Matt 12:33-37 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
GOOD TREE – BAD TREE
Words have power. It was the word of God that spoke the world into existence and created all living things.
Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made…
Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Our words also have power (and I’m not referring to positive confession here). And so we are told:
Prov 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death…
With our careless words we can build people up or tear them down. We can also build up the kingdom of God or tear it down with our gossip and slander.
Watch your thoughts,
they become your words.
Watch your words,
they become your actions.
Watch your actions,
they become your habits.
Watch your habits,
they become your character.
Watch your character,
it becomes your destiny.
The mouth is the overflow of the heart
James 3:9-12 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Matt 12:33-34 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
OVERFLOW OF THE HEART
You cannot bump a glass of
water and spill poison:
Rom 3:13 “Their throats are
open graves; their tongues
practice deceit.” “The poison
of vipers is on their lips.”
James 3:8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
“Never trust your tongue when your heart is bitter.” - Samuel J. Hurwitt
Jesus is telling us that if poison comes out our mouth, it was in the heart first.
OVERFLOW OF THE HEART
And so we struggle to keep a rein on our tongues, because they are simply an outlet for what is already in our heart.
James 3:2 We all stumble
in many ways. If anyone
is never at fault in what
he says, he is a perfect
man, able to keep his
whole body in check.
James 3:7-8 All kinds
of animals, birds, reptiles
and creatures of the sea are
being tamed and have been
tamed by man, but no man
can tame the tongue…
OVERFLOW OF THE HEART
Three pastors go out for lunch. They decide that they are going to confide in each other and confess their shortcomings.
One asks another, “What is something that you have a problem with?”
The first one says, “Well, I have a secret problem with alcohol. I like to take to the bottle at times.”
The second one says, “My problem is with lust. I desire every woman I see.”
One of them asks the third one, “Well, is there something that you have a problem with?”
The third pastor replies, “I have a terrible problem with gossiping – I battle to keep a secret!”
CONFESSING YOUR SIN
Gossip is similar to slander, but is done in secret. And so gossipers often begin their dialogue with:
“Don’t tell a soul about this…”
“Keep this confidential…”
“Just between you and me…”
“You didn’t hear this
“I don’t mean to be nasty,
but…” (they then
proceed to be nasty)
Gossip originating in Christian circles may take a more subtle
This is simply coming from a heart of concern. I have a prayer request for Felicity, but keep it between the Lord and you.
Gossip often masquerades as “concern” for others. Rumours or gossip will seem more palatable if they first hide behind a pretentious expression of concern. “I hate to say anything about this to you, but I’m ’concerned’ about so and so.” At other times the gossiper will seek you out as their “confidante” to unload their “heavy heart” about their concerns. “I’m very troubled about so and so and I don’t know who else to talk to about it.” In reality, the gossip is not sincerely concerned about solving the problem, only in talking about it -- stirring it up… A gossip thrives on the negative, the controversial, and the sensational. Any person who is genuinely concerned about solving a problem, will go and privately confront the person at the source and express their concern. 1
1 SOURCE: victorious.org/ gossip.htm
Now of course none of us are guilty of ever gossiping. But just in case you know someone who is a gossip, let’s look at it from a Biblical perspective.
Why is it that when we talk about others, it’s discussion, but when they talk about us it’s gossip?
Apparently Joe told Sue that Emily heard from Bill that Anne saw Nancy and Marie and they told her that Stacey was gossiping about us. Can you believe that they have nothing better to do with their time?
We were often told as children, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, don’t say anything.”
But the gossip says, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”
Gossip is motivated by:
Jealousy of what someone else has or does.
Gossip is when you hear something you like about someone you don’t. - Earl Wilson
Peer-pressure: trying to gain acceptance by joining in idle malicious talk about others.
Arrogance and pride: having an attitude that you are better than everyone else and thus they are legitimate objects of scorn and ridicule.
Trying to justify or play down your own weaknesses and failures by highlighting the shortcomings of others. i.e. by running others down you somehow wish to make yourself look better by comparison.
REASONS PEOPLE GOSSIP
Bitterness, resentment and hatred of others. A desire to believe the worst of them.
Psalm 41:7 All who hate me whisper together against me. They imagine the worst for me. (WEB)
Gossip always travels faster over sour grapevines.
Gossip gives people a cheap thrill of superiority by
showing that they have information that others
REASONS PEOPLE GOSSIP
By attacking a person in secret, it is an act of cowardice:
“It is just as cowardly to judge an absent person as it is wicked to strike a defenceless one.” - Lawrence G. Lovasik
We should rather speak to the person directly:
Matt 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
REASONS PEOPLE GOSSIP
Associated with idleness (i.e. people having nothing to do):
1 Tim 5:13 Besides, they get into the habit of being
idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become
idlers, but also
“In small towns,
news travels at
the speed of
REASONS PEOPLE GOSSIP
“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss people.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
REASONS PEOPLE GOSSIP
Now gossip is very enjoyable. It’s nice to talk or hear about others (especially people we dislike) and their failings. Somehow focussing on other’s failures makes us feel better by comparison.
Prov 18:8 The words of a gossip
are like choice
morsels; they go
down to a man’s
what no one
claims to like,
REASONS PEOPLE GOSSIP
But the effects of gossip are immense:
It destroys relationships:
Prov 16:28b … a gossip
separates close friends.
Destroys people’s reputations:
Prov 11:9a With his mouth
the godless destroys his
Samson destroyed 1,000
Philistines with the jawbone
of an ass. Some have destroyed
almost as many reputations
with the same weapon.
“It would have been funny if I had been an observer and not a participant, an idea that gave me a disconcerting insight into gossip. As I walked beside the silent Tamara, I realized that despite how entertaining certain stories were, at the bottom of every item of gossip there was someone getting hurt.” - Sherwood Smith, Court Duel
It destroys those who listen:
“In our appetite for gossip, we tend to gobble down everything before us, only to find, too late, that it is our ideals we have consumed, and we have not been enlarged by the feasts but only diminished” - Pico Iyer
And so, though small, our tongues do great damage:
James 3:3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us,
we can turn
James 3:4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.
James 3:5-6 Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
Often the damage cannot be undone:
“Of all the sins which a human is capable, none is so easy to commit [as back-biting], none so difficult to repair.” - Claude de la Colombiere
Trying to squash a rumour is like trying to unring a bell. - Shana Alexander
And so the story is told of a young Christian man who was always slandering an older fellow Christian.
On hearing that the old man was on his deathbed, he felt remorseful and went to pay him a visit in order to apologise. The old man readily forgave the younger man, but he requested that he grant him a favour.
“Please cut up my feather pillow here, then go to the window and shake all the feathers out into the wind”.
The young fellow thought it was a strange request but gladly obliged. The old man then requested that he came visit him the following day.
When he arrived, the old man said, “I have one last request. Won’t you please go outside and pick up all those feathers and put them back into the pillow-case.”
“But”, protested the younger man, “by now the wind has carried them all away.”
“Yes,” said the old man, “it’s easy to scatter the feathers but almost impossible to get them back.”
So it is with gossip; it doesn’t take much to spread hurtful words, but once you do, you can never completely undo the damage.
How to counteract gossip:
Gossip requires an audience so don’t listen to it:
Prov 26:20-21 Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal
to embers and as
wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man
for kindling strife.
“You cannot stop people’s tongues, and therefore the best thing to do is to stop your own ears and never mind what is spoken.” - Spurgeon
If someone says to you, “Can you keep a secret?” You tell them, “No, I can’t. So don’t tell me!” – Kent Crockett’s Sermon Illustrations, www.kentcrockett.com
Charles Spurgeon (1834-92)
Counteract gossip with positive statements:
Our gossip can tear apart even the closest friends. Make an effort to bring up something good about a person every time that you hear a negative comment and try to
Don’t believe a person who gossips:
“For such is the weakness of human nature, alas, that evil is often more readily believed and spoken of another than good. But perfect men do not easily believe every tale that is told them, for they know that man’s nature is prone to evil, and his words to deception.” - Thomas Kempis
Some people will believe anything if they happen to overhear it. - Kent Crockett's Sermon Illustrations, www.kentcrockett.com
Don’t repeat gossip
Prov 11:13 He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. (NASB)
Prov 11:12 A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbour, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. (NIV)
Don’t betray a confidence in order to make yourself look better or to justify your actions:
Prov 25:9 If you argue your case with a neighbour, do not betray another man’s confidence
Don’t think it’s okay to repeat malicious talk, just because you’re certain it’s true.
“Gossip needn’t be false to be evil – there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.” - Frank Howard Clark
THINK before passing on a story:
T - Is it true?
H - Is it helpful?
I - Is it inspiring?
N - Is it necessary?
K - Is it kind?
Don’t confide in someone who talks too much and too freely – or you may become the target of their gossip:
Prov 20:19 A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.
The gossip… may confide to you secrets or their private concerns about other people. Perhaps in consolement, you may express your half-hearted agreement with their concerns, or you may even be enticed to confide your secret concerns to them. Consequently, the gossip will eventually repeat the process with someone else -- but next time, they will add your name as an endorsement of their private “issue,” and will eventually even disclose the secrets you shared to them. And on and on it goes. 1
1 victorious.org/ gossip.htm
Love and pray for your enemies
Matt 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Prov 17:9 He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
“Notice, we never
pray for folks we
gossip about, and we
never gossip about
the folk for whom
we pray! For prayer
is a great deterrent.”
- Leonard Ravenhill
Love your neighbour as yourself
“If I can enjoy a joke at the
expense of another; if I can
in any way slight another in
conversation, or even in
thought, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.” –
(Amy Carmichael – 20th
century missionary to India)
Gal 5:14-15 The entire law
is summed up in a single
command: “Love your neighbour
as yourself.” If you keep on biting
and devouring each other, watch out
or you will be destroyed by each other.
Before you listen to a gossip remember that whoever gossips with you will also gossip about you.
“The only time people don’t like gossip is when the gossip is about them.” - Will Rogers
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Jesus Christ (Luke 6:31)
Q: What is the difference between gossip and slander?
Gossip is idle chatter, slander is deliberately malicious.
Gossip is in secret, slander is often public.
Slander is the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame or damage another’s reputation. In the legal realm this is referred to as libel or defamation.
Slander is the revenge of a coward, and dissimulation his defence. (Dissimulation is a form of deception in which one conceals the truth or in the case of half-truths, conceals parts of the truth.)
Lev 19:16 Do not go about spreading slander among your people.
1 Pet 2:2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice … and slander of every kind.
Eph 4:31 Get rid of all … slander, along with every form of malice.
Titus 2:3 Likewise, teach the older women … not to be slanderers …
Titus 3:1-2 Remind the people … to slander no one…
Prov 10:18b … whoever spreads slander is a fool.
Do not slander fellow church members or leaders especially in front of unbelievers:
1 Tim 5:19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses
Do not slander your government rulers:
Acts 23:4-5 Those who were standing near Paul said, “You dare to insult God’s high priest?”
Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’”
It’s not our prerogative to judge:
Brothers, do not
slander one another.
Anyone who speaks
against his brother or
judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
There is only one Lawgiver
and Judge, the one who is
able to save and destroy.
But you - who are you to
judge your neighbour?
Slander destroys people
“Slander slays three persons: the speaker, the spoken to, and the spoken of” Hebrew Proverb
Slander destroys churches
“More churches have been destroyed by the accuser of the brethren and its faultfinding than by either immorality or misuse of church funds.” - Francis Frangipane
Slander and gossip are improper for those in positions of leadership. Speaking of deacons, Paul says:
1 Tim 3:11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. (NASB)
Slanderers will be judged by God
Psalm 15:1-3 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbour no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
Psalm 101:5 Whoever slanders his neighbour in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure.
Slanderers will not inherit the kingdom of God
1 Cor 6:9-10 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Rom 1:29-32… They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death…
We must disassociate ourselves from professing Christians who are slanderers:
1 Cor 5:11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
2 Tim 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be … slanderous… having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
Always remember that we will be judged by our words:
Matt 12:36-37 “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
So be gracious, kind and show mercy to others in your speech; one day you’ll require mercy when you are judged:
James 2:2 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
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