The Psalm writer wrote: Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. As we come before a Holy God and hear his word, may we have eyes open to the wonderful and fearful things from his law. May it move us to repent and seek forgiveness, fear disobedience, and live in light of the grace we have received. This is the word of God. It is eternally true and applicable for all of life.
Proverbs 26:21-28 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body. Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross Are burning lips and a wicked heart. He who hates disguises it with his lips, But he lays up deceit in his heart. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred covers itself with guile, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly. He who digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him. A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.
This expression sounds very brave coming out of the mouth of a child being verbally attacked by the schoolyard bully. Yet, everyone who has been on the receiving end of gossip, flattery, slander, or words which kindle strife knows that the sentiment of this quaint little saying is simply not true.
Slanderous words are akin to clubs, swords, and sharp arrows, according to Proverbs 25. Flattering words are like snares (Proverbs 29:5), they work ruin (Proverbs 26:28), and are used by harlots to seduce (Proverbs 7:21).
James tells us: "the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." (James 3:6)
Words can stir up contention, disguise hatred, destroy one's reputation, and be used to deceive. The idea that words may never harm me, is a childish myth which we as Christians would do well to reject. In fact, that is what the mature Christian who loves his brother does:
1 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB95): When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
As Christians, part of loving one another involves doing away with childish things, in this case, the childish, petty behavior of an unbridled tongue. The entire passage of scripture today serves as a sobering reminder for us that storytelling, whispering, slandering, flattery, and kindling strife is destructive. It's destructive in the home. Children, when your parents give you a chore or assignment, grumbling about it will ensure things do not go well with you in the land. It's destructive in the workplace. Repeating titillating morsels of gossip about the coworker you have conflict with serves to tear down a man's reputation and is a violation of the ninth commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness".
It's destructive online. How many conversations which take place on social media result from a prideful arrogance to merely win arguments, hiding behind keyboards, and wind up cutting off conversation and future opportunities to share the gospel with a lost soul? It's destructive in the Church. Want to sow discord within a Church? Complain about "so and so", without ever being willing to go directly to "so and so" with the complaint. Or, merely be the one willing to listen to the stories and the results will be the same: division and no peace within the Church.
I once heard Pastor Spurgeon tell a brief story about a new Pastor at a Church who preached the same sermon over, and over, week after week. Eventually he was approached by a deacon or elder and asked "Why the same sermon? Can't you preach on something else?" His response was "I will preach a different sermon as soon as you hear and obey the one I have been preaching all these weeks." That seems to be the idea behind some of Solomon's proverbs. Verse after verse he masterfully uses the scalpel of Holy Spirit inspired exhortations to warn us of the danger of undisciplined lips. Chapter after chapter he drops reminders for us that our tongues truly are "worlds of iniquity" set on fire by hell (James 3:6).
James 3:9–12 (NASB95): With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh
Brothers and sisters, as we move into this new year, let us resolve to love one another. As the world of unbelievers continues to crumble, may our words be truthful, seasoned with salt, and give grace to those who hear. Where we fall short of this, let us repent and flee to the cross of Christ. May all our speech towards our fellow man in 2021 issue from a heart motivated by love, and not jealousy and selfish ambition. This is the mark of maturity, and will display to unbelievers whose disciples we truly are.
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice
Brothers and sisters, if you are able, let us kneel together and repent of our careless and sinful use of words.
When you spoke in the beginning, you created and gave life. Made in Your image, we are to speak in a way that points others to Your Son, His sacrifice, death, burial, and resurrection.
We are born again to be Your ambassadors, speaking words of truth seasoned with salt to those who are perishing. Yet far too often we use our words to hurt, rather than heal. Far too often we allow jealousies and selfish ambitions to shape our speech, rather than love. Rather than being slow to speak, we feel the need to say whatever comes to mind and in doing so speak rashly and in ignorance. We secretly hate our brothers and sisters, so we entertain slanderous stories of them, allowing the little morsels to slide down smoothly.
Father, please forgive us for our childish, immature, sinful hearts from which all of these unbridled words flow. Please forgive us for itching ears which are quick to consume the stories of a gossip.
Please help us to love one another by speaking truth to one another, and guarding the reputations and honor of our brothers and sisters. It's in Jesus's Name we pray, Amen.
Please join with me in standing and listen to the comforting assurance of the grace of God, promised in the gospel to his church:
2 Peter 1:1-3 To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
To all those who thus repent and seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lift up your hearts!
(From the 12/27/2020 liturgy of Sovereign King Church written by Aaron Sabie.)