A pastor who was in a new church found out that he was the subject of some gossip. Word got around that he had a fight with his wife in the town movie theatre and walked out angry. The rumors got so bad that he needed to address them on a Sunday morning. As he stood before the congregation, he explained that the story was untrue for a number of reasons. “First,” he said, “l would never walk away angry from an argument. Second, I would never argue with my wife in public. Third, I don’t go to the movies and so would not be in a cinema. And finally, the rumor isn’t true because I am not even married.”
No one likes to be the subject of gossip or rumor. It’s hurtful and destructive to relationships. We can easily forget how powerful our words are and how much damage can be done by repeating false information.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” James had strong words about the tongue: “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. 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.” (James 3:5-6)
Sharing thoughtlessly, or saying something we shouldn’t, can rupture relationships in the home, the workplace, church and our social networks. As Christians, we must learn to tame the tongue and the potential for misusing it. We need to pray that God will put a guard over our mouth and that we’ll think before speaking. Someone has suggested considering questions like these:
- Is it true? Maybe it is, but is repeating it necessary?
- Is it kind? It may be true about yourself or someone else, but if it will harm another, you have no right to repeat it.
- Is it just? Is it honest, compassionate and with the person’s best interest at heart?
- Is it necessary? Will it do any good and satisfy all the other conditions? Not only is it necessary, but is it necessary for the other person to hear?
A lifetime of friendship and years of trust can be gone in a moment due to careless words. Our calling is to use the tongue to build up and edify those around us. Rather than careless talk or gossip, let’s practice encouragement and offer words of life to one another.