Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gossip: Part Two

If you haven't read yesterday's post, I hope that you'll do so before continuing with this post, as it serves as a background for the things we'll be looking at today.

This topic has been tough for me, and has stepped on every single one of my toes already. Today's post is proving to be no different. So, let's all put on our steel-toed boots (or flip flops, since we could all use for our toes to be stepped on every now and then) and get to studying!

We left off in Proverbs, so that's exactly where we'll start back. Let's start with Proverbs 15:2:
"The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness." 
Gossip is using knowledge in a foolish way. Just because you know something about someone doesn't give you the right to share it with others. Now, I have heard quite a few people weigh in on gossip and say that anytime you say anything about another person, it is gossip. I can't say that I agree with that. I think that a lot of the problem with gossip goes back to intent. Now don't get me wrong: you CAN be sinning and you CAN be gossiping while you're talking about someone in a "good" way--sharing information you were meant to keep private, etc. Generally speaking, though, our speech turns into gossip (aka sin) when the intent is bad. Let me try to explain that using an illustration:

If I am deeply concerned for an individual's soul, and they are doing things that are hurting the church or hurting themselves or hurting others (or all of the above!), I don't believe I am gossiping if I tell my husband (preacher) about it and/or the elders (overseers) about it. If I took that same information to the person sitting next to me on the pew and said, "Did you hear they're doing this??"--Gossip. But if I am looking for a way to help an individual's soul, I don't feel it's gossiping, so much as I am taking it to the people who can help--and limiting it to that. If we EVER start sharing information that isn't ours to share to simply fill empty air or awkward silences, it seems to be gossip. If we find ourselves sharing information to puff ourselves up or make ourselves feel better about the planks sticking out of our own eyes, it is most definitely gossip--and a heart problem.

If you are having a tough time distinguishing whether or not you're gossiping, a simple way to gauge your speech would be to use the Proverbs 12:18 rule:
"There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health."
Is your speech going to cut someone down (pierce like a sword) or make the hearer AND person you're talking about better (promote health). Those we talk to and about should be made better by the words we use. If they aren't, we probably shouldn't be saying it.

Think about what Proverbs 25:23 has to say:
"The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue an angry countenance."
If the way we use our tongues is going to cause our brother to be angry and stumble, why would we ever say it? We are not to do or say things that we cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble, so don't use your words to make them angry and lead them into temptation.

Provers 21:23 says this:
"Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles."
This is probably something we all want: to be kept from trouble. Paul said that we are to do all that we can to be at peace with all men (Rom. 12:18). If we will GUARD our mouths and our tongues, we are more likely keep ourselves at peace. Why do we fret and complain and cry when people don't like us and don't trust us and talk badly about us--when we gossip about them regularly? Aren't we inviting trouble upon us because we aren't guarding our mouths?

I also find it interesting that it says 'guards' his mouth and tongue. It isn't something you do automatically. No, your mouth and your tongue have to be guarded. You have to constantly be on top of things, keeping your mouth from releasing information it shouldn't. But wait! What if my mouth has to be guarded from nasty, ugly things that might slip out? What if I am having to guard my lips from uttering a curse word when I accidentally bump my toe? What if someone cuts me off in traffic and I have to keep myself from yelling out in rage? Is that what this is talking about?? I don't think so.

I think that's what Luke 6:45 is talking about:
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."
It is hard to guard a mouth that has an ugly heart behind it. One of the scary things about studying gossip is that it doesn't just reveal a problem with our speech, it reveals a problem with our hearts. Why am I struggling with sharing ugly things about others? Why do I struggle with wanting to spread hurtful things? Could it not be that the heart behind the words is thriving off of the ugly, hurtful things? If our hearts were pure, our mouths would be pure. If our mouths aren't pure, our hearts aren't. 

We must purify our hearts so that we can purify our speech. If we don't rid our hearts of ugly, evil things, our speech will still be ugly and evil--filled with gossip, backbiting, and all sorts of other hurtful things. Another reason we must purify our hearts is because it is only the pure in heart who will see God (Matt. 5:8). We cannot expect a home in heaven if we were bashing God's children the entire time we were on the earth. Heaven is a place of comfort, of peace, of happiness; it is not a place of sorrow or crying (Rev. 21:4). Why, then, would people who have spent their lives causing others pain and sorrow expect to be there one day? We must all strive to control our tongues. James told us it would be extremely difficult to tame the tongue, but it is imperative for the child of God to spend themselves trying to achieve it.

Let's close with a look at the Virtuous Woman. In Proverbs 31:10-31 we see the picture of a woman that all daughters of God strive to be like. This is what is said of this beautiful, spiritual woman in verse 26:
 "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness."
May we all strive to be that kind of person; only having on our tongues the law of kindness.

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