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 body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Do you know what the word "devil" means? Most Christians do not. We tend to think of "devil" as the proper name for Satan, but it is not. In fact, neither is Satan. Satan is a Hebrew word used in the Old Testament to refer to the Devil and it means "adversary." The New Testament refers to him by the Greek word "devil" which means "false accuser or slanderer."* Simply put then, the Devil is our adversary who falsely accuses and slanders us (see Job1:1-2:6 & Revelation 12:10).
It is little wonder then that our Heavenly Father is not pleased when His children do the Devil's job for him. When we attack, slander, and falsely accuse one another in the church, He is not pleased. We are commanded to love on another. In fact, we are to be known by our remarkable love for one another. So gossip and slander have no place in the lives of God's children. Why kindle such a raging fire in the church? As the above passage indicates, blessing and cursing should not proceed from the same mouth.
However, I have found that, at times, it can be difficult to determine exactly what constitutes gossip. Some have suggested that we simply not talk about other people at all. However, this leaves us either talking about ourselves all the time or with nothing to talk about. Thankfully, there is a better way. I once heard a sermon from Alistair Begg in which he defined gossip as "the unhelpful repeating of stories about the wrongs and offences of others."** This is a simple enough rule. Don't repeat your brother's lowest moments. Don't attempt to make him look bad. Proverbs 17:9 says, "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Choose to cover over the offenses of your brother's and sister's in Christ. Forgive! Don't create division by repeating the matter over and over again. As a child of God you should bless and encourage your siblings in the faith, not revile and persecute them.
For further reading...
- Job1:1-2:6- Check out how the Devil lived up to his name in the book of Job.
- I Corinthians 4:12-13- Follow the apostles' example when responding to slander.
- Revelation 12:10- The devil is the accuser!
*The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
** "Saying No to Slander" preached on October 21, 2007.