Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Tongue

Don’t You Know What They’re Saying About You?

Gossip is bad. If you disagree, it’s probably because you’ve never been on the receiving end of it. It stings, wounds, and separates close friends.

Scripture testifies to the reality of our experience:

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. (Proverbs 11.13)

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. (Proverbs 16.28)

So gossip is bad. What can make it go away?

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. (Proverbs 26.20)

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When there’s no whisperer, there is no wood for the fire. The trouble, of course, is that there’s more than just wood necessary for a fire. You need oxygen and a spark. And with gossip, you need not just a whisperer, but someone to whisper to. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

We all know that we should not participate in gossip (speaking or listening). But it’s hard to stop when it starts! We can talk about godly gossip and various other methods of extinguishing the flame of gossip, but when it comes down to it, in the moment, gossip can be very appealing to our fleshly appetites.
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Godly Gossip?

What the Bible Says about Gossip

Can gossip ever be godly? Certainly not by the standard definition of the word. Here’s a quick glance at some of the proverbs about gossip:

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. (Proverbs 20:19)
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered (Proverbs 11:13)
A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

What is so evil about gossip? It springs from a heart of competition; the gossiper desires people to think more of them than what they think of the person being gossiped about. Gossip is evil because it runs down those who are not present to defend themselves. Rather than speaking what is good for building up, it actually tears down. It gives us reason to think less of the person being talked about.

Could Gossip Be redeemed?

But what if the desire were reversed? And what if the effect was reversed? Could there be a godly form of gossip? Could we find a way to speak of those not present in a way that would honour their God and edify those who hear?

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Social Media and Temptations to Sin

Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, the list is endless and growing. The options and opportunities for engaging in online social media are legion. To be sure, as Tim Challies points out in The Next Story, technology is not in and of itself either good or bad. Christians must engage deliberately and discerningly in an effort to redeem the opportunities afforded by living in the age we do.

It must be stressed again, however, that this engagement must be thoughtful. If we say, ‘I just like it’ and then go full-steam, headlong into the world of facebook, twitter, or whatever, we will be setting ourselves up for disaster.

Here are just a few of the immediate temptations we need to be aware of that come hand-in-hand with participation in social media:

Better to Say Something Than Nothing

All social media experts (and SEO folk for you bloggers) will tell you that dead air is death. You’ll lose your drawing power and your readership if you don’t post frequently.

Now, of course, when they say that, they mean ‘post something good frequently.’ But most of us are not Tim Challies (who has now blogged for 2,839 consecutive days). We simply cannot produce good content that regularly. So, we just post something rather than nothing.

But consider:

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Prov 17.28)

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov 10.19)

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Prov 13.3)

Instant Broadcast of Words

Status updates, comments, replies, recommendations, text messages, ‘instant’ messages from your phone, tablet, or other mobile device… they all hang on the notion of communicating in a flash. But your words, once published, are permanent.

But consider:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Prov 18.2)

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Prov 18.13)

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Prov 29.20)

Confusing Talking (Typing?) with Doing

When using social media for just causes we can think that we’re actually accomplishing something meaningful. More often than not, however, we’re just placating our own consciences and rallying people who already agreed with us. The temptation here can be to think that we’re doing when all we’re really doing is talking.

But consider:

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Prov 14.23)

The Disembodiment of the Medium

Online we function as much as ‘avatars’ as we do real people. We can create and live in any persona we so choose. There are many downsides to that. One of them is that we tend to look at other people as disembodied avatars as well. We can be tempted to denounce things much more strongly and put people down much more absolutely when they are just an image on a screen rather than the image of the living God standing right in front of us.

But consider:

… no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3.8-10)

The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. (Prov 16.21) {Note: Emphasis mine. Isn’t it interesting how so many people who prize discernment really aren’t all that big on sweetness of speech?}

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. (Prov 18.6)

Friends, Followers, and Feed-Readers

Much of what happens in the social media world is measured by some kind of ‘analytics.’ Friends in Facebook, followers in Twitter, subscribers in the blog-world, etc. It is tempting to measure our success by how many people ‘like’ what we write or ‘retweet’ what we post. We can find value in having people follow us, becoming our ‘online disciples’ of sorts.

But consider Jesus’s description of the Pharisees who set themselves up as teachers:

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matt 23:5-12)

In All That We Do…

In all that we do, whether we eat or drink tweet or blog, let us do so to the glory of God, carefully considering:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Prov 18.21)

Any more?

Have you noticed more temptations to sin using social media? What other Scriptures are relevant?

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