Someone once said, “There are three things that will not come back; a sport arrow can not be called back after it leaves the bow; lost opportunities are lost forever; and a spoken word.”
All of us have said things that we regretted as soon as the words left our lips, but once they are out, it is too late. The tongue has done more harm among men than bullets. How sad to spoil a man’s influence, his reputation, etc., just by a spoken word.
James tells us of the power in this little member (James 3:1-10). A small bridle can control a large horse and a small rudder can control a large ship, but “the tongue no man can tame.” The tongue is deadly. It is “an unruly evil,” and “full of deadly poison” (v. 6). It is full of contradictions and inconsistencies (v. 9). It is “a fire” and “full of iniquity” (v. 6). In this article, we want to test ourselves for signs of poison in our mouths. Gossip is a sure sign of this poison.
How do you know if you are a gossiper. Do you associate with gossipers? (Prov. 20:19). Do you spread rumors about others? (I Pet. 3:10; Rom. 11:13) Do you look for good in others and try to say good things about them? (I Cor. 13:4f; Eph. 4:32; Prov. 25:11). Do you encourage others to bring their rumors to you? (Prov. 26:29). Do you keep confidential things confidential? (Rev. 21:8; Prov. 19:9).
Do you ever precede your conversations with, “Now, don’t tell anybody”? Do you like to hear reports of a scandal, or some bad things others have gotten caught doing? (Prov. 26:20; Mark 4:24). Have you ever felt guilty when you talked about other people? (Prov. 18:8). Do you try to “pull” information out of people?
Your answers to these questions should let you evaluate yourself and answer the question, “Am I guilty of gossip, poison in the mouth?”
May I suggest that it would do good for all of us to study the third chapter of James often in our private devotions. Listen carefully to James:
“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh” (James 1:8-13).
When used right the tongue can preach the gospel, encourage the weak, brighten someone’s day, bring joy to the lonely, etc. The choice is ours. Will we use the tongue to gossip? Or will we use the tongue to build up, and encourage? The latter is taught in the scriptures; but in the words of James, concerning the first, “Brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
-Paul M. Wilmoth