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The Power Of The Tongue

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

Everyone loves a story. One of my favorites is about the mischievous endeavors of three young children, Dill, Jem and Scout encounters in their growing up years somewhere in the 1930’s way down in the Deep South. Perhaps you too have read, To Kill A Mockingbird, authored by Harper Lee. I seem to be drawn to this novel once a year and the world stops while I indulge for a day or so.

Mr. Arthur Radley, Boo Radley, to the children, was the primary subject of their imaginings. They set upon a wild assortment of schemes to make the illusive Boo emerge from his home. Neighbors were full of idle, prefabricated stories that fueled the children’s suspicions, and turned, in their minds, Boo into a malevolent phantom who roamed the streets when the moon was high, terrorizing the community by a series of morbid nocturnal events. Local gossip and slander had transported Boo Radley from a quiet, shy, keep-to-himself type of resident, into a perpetrator of every stealthy crime in the County of Maycomb. Boo’s character and reputation had been sullied for life and no-one had even seen or met him!

James 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

It only takes the slander and gossip of one person to set on fire the whole course of another person’s life. Malevolent talk can bring down the ruin of another, damage which may never be reinstated. Our tongue can bless others, but it can be full of deadly poison. The residents of Maycomb brought their unified voices together and the damage caused by their hurtful, slanderous tongues brought about the demise of Arthur Radley.

Proverbs 13:3 He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.

Slanderers set themselves up as judge over others. They delight to bring others down, so they can exalt themselves. But as they raise themselves up with lofty and prideful eyes, God will have His way and bring them down with shame and a humble heart. A dethronement of self and enthronement of God in our lives is the remedy for slanderous talk.

Proverbs 16:27-28 An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire. A worthless man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth close friends.

Harmful language can separate the best of friends and leave scars on our heart forever. Let’s be continually asking ourselves before we speak, is this helpful or hurtful? Is it necessary? Or can it be left unsaid? Relationships are fragile and will only go one way when gossip and slanderous words are thrown about – downwards.

Slander and gossip diminish progress in our relationship with others and with God. Let’s remember that Jesus said in Matthew 12,that one day we will give an account for every word that has left our lips, and that both now and on judgement day, there are consequences for everything we say.

Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Our words are to beautifully adorn ourselves and those we speak to. The importance of well-chosen words is highlighted in this proverb by the comparison of objects of fine and admirable craftsmanship. Are our words finely crafted and admirable? Oh how we need to be speaking what will edify others and bring healing as they leave our lips! The words of a righteous person are like a healing balm and a tree of life bearing good fruit for the recipient.

Let’s be encouraged to weigh up our words. To deliberately think before we speak and consider if what we are saying is really worth saying at all. A fool is easily recognized by his or her abundance of words. And in a multitude of words, therein lies sin.

Slander and gossip are like choice morsels of food that go down into our heart, creating the desire for more. There is only one way to deal with slander either in us or from others – don’t indulge! Deal with it ruthlessly. Deal with it consistently. For those of us who find ourselves letting gossip and slander slip from our mouths, stop pressing our lips together, saying nothing, whilst asking for the Lord’s help. And for those who we meet who enjoy deriding another, we can say lovingly but firmly,” It’s not necessary for me to know about this.”

In Corinthians 5:11 Paul goes so far as to warn the Corinthians to not keep company with a brother or sister in Christ who is a reviler (among a list of other sins). Perhaps Paul knows all too well that ‘one bad apple can bring ruin to an entire barrel.’

Little Scout in the closing lines of To Kill A Mockingbird confesses that when she finally met her Boo Radley and talked with him, she realized that all the gossip was indeed just that – gossip. She found out for herself that Boo had never done those notorious things and that ‘he was real nice.’ We would do well, like Scout, to wisely make our own assessments of others based on our personal experience, rather than the false tales we have foolishly allowed to form our own opinions.

Dear LORD, Creator of all that is good and true and lovely, give me the eyes to see people for who they are, rather than forming judgements and spreading gossip and reviling others when I have not stood in their shoes. Help me to speak what is loving, kind and truthful or else to say nothing at all. Thank You.’

About Jennifer Woodley

Jennifer is an Australian freelance writer who lives in a small rural town in sunny Queensland. She is passionate about encouraging others on their journey with Christ through writing and mentoring. Jennifer is a school chaplain, wife, mother of three adult sons and loving grandma of one adorable grandson. More of her writing can be found at www.inhisname6.com and www.faithwriters.com.

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  1. Excellent Job with this topic Jennifer. So many Christians are faced with this on a daily basis. I’ve several acquaintances that cannot have a conversation without pulling “another person’s personal life” into their thoughts and comments! I always say, “not comfortable with this conversation” and they may get huffed up about it, don’t care…as long as God is happy with me!
    Thanks for posting this important realm of Christianity.
    God Bless you dear friend~

  2. Such a good message sister and such an important one too

  3. Very good article on a much needed admonition. It seems we all have difficulties with the tongue. James 4:2 states that if we can control the tongue, we can bridle the whole body. Thanks for writing this.

  4. Many times gossip starts by thinking false assumptions about others.

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