In our house, we sometimes talk about the kinds of speech that are appropriate and inappropriate between family members. We recognize that we can be open and honest with each other, and in that vulnerability, we also admit that we can sometimes wound each other deeply. Choices as simple as tone, inflection, and word choices can quickly turn a bit of fun banter into a deluge of misunderstanding, betrayal, and broken trust. In it all though, we recognize that there is no place for sharing loving truth, sometimes even tough truth, like your own family.
As I was thinking about this, I realized that many times, the family of God has this completely backwards. We talk about each other, not too each other. We cloak our criticisms in the garb of concerns, and expose the hypocrisy of our hearts by the “sharing of prayer requests”. We find it easier to go talk to people who will share our concerns, as if some sympathetic clucking will be more effective than actually addressing the concerns directly with the people involved. We use the excuse that we want to be loving to avoid speaking truth into the lives of others. More than an excuse, its a
COPOUT. SIN. HERESY. DELUSION.
You see, we forget what God’s word teaches us. We forget that any speech that tends to tear down another person (Shamefully, my own as well sometimes), whether it is someone we are talking about, or somewhat we are talking to is in fact, sinful speech. Read Proverbs if you don’t agree with me, you will find more than 60 warnings against the sins of the tongue. Then read Matthew 12:36.
This is serious. Eternal destiny serious. Sin.
Matthew 12:34 tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”- meaning that when we talk about sins of the tongue, our real problem is our hearts. Behind all of our shameful and belittling gossip, critical speech, insults, slander and sarcasm is our sinful heart. As Jerry Bridges says, “the tongue is the only instrument that reveals what’s in our hearts”.
It tends to feed our sinful ego, as the information that we usually pass along is negative. It makes us feel self righteous compared to the target of our “attack”. We tend to slander as well, that is, misrepresent someone to damage their reputation.
Now, before you think I’m painting with a brush that’s 12 inches too wide, think about this in the context of Christian slander. We slander whenever we ascribe wrong motives to people, even though we can’t see their hearts or know their real circumstances.
We slander when we say another believer is not committed because they don’t practice the same things the same way we do, or engage in the same Christian activities that we do. Most importantly, we slander when we misrepresent someones position on an issue without taking the time to actually talk to them to determine what their position actually is.
Sadly, we slander and gossip many times because its first, easy, and secondly, a timesaver. It is much easier to assume the worst about someone and discuss it with your group of friends than it is to actually take the time to invest in building a relationship with them to determine the motives of their hearts.
This tendency should force us all to ask one question that can set our relationships with and the way we talk to others in a proper Biblical context. Using Ephesians 4:29 as our measuring stick, we see that what we say should only be “that which is good for building up, as fits the occasion, as it may give grace to those who hear”. This tells us that there is a question we must ask ourselves before we speak about or to one another in our church family (and elsewhere for that matter). That question simply is “Will what I’m about to say tear down or build up the person I’m about to talk about?
If the answer is no, we need to learn to stop talking about and start talking to.
Anything else is sin.
Sin is that which keeps us from the presence of God, both now and in eternity.
Simply put, what you say matters. Choose well, chose wisely.