tree.
What God has created has a purpose. The tongue was created by God and has a purpose too. When used for its purpose God receives Glory. Things that are good to do with the tongue are praise God, bless others, encourage others and speak words of grace seasoned with salt. Speaking truth in love is what we are supposed to do. We are to speak in the name of the Lord, speak forth the oracles of God.
When things are not used for the purpose God made them problem result. In the case of the tongue, we have corrupted it’s purpose. We ought not to turn what God has meant to be used for good into a tool for tearing people down: Gossips, slanders, curses, words that tear down and don’t build up. Paul tells us
“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,” (Col 3:8-9)
Question: Since James started out this chapter by talking about teachers, how does this section of tongue use apply to them?
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (Jas 3:5-8)
Forest fires are started with very small fires. It doesn’t take a lot to ignite fuel that is there and in some cases fuel is not prone to burn. Fire is an interesting entity. I do not have the experience of being a fire fighter but I am told that fire creates its own weather. Things change inside of a fire and even once it appears to be out, it can flair up again.
Understanding that it doesn’t take much to get a forest fire going helps us understand James’ metaphor (or is it an “analogy”) that the tongue is a fire. The ability of the tongue to set ablaze a great ‘forest’ is not one that we have to much doubt about. Experience itself, will confirm by the time you are 12 that if you use your tongue for gossip or slander that you can create a whole world of hurt, not just for yourself but for others.
Gossip can stir up many problems and even separate the best of friends. (Prov 16:28) Those that gossip become involved in saying things that they ought not to say. (I tim 5:13) The trouble with Gossip is that it is so hard to define. “But it’s true!” says the Gossip. However, “true” doesn’t make it “not gossip” nor does it make it tame. Great problems are caused that way.
James says the tongue is a world of unrighteousness. A “world” of unrighteousness! Think about that. In Matthew 15:18-20 shows us that the mouth pulls things out of our heart. That heart, is ours, no one can ‘see’ it (save God) and within that heart exist all sorts of things: evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. That is quite a list! If it is true that each mind is a world, then James has just said ours is full of unrighteousness.
I should note that I don’t think that James is saying that our world is totally filled with unrighteous, obviously being washing in Christ sanctifies us, but as we all know, the temptations still continue, originating from our own desires and we better not use our tongue to say “God is tempting me.” (1:13f) It is when the tongue is not managed that we create the largest problems.
James also says that the tongue is set on fire by Hell. I think James is using this, also as a metaphor for the temptations that we face; temptations that we properly associate with demons. How many times have we spoken out of wrath or envy or pride? More times than I care to count!
Controlling the tongue is not an easy thing to do. In fact, we have better luck taming wild animals that can tear us limb from limb than we do the tongue which can cut a person to shreds in a moment! Once said, it can’t be taken back. The poison that a tongue can unleash will spread and not only creates enemies but destroys friendships.
When I think about the tongue of man, I can’t help but compare it to the tongue of God. God spoke and the world came into existence. Our words also create a world. When you speak well to friends, spouses, family your world is at peace, when you don’t…Well, we have all seen THAT family!
Question: In regards to Gossip, does anyone have a good definition that they like?
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!