Monday, August 29, 2016

The crooked speech of gossip


Introduction

God hates sin.

Let me say that again.

God hates sin.

Of course, we know that, but sometimes we let our minds pass over it without thinking more deeply about the fact that God hates sin. Really hates it. Why does God hate sin?
God hates sin because it is the very antithesis of His nature. The psalmist describes God’s hatred of sin this way: "For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You" (Psalm 5:4). God hates sin because He is holy; holiness is the most exalted of all His attributes (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 6:8). His holiness totally saturates His being. His holiness epitomizes His moral perfection and His absolute freedom from blemish of any kind (Psalm 89:35; 92:15; Romans 9:14).
The Bible presents God’s attitude toward sin with strong feelings of hostility, disgust, and utter dislike. For example, sin is described as putrefying sores (Isaiah 1:6, NKJV), a heavy burden (Psalm 38:4), defiling filth (Titus 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:1), a binding debt (Matthew 6:12-15), darkness (1 John 1:6) and a scarlet stain (Isaiah 1:18).
From: GotQuestions, Why Does God Hate Sin? For the rest of the essay, go to link here
If I let my mind do it, I'd be telling myself what a good person I am. Hey, I'm not a serial killer. I'm not a thief. I'm not a rapist. I'm not queer. Hey, I don't do those big sins! I'm pretty good.

Not so much.

I do the "respectable sins". I sure do. According to Jerry Bridges in his book "Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate", respectable sins are the ones we don't repent of, and nobody calls us to account for them. These are the sins we all collude over because we all do them, hence, the tolerating. What are some of these respectable sins? Pride, worldiness, anxiety, impatience, selfishness, gossip...

Am I proud? Yes. Am I selfish? Yes. Do I gossip? Yes. I'm a sinner! A disrespectable one!

Part 1: Sins of the Tongue

We can dispense with the obvious first. Some sins of the tongue are so immediately identifiable as inappropriate that we can and do call the speaker on those. Lewd jokes or using the F-word, especially in mixed company, at work, or worse, at church, are not tolerated.

If you ever read any parts of Proverbs at all, you run up against warnings about engaging in various types of bad speech. There are over 60 different verses addressing poor speech/right speech. There are lots of sins of the tongue besides lewdness and profanity, such as gossip, white lies, critical/harsh words, slander, insults, sarcasm/ridicule.

When Isaiah was given the vision of God on His throne, and He saw the majesty and perfection of our God, what did Isaiah say? I am a man of unclean heart? I am a man of unclean mind? No, though he was a man of unclean heart and mind (as are we). He said,

"Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5)

Where did the angel cleanse Isaiah with the hot coal from the altar? On his breast to cleanse his heart? On his head to cleanse his mind? No. On his lips. Why? McLaren says
The vision kindled as with a flash Isaiah’s consciousness of sin. He expressed it in regard to his words rather than his works, partly because in one aspect speech is even more accurately an act, as it were, of character, and partly because he could not but feel the difference between the mighty music that burst from these pure and burning lips [of the seraphim] and the words that flowed from and soiled his own.
Though we are saturated through and through with sin, our heart, mind, strength and soul are all drenched with impurity and pollution. However, the mouth gives birth to the sin inside us. James said in James 3:10,

And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Sins of the mouth also include hasty words, flatteries, anger. (Prov 29:5, 11, 20). Proverbs warns against hasty words, and James 1:19 advises us to be slow to speak.

Part 2: Gossip

Let's talk about gossip. It might be a 'respectable sin' on earth but God spoke against "sins of the tongue" many times in scripture. Don't be fooled. Gossip is a big sin.

Proverbs 4:24 says,

Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.

And Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible says of the Proverbs 4:24 verse,
Our hearts being naturally corrupt, out of them a great deal of corrupt communication is apt to come, and therefore we must conceive a great dread and detestation of all manner of evil words, cursing, swearing, lying, slandering, brawling, filthiness, and foolish talking, all which come from a froward mouth and perverse lips, that will not be governed either by reason or religion, but contradict both, and which are as unsightly and ill-favoured before God as a crooked distorted mouth drawn awry is before men. All manner of tongue sins, we must, by constant watchfulness and stedfast resolution, put from us, put far from us, abstaining from all words that have an appearance of evil and fearing to learn any such words.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29).

Only such as good for building up...how many times do we fail at speech that is solely for the other person's good? How many times even in church do we gossip?

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

Whisper campaigns can be devastating. Sometimes a Christian doesn't mean to spread tales or doesn't know the tales are untrue. It's still sin. Sadly, other times, people deliberately whisper against others, even those who sit in the same pew. Whisper campaigns are-
-a method of persuasion in which damaging rumors or innuendo are spread about the target, while the source of the rumors seeks to avoid being detected while spreading them. Wikipedia



Part 3: The Solution

In returning to the moment when Isaiah realized the magnitude of his sin, and how it's expressed via his lips, McLaren says,
The next stage in Isaiah’s experience is that sin recognised and confessed is burned away. Cleansing rather than forgiveness is here emphasised. The latter is, of course, included, but the main point is the removal of impurity. It is mediated by one of the seraphim, who is the messenger of God, which is just a symbolical way of saying that God makes penitents ‘partakers of His holiness,’ and that nothing less than a divine communication will make cleansing possible. It is effected by a live coal. Fire is purifying, and the New Testament has taught us that the true cleansing fire is that of the Holy Spirit. But that live coal was taken from the altar. The atoning sacrifice has been offered there, and our cleansing depends on the efficacy of that sacrifice being applied to us. 
We're warned to put to death our sin. (Colossians 3:5). And yet, I don't. I don't regularly kill people, but I readily kill their character, name, or reputation through gossip, thoughtlessness, or hasty words. Daily I pray for strength to speak words that only build up. Every day I fail. Given the numerous verses which warn about gossip or other poor speech it seems that this particular sin is important to God for us not to commit. I continue in my pursuit of good speech.

I can console myself that several of the heroes of the Bible were caught up in the sin of gossip and complaining and tale-bearing.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. (Numbers 12:1-2)

But it is no consolation at all. The second part of this verse says, And the LORD heard it. Gulp.

In 1 Timothy 3:3, the passage outlining qualifications of overseers, the candidates are warned not to be quarrelsome. Matthew Henry has explained the word quarrelsome,
He must be patient, and not a brawler, of a mild disposition. Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, is so. Not apt to be angry or quarrelsome; as not a striker with his hands, so not a brawler with his tongue; for how shall men teach others to govern their tongues who do not make conscience of keeping them under good government themselves? Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible
Isn't that a good insight? A brawler with the tongue. One who can govern his or her tongue is worthy to lead.

The solution:

--Remember, the LORD hears it.

--Let us confess our sin of gossip and tale-bearing when we do stumble.

--Adhere to the verse which admonishes that we should sanctify our lips by only allowing good speech such as for building up.

--Repeat

The Conclusion

There is an obscure prophecy in Zephaniah. At the end of time at the conversion of all the nations, the Lord promises that,

"For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord."

Interpreters are divided as to exactly what this will mean. Does the pure speech refer to one language, as prior to the dividing of the peoples at the Tower of Babel when God confused the languages? Some think that this verse promises a reversal of the confusion of multiple languages and a return to one language, whether that possibly will be Hebrew, or not.

Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary explains,
turn to the people a pure language—that is, changing their impure language I will give to them again a pure language (literally, "lip"). The confusion of languages was of the penalty sin, probably idolatry at Babel ... The full restoration of the earth’s unity of language and of worship is yet future, and is connected with the restoration of the Jews, to be followed by the conversion of the world. Compare Isaiah 19:18; Zechariah 14:9; Romans 15:6, "with one mind and one mouth glorify God." The Gentiles’ lips have been rendered impure through being the instruments of calling on idols and dishonoring God (compare Ps 16:4; Ho 2:17). Whether Hebrew shall be the one universal language or not, the God of the Hebrews shall be the one only object of worship. Until the Holy Ghost purify the lips, we cannot rightly call upon God (Is 6:5–7).
Yet others think the verse in Zephaniah means less the literal 'one language' theory as a pure lips to call upon God once again interpretation. (As Adam and Eve did before the Fall.)
Instead it means the renewal of once-defiled speech. One’s lips represent what he says (the words spoken by his lips), which in turn reflect his inner life (cf. Isa. 6:5–7). The nations, formerly perverted by the blasphemy of serving idols, will be cleansed by God for true worship. As a result the nations, turning to reverential trust in God, will call on the name of the LORD and will evidence their dependence on Him by their united service (shoulder to shoulder). In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures
What a blessing to have only blessing come from our lips! As James said above, blessing and cursing from the same mouth? It is not right! Yet there will be a day when only blessing will emerge from our glorified lips, no inner stain to pollute pure worship and the name of the Lord as we vocally call hallelujah upon Him. And the LORD will hear it.




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Further Reading

The Sin of Talking Too Much


2 comments :

  1. For many years I was a gossiper and a slanderer. I know some of it stemmed from trying to make myself look good by making others look bad. I could make people laugh with my witty scathing comments, so there was some positive feedback involved. But when I'd read in the bible that gossip and slander were sin...well, at first I ignored it. But God wouldn't let me off the hook, and I grew increasingly uncomfortable speaking badly of others. One day I was talking to a friend about a mutual friend when right in the middle of my story I stopped and said, "I really shouldn't be saying this." I was convicted of my sin. I prayed and asked God for forgiveness. I prayed for Him to guard my tongue from unkind speech. And while I haven't been perfect, I can honestly say it's a rare occasion that I speak ill of someone; rather, I say nothing at all. And when I do give in, I feel an awful sense of guilt.

    One thing God made me aware of is that speaking badly of someone is like slaying them. Not physically, but I was slaying their reputation, affecting how others viewed them, and, if they would know what I said about them, it would slay their spirit. This became very clear one time when I was talking to a close friend about an annoying co-worker, and I heard myself say, "I shouldn't be saying this. If you'd ever meet this person, your opinion of them would be prejudiced against them because of my words." If I truly love my neighbor, I am not going to gossip about or slander him or her but rather build them up.

    Gossip and slander are not 'soft' sins, and I praise God that he has delivered me from them.

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  2. I needed this. A week ago. I have learned that even those allegedly older and wiser in the faith who should know better can stumble in an instant. We can think we are above tale bearing. But even the steadfast can loose her tongue in a moment of self-righteousness.

    I am so thankful that God is quick to forgive. Even confessed and forgiven gossip can do devestating harm though. That is why we are warned so poignantly in His Holy Word to be holy and guard against this sin.

    We can only pray and ask for grace and forgiveness from others once we confess and repent, and know He uses all things for His glory.

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