Dear Brethren in Christ,
Many of us are greatly disturbed by the amount and the increase of evil speaking among us. Homes have been saddened and hearts have been broken by evil reports that seem to spread so easily and so fast among the saints. Would this be the cause of much of our barrenness and confusion and destructive to so much of the joy of Christian fellowship? Would you kindly bring the light of the Word of God to bear upon the evil of an uncontrolled tongue?
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Dear brother W. McG.:
We are afraid that an unsanctified tongue is sadly indicative of an unsanctified heart. We believe most assuredly that this is the cause of much of our sorrow, confusion and impoverishment in the assemblies of God’s people. It is a sad fact that a faculty so noble as speech could be used in the nefarious business of trafficking in the character, reputation and good names of fellow saints. For our warning, I would draw attention to three aspects of the unsanctified tongue in the Book of Proverbs. They are the talebearer, the slanderer and the backbiter.
The talebearer or whisperer: He grasps at every rumour or hearsay and, without waiting to ascertain its truth, begins a self-assumed mission of circulating the injurious report.
Concerning this form of evil speaking the Word of God says, “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the uttermost parts of the belly.” “A talebearer revealeth secrets.” “Where no wood is, the fire goeth out; so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.” There is one positive command that every young preacher (and older ones too) should take to heart, “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people.” He who engages in this dreary mission is running contrary to the Word of God. Another has said solemnly concerning this evil from which so many godly saints suffer, “Thou idle gossiper! travelling from house to house retailing thine unholy wares, trafficking in character, reputation and happiness; thou violator of confidence! Unveiling domestic life within whose sacred precincts unguarded friendship admitted you; thou keen anatomist! Visiting abodes for no other purpose than to dissect the character and the doings of each family — while your own dreads most of all the knife and the probe — what are you but a moral epidemic that walketh in darkness, spreading around you desolation and death, over whom angels might weep and demons do shout and whom every pious and well-regulated mind shuns as it shuns the sting of scorpion or a breath of the plague” (Dr. O. Winslow).
The slanderer: He is not just an idle gossiper, but the inventor or propagator of calumny itself. Does such know that, in destroying a reputation or when staining a good name, he is manifesting the very nature of Satan? The Word of God says, “He that uttereth a slander is a fool,” and “Whose privily slandereth his neighbour him will I cut off.” The one who engages in calumny must be prepared to forfeit his fellowship with God. Slander is clothing malice in words for the purpose of destroying another. I quote from the same writer as above: “Envious of a rival, resolved upon shading the lustre, or bent upon the total extinguishment of a star circling in a wider or brighter orbit than his own, he either coins or gives currency to a lie injurious to the character of a public servant of Christ, or the reputation and happiness of some individual moving in the quiet and unobstrusive walks of usefulness. Is there not death in this unhallowed use of the tongue? no slaying power in that false report, that base insinuation, that cruel surmise, that ‘Soft buzzing slander that eats an honest name’?” Most assuredly! The treacherous moth is not a more insidious and dangerous foe to the beautiful fabric it secretly and slowly destroys, than he whose tongue is sharper than a sword, — ‘Cutting honest throats by whispers’!” It has been truly said that against slander there is no effectual defence. Nothing is easier than to invent a slander, and nothing more difficult than to annihilate it. It generally selects for its victims the most good and worthy, as the birds peck at and destroy the best and the loveliest of the fruit. There is no fouler foe than he who deals in it. Like the Indian, it dips its arrows in deadly poison; like Judas, it betrays the innocent with the kiss of perfidy. Assassination is its employment, the guiltless its victims and ruin its sport. A thousand fall beside it and ten thousand at its right hand, so unmercifully and deeply wounded as often never to recover from the anguish of heart it has occasioned.”
Whose hearts are gall—whose tongues are fire
With souls too base for generous ire—
With swords too keen for noble use—
Whose shield and buckler are abuse.”
The backbiter: He is the one who utters behind backs what he dare not say to the face of the one he seeks to injure. By a shrug of the shoulder, or a nod of the head, he can put one under a cloud of suspicion. What he says has been heard on good authority! By half truths and twisted stories, he seeks to destroy a good name and take away a fair reputation. He is not only a moral coward, but a plague among God’s people in that he separates friends. Such, the Word of God says, shall not abide in God’s tabernacle. Let all such be told that their mission is absolutely distasteful, and their presence unwanted. “As the north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.”
“Poor souls with stunted vision
Oft measure giants by their narrow gauge;
The poisoned shafts of falsehood and derision
Are oft impelled ‘gainst those who mould the age.”
Perhaps, before closing, I should say a little about the wholesome tongue. Both death and life are in the power of the tongue. We have seen its power for death; death to our spirituality, our joy, our peace, our usefulness, our fellowship. Let us view its power for life. “The wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” It reflects the character of the Lord Jesus. The law of kindness is in such a tongue, and there is also dignity for, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” It lifts the fallen and cheers the sad, “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.” “Pleasant words are as the honeycomb;” sweet to all who hear them. They spread sunshine and cheer wherever they go. All marvelled at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth. Oh! to be more like Him, with speech that is with grace, seasoned with salt. O Lord, purify these lips with the coal from the altar of Calvary, that they may speak only what is true, kind, and good, in order that they may speak to edification, to exhortation, and to comfort among Thy people. That they may be a balm to the weary, a cheer to the sad, and a hope to those who are out of the way.
Yours in the Lord,