Why do we do this?
Unfortunately, we use our tongue “to give thanks to our Lord and Father and also to curse our fellow-man, who is created in the likeness of God.” (James 3:9 GNB)
If I was created in God’s image and likeness, and you were created in God’s image and likeness, and your family, friends, and neighbors were all created in God’s image and likeness, then how do we justify speaking against God’s creations?
Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matt 15:19 NIV) ‘Slander’ and ‘speak against’ mean to be a false witness, be spiteful or malicious, speak evil of, be a talebearer, gossip, be hurtful, and so on. It is speech that is injurious to another’s good name.
Jesus also said, “A good man’s speech reveals the rich treasures within him. An evil-hearted man is filled with venom, and his speech reveals it.” (Matt. 12:35 TLB)
So, what do our tongues reveal? What wiggles its way out of our hearts, tickles our vocal chords, and jumps off the ends of our tongues? Is it the rich treasure of complimenting and encouraging others, or is it the venom of speaking gossip and negativity?
God is very particular about how we treat His body parts, His sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters. Malachi asked, “Don’t we all come from one Father? Aren’t we all created by the same God? So why can’t we get along?” (Mal. 2:10a Msg)
Why can’t we get along? How is it possible to love God and hate Him in others at the same time? How do we not love all parts of Christ’s Body? It would be like this: Do our eyes hate our polished toenails for being prettier? Do our teeth covet the gold in our ears? Are our hands jealous because our feet sport new coverings?
That may sound silly, but when Christ lives in others, they become a part of His body. So how do we not see them as vessels containing His Holy Spirit, unless the snarling monster of self raises its ugly head to block our view?
If we speak against or criticize another, gossiping behind his or her back, we put ourselves in opposition to God’s love and His Word, just as James tells us, “Don’t criticize and speak evil about each other, dear brothers. If you do, you will be fighting against God’s law of loving one another, declaring it is wrong.” (James 4:11a TLB)
If we are not to speak against our Christian brothers and sisters, do we then have free reign to use our words to tear apart the unbelievers? No, of course not. Jesus admonishes us, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34 Life Recovery Bible NLT)
To love is a commandment, not something we choose to bestow only on certain people, when we feel like it. Godly love is an act of the will, not a feeling. If we say we walk in the Spirit, then we walk in love, with everyone, not just a select few.
The Lord once said to me, “Do not wound My Heart by saying unkind things about those I love, things you could not say to their faces.” Wow! We grieve the heart of our precious Lord by what we say about the ones He loves, which includes everyone.
Our love for Christ must hinder us from hurting Him with our criticism, gossiping, and judgment of others, whether vocalized or silent, whether against a believer or unbeliever.
We should be as wise as David when he prayed, “Take control of what I say, O LORD, and keep my lips sealed.” (Ps. 141:3 Life Recovery Bible NLT)
We can neither pass gossip along nor stand and listen while another pours it out. This reminds me of one of Paul’s accounts.
Paul, the worst of all persecutors of Christians, tried desperately to destroy the church. One day, on the Damascus Road, he encountered a blinding light as the Lord surrounded him, and said, “‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting.’” (Acts 9:4-5 NKJV) In persecuting the Christians, Paul had persecuted the Lord Himself.
Before this confrontation, Paul witnessed the stoning of Stephen. As the Jewish leaders took their religious stance, fingers tightly clutching their stones of condemnation, Paul stood there, as one of the crowd, watching, while he held the garments of the other witnesses, making it easier for them to hurl the stones of pharisaical piety that ended Stephen’s life.
Paul had to lose his sight before he could gain his vision. When he encountered the Lord’s blinding presence on that day, he confessed to Him, “When Your witness Stephen was killed, I was standing there agreeing. I kept the coats they laid aside as they stoned him.” (Acts 22:20 Life Recovery Bible NLT)
So, let’s make this a personal application…Is there a stone of judgment or revenge clutched tightly in your hand? Or do you stand holding another’s coat while someone else throws sanctimonious stones or gossip gravel at another person?
I leave you with this thought: Treat all as you would treat Jesus, with love and consideration. Let nothing that others do to you alter your treatment of them.