In this sermon, Pastor Babij looks again at the ninth of the Ten Commandments (“You shall not bear false witness”), focusing on gossip as a form of lying. Pastor Babij explains three important truths from Scripture about gossip:
1) The gossip’s character
2) The gossip’s motive
3) The results of gossip
Pastor Babij shows from Scripture that the Lord hates gossip. Pastor then gives several key applications for Christians:
• Avoid all unwholesome words
• Practice edifying communication
• Ask yourself questions before speaking
• Learn the positive power of the tongue
The best use of Christian’s words is to give the good news of the Gospel.
Let’s take our Bibles this morning and turn to Exodus. We’re going to be parking most of the time this morning in Proverbs, as I am fleshing out the implications of the Ninth Commandment in the Word of God. Exodus 20, and let us read beginning from verse 1.
Then God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Let’s pray. lord, this morning, as we again approach Your Word, and as we have been looking at this Ninth Commandment, Lord we find in it a very important part of what it means to be a follower of God. A follower of Jesus Christ. Whether you’d be in the Old Testament or in the New, we are still to carry out this command. But Lord in the Old Testament, it’s under the law. In this New Testament period, it is by the Spirit that we were given life now to actually put it into practice and cooperate with the Spirit of God to sanctify us in this matter, especially in the matter of our mouths. How we use our words. And I pray, Lord, that You would continue to sanctify us in this area until we are growing to the place where we learn how to use our words in our tongue properly. Lord, bless us in this and help us to steer away from the sins that our tongue so easily can fall into. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.
Remember again, the Commandments are spelled out very clearly. They’re these pithy sayings that are written so we would remember. So the people of God would remember what God wants from us concerning first Himself, and then secondly how we respond to our neighbors and the people that we live with day in and day out. So this Ninth Commandment really shows us another responsibility. It is this: the responsibility that all God’s people are to value and maintain an accurate testimony. And of course, what is the Commandment that you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor?
This is part two of the Ninth Commandment. Some of the things I’m not going to go back over. Just to remind you where we are coming from, there are two things forbidden by this Commandment. The first one is being a false witness. And then secondly, it would be that of slandering one’s neighbor. So the Ninth Commandment is more than lying, more than just about lying. It is about how we ought to care for our neighbor’s character and integrity.
We are responsible more than for ourselves. We are responsible for other people. My neighbor is anyone I come in contact with in everyday situations. It is not just my brothers and sisters in Christ. That should come first, but it is everybody I come in contact with. This commandment is warning God’s people not to give false statements, or receive false statements that may harm the character of my neighbor.
That leads to the three sins that can be committed with this Commandment. The first one would be that of speaking that which is false. No one can deny that lying is one of the greatest moral problems of our day. It is doubtful whether anything is more destructive and damaging than a lying tongue. We won’t know if anything is true if people are deceptive, if they are lying.
I mentioned that James was very clear on the matter, where he says we all stumble in many ways. If any one does not stumble in what he says, is a perfect man. There’s no perfect man. And we all stumble and what we say. Then he goes on to say: no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
James is really saying what we all really know. That is: the most likely area you and I as a believer, as a Christian, can easily fall into is the sin of speech. It is the hardest part of our fallen natures. It is very difficult to control and we can easily be set off. The sin of using the tongue is what God is prohibiting here. This also includes witnessing that which is false. Remember, witnessing for someone else something that is false ,and then also bearing witness against another person of that which is false. That would include swearing, which is also false, and that would be the third thing.
Of course, there’s two passages that I mentioned last time. That is where Isaiah says, who justify the wicked for a bribe and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right. So that would be a way that we would do that for another person. For the sake of a bribe, for money. We know that happened still all the time today.
And then also it would be that of a false witness against another person, where it says: like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.
That led us last time to the principle in the Ninth Commandment that is related more to today. In the ninth commandment, we realize that if you were in the habit of or are still in the habit of resorting to lying as a default to get by, then the Bible in Ephesians 4:15 and 25 tell us what to do. It says:
speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects in Him who is the head, even Christ…Therefore, lay aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
Our words do affect other people. And then I’ve mentioned after that, there are different types of lying. We we talked about perjury. We talked about hypocrisy. We even talked about silence, that it’s possible to lie just by being silent. If a lie is heard by you, you let it stay alive by not saying anything. Then, of course, slander, where you are smiting with your tongue. Remember, slander beheads one of a good name. Slander is to report things of others unjustly. Then even flattery, where we can easily be hooked by this. The Bible says a lying tongue hates those it crosses and a flattering mouth works ruin.
Now, maybe the use of the mouth that is most unchecked and a sin of violating the Ninth Commandment is that of gossip. Of course, it would be tale bearing, and slander. All these words are used in the same way in the book of Proverbs. And so this morning I would like you to take your Bible to turn to Proverbs. We are going to be looking at several passages in Proverbs, but we’re going to look at a lot of them. I want you to notice how much the Bible talks about this particular sin.
The college dictionary defines gossip as idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal and private affairs of others. So I thought I would park here to flesh out this misuse of the tongue that really comes out of the practical application of the Ninth Commandment.
As children growing up, we all heard the little rhyme: sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me. And when we got older, we discovered words are more destructive and Can be something that is irreparable damage more than any sticks or stones can ever be. Words can produce life, and words can produce death. Again in Proverbs, it does say very pointedly: life and death are in the power of the tongue. Those who love it will eat its fruit.
So we are people who have power, and much of our power is given right here in our tongue, when we say things. Of course, we can say things that bring death and we will bear the fruit of that. Or we can say things that produce life, and we will bear the fruit of that. So, what are the fruits of your tongue? That’s what you want to ask yourself. Is it death or is it life? As I mentioned last time, an old puritan said: the scorpion carries its poison in his tail, but the slanderer, the gossiper, the whisperer carries is poison in his tongue.
When author Jerry Bridges, who writes many good Christian works, a very reliable Christian author, was in the process of writing a book on the respectable or the acceptable sins we tolerate as Christians, people would ask him: hey jerry, what are you writing about these days? And he would tell them the title of his book: respectable or acceptable sins we tolerate. Most of the people would say to him: oh, you mean like gossip? and so he included that in the book because that was mostly the response when people asked him what he was writing about at that particular point.
Of course, it is not the only sin of the tongue, but it is a prevalent one. One that is often unaddressed as a sin that needs to be eliminated from Christian speech, Christian thought, and Christian practice.
Jesus said, by way of warning: I tell you that every careless word that people speak they shall give an account for it in the day of judgement. That’s what the Lord said. That is a pretty convicting passage of Scripture. I would say that most of us at particular points in our life have been careless about what we say, because we don’t think about what we say before we say it. And so this passage of Scripture really pushes us back and says: maybe we should be more careful about what comes out of our mouths for the sake of the glory of God, for the sake of my brother and my neighbor that I am talking with.
So gossip is the misuse of words that produce destruction and death. The intriguing nature about gossip is that it is always appealing. There would be no such thing as gossip magazines or gossip newspapers if gossip was not appealing, and it does sell. Why is that? Because gossip is juicy. Gossip sounds like need to know information. Therefore, it is already appealing to the sinner, especially to the fool. Do you know that Proverbs gives about sixty warnings concerning the sins of the tongue? Actually, in Proverbs 18:8 it says:
the words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
That means the words of the whisperer are tasty once eaten, and go down into the spirit of a person. It severely distorting the hearer’s view of the one being slandered. It’s a distortion of the truth. It is a lie, and gossip is always founded in lying. I don’t know all the facts. I don’t know the full truth. But I’m going to just give you this information, because it’s kind of like really, stuff that you need to know.
This means that you and I have to be careful about what comes out of our mouths so we can honor God with what we say. This morning, I want to look at at least three things the Bible says about gossip. Here’s the first thing: the character of the gossip. There are three things under this one about the character of a gossip. It would be: a gossip is a slanderous fool. Now if you look in Proverbs 10, notice in verse 18 what it says. The Scripture actually pointedly identifies the gossip’s character, that they are fools. It says in verse 18 of chapter 10:
He who conceals hatred has lying lips. And he who spreads slander is a fool.
The Bible is really saying to us: listen, the one who talks like this is a fool. The question would be asked: does that person think they are a fool? The fool never thinks they are a fool. The fool thinks they’re wiser than their teachers. They have developed a mechanism in their life to be able to get by, to get over, to manipulate people when people don’t even know they’re manipulated. So I would say that a fool would not even know they’re a fool. They don’t see themselves as a fool.
The gossiper has no fear of God before his eyes. Scripture exposes them for who they are. They are fools because gossip distort the hearer’s image of the one slandered. The underlying aim of the gossip is to kill the reputation or character of another person in order to make themselves look sharper, better than that other person, or give them the advantage in some way. Gossip is totally self-serving and leaves behind a heap of wounded and bleeding people. They drive wedges into the solidarity of relationships and community. We already said that God hates gossip. He hates it. Then look over to Proverbs 18:4, where he says this,
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
Deep waters pictures the totality of what comprises the inner recesses of a person. It is expressed through a person’s words. Somebody who is a gossip is someone who has really deep waters. You can’t get to really what they are trying to do. They have intents in the heart that are not easily exposed or detected. But somebody who has good words, they’re like a bubbling brook. They’re lively and everything is on the surface. You can pick out what they’re doing. They’re not something where we have to wonder what a person means by what they say.
First of all, the character of gossip is a gossip is a slanderous fool. Secondly a gossip is a crooked-minded perverted language fool. Now take your Bibles again, look at Proverbs 17:20. A fool’s life is a life of crooked evil insanity. If you read through the book of Proverbs, you’ll find that that is the case. Ecclesiastes also mentions it. In other words, don’t go that way. That’s what Proverbs is saying. Don’t go down that road. It will be a meaningless road. It will be a heartbreaking road. It’s a path well-traveled, but you should not go on that road because it is a senseless road. It is irrational road. It will lead you to a place you don’t want to go. The very path of a gossiper travels that road. Proverbs 17:20 says:
He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.
Again describing the fool, connected to a person who misuses their words, who uses their words to get over and to manipulate people.
Then another thing under the character of a gossip is that a gossip is one who produces strife in one’s life. Proverbs 18:6-7 really reveals the results of a fool’s words:
A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
Proverbs unveils the motive of this sin and the results it produces. When it comes to this sin of the tongue, really no one is without sin. I’d say at least one time in your life, or more than that. To learn well, to be wise is to avoid this destructive sin. The wickedness that comes from the gossip’s heart really reveals an underlying motive. And what is the underlying motive? That is the second thing that we find out about the gossip. The underlying motive, first of all, is that he is self-serving. He just seeks his own. He’s not concerned about anyone else. Proverbs 18:1-2 says:
He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom. A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.
That’s all he wants to do. He doesn’t care about anybody else except himself. So everything he does is self-serving. Everything he says is self-serving. It brings no concern into his motive for anyone else. It was the prophet Jeremiah who probably experienced this maybe more than any other prophet, even though all the prophets were under great scrutiny by people and often verbally attacked and ripped apart. But Jeremiah experienced the verbal attacks against himself and against his ministry. Just notice what it says here, and it uses the word, in place of gossip, of the word whisper. Look what it says there:
For I have heard the whispering of many, terror on every side! Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him! All my trusted friends, watching for my fall, say: “Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him and take our revenge on him.”
And here is the key to Jeremiah’s strength. Look at verse 11:
But the Lord is with me.
They didn’t count on that when they gossiped against me. They didn’t count on that. And then look what it says:
The Lord is with me like a dread champion; therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, with an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten.
So this is a whisperer. Again someone, who is speaking falsehood about someone else in order to tear them down. In this case, in order to destroy them. They wanted to destroy Jeremiah the prophet and his message because his message didn’t go along with the times. It didn’t agree with the political leaders. It was completely opposite of it. They would say God was bring peace. Jeremiah said: No, God is going to bring destruction. He would be persecuted for just telling the truth, and the truth always exposes the gossiper.
So the gossip is intent on self, and is involved in activities which promote themselves, especially in the eyes of other people. Another word the Scripture uses to refer to gossip is a talebearer. A talebearer is a peddler of stolen information with the purpose of putting self first. You’ll notice that the Bible does use that word again, where it says in proverbs 11:13,
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.
So you noticed here, that in gossip, self-serving motivation. They can’t seem to keep secrets. They can’t seem to conceal things. They have to let it out. They have to talk about it. They have to talk about it with other people. But it’s all self-serving.
Another thing about a gossip in their motive is that of being self exalting. They want to exalt themselves before others. The gossip put himself in the place of God and becomes a judge. They think that they understand the matter, as if they were all knowing like God himself. In fact, James does mentioned this in his epistle, where he says in James 4:11:
Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destory; but who are you to judge your neighbor?
In other words, we do not have the capacity as human beings, to judge the intents or scruples of someone’s motives. We can judge the outside. We can judge their words. We can judge their actions. We can judge their behavior. But I don’t really know what a person is thinking, or the intents on why they said something. Sometimes, you can have a pure intent and I can take it wrong.
We need to get out of the business of trying to be the Holy Spirit and assume that we think a person meant or said something without talking with them about it, to find out exactly what they meant by what they said. So to be more precise about what you’re talkin about.
Gossip is really a predetermined judgment upon someone else that seeks to punish another with words, by discrediting the name of the person in front of others. They set themselves up in a position that only God could occupy because only God knows the heart. Only God knows the intent. Because a person cannot know fully the motives or the scruples of why a person said or did not say a certain thing. Only God can read the true intent of anyone’s heart.
So gossips are self-serving. They are self-exalting. Their attitude leads up to a destructive behavior. Matter of fact, how destructive is the behavior of a gossip? Look at Proverbs 16:27. In other words, they are fire-setters. They set things on fire. That means that gossips are destructive and murderous. They light fires and then they walk away. So in other words, gossips are arsonists. They suffer from pyromania and their incendiary devices are words. Fire, you know, when they finish, destroy just about everything. It’s hard to recover from a fire. Matter of fact, you pretty much have to knock it all down and start from scratch, right? That’s usually what happens. Proverbs 16:27 says:
A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire.
And then in Proverbs 26:20-21, it says:
For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
So that’s what a gossiper is. It’s someone who spewed out what they want to do and they start fires and they walk away and let the thing burn to the ground. James again addresses this and he says in James 3:
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And 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 itself.
So the one who gossips ignites others’ lives. The Scripture exposed their true root motivation and hatred as murder and coming out of a mouth of lying, where it says in Proverbs 26:28:
A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
a person destroys others with the careless words of their mouth, they do not notice, just as they didn’t notice that they were a fool in their character. They also do not notice that their very gossiping destroys themselves. So there is the twist. It’s not noticed by the gossiper that he or she goes about doing dastardly deeds, which the deeds come back on them. The twist of a talebearer, they literally live a life of unhappiness. That’s the result of it, loneliness. And inevitably they are under divine judgement.
That would bring us to the result of gossips. And what is the result of a gossip? That they’re unhappy people. Proverbs 21:23, it says:
He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from trouble.
Now, let’s take the opposite of that, for the gossiper. See, the gossip does not guard their mouth. Or put a hedge about their mouth or their tongue or their words. So, his life is filled with trouble. And his soul is often in distress. I often heard said that once you let the feathers out of a pillow moving in a car at 65 miles per hour, it is impossible to go back and retrieve every feather, or if we do that, every word that we spoke. How do you go undo every word you spoke?
In other word, from this day forward, we must be much more responsible for what comes out of our mouths. And if we have been known to be people that talk a lot, then that needs to change. Because we don’t want to end up like the gossip. Because they don’t guard their mouth, they are unhappy people. A lot of trouble come into their life because they create their own trouble. They don’t see they’re creating their own trouble.
A second thing about a gossip, as far as the result of their gossip, is that they’re lonely. And why do you think they’re lonely? Anybody with any sense knows that if somebody that you give information to, that you want to be kept secret, you don’t tell it to everybody right? You don’t tell it to some people because you know they’re going to go: babababa. It’s going to be all over the place.
Today it’s all over the internet on Facebook, texting, tweeting, emails, all those things. People do that all the time. They like to vent, not face-to-face, not eyeball-to-eyeball, but through Facebook. You can learn a lot about people just by looking at their Facebook account, what they’re posting, what they’re saying about things. You can pretty much gather who they are. Hopefully, if I looked up any of your Facebook, or you looked at mine, I don’t have one so you can’t look mine up. My wife has one though, and she keeps me up to date on what people are doing, usually our family. I mean it’s got its pros and cons, you know that. It could be used for good, but it can be used for evil too. But a lot of times, once in a while, she would show me some things that other people are saying. I’m saying: wow, once you put something in writing and then put it on the internet, you can never retrieve that. That’s in cyberspace forever. Why would you want to do that? So in other words, if somebody does that, then they’re really displaying the foolishness that is still within their character.
We have to be very careful that we do not gossip and we do not use our words incorrectly, whether it’s in our speech or in our texting or in our emails or on our Facebook or whatever media platform you are using today to get information out there. Make sure that you think about what you’re saying before you say it. How many emails did I read of somebody who had a conversation with someone and then went immediately to their email and responded to the person and was horrible. It should never have come out of their mouth and then put into print. Then they regret it later. They said: I shouldn’t have done that. It was a knee-jerk reaction. See, what Proverbs is getting at is: before you say it, before you put it into print, make sure you think through what you’re going to say before you say it. And if you do say it and it turns out all wrong, then you need to fess up and say: I said that. I had wrong motives and intents and and I’m willing to confess it and make it right and not do that again.
So Proverbs is telling us that the result of the gossip is that they are lonely. Why? Proverbs 16:28 says:
a perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.
They separated intimate friends because nobody can trust them once they figure out what they’re doing. And then in Proverbs 17:9, it says:
He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.
The Hebrew word means to make separation, to put out a joint, like somebody breaking someone’s limb by the use of their words. They do that because the person is accustomed to misrepresenting others in betraying confidences. And they usually kill any potential friendship that they have because they talk too much. And it comes up somewhere else.
Of course, the end result of of gossip is: it incurs divine judgment. God will not allow the misuse of the tongue to continue without judgement. Psalm 101:5 tells us:
Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.
You and I need to make decisions today. And that decision is whether you will take part in gossip or not. What I mean by taking part is either saying it or hearing it. So if you are doing it or hearing it, stop it. Stay far from it. I’m not preaching this this morning because I know somebody’s doing this. I’m just preaching this for our own benefits, our own beneficial spiritual health. We need to be careful about what we say. The Bible says a lot about what we say. So stay far from it. Also think of it as cancer – it must be removed. It must be taken out. It must be repented of. A critical, condemning, gossiping, judging spirit is damaging and destructive to others as well as to yourself. The most important thought to consider as a wise child of God gleaning what Proverbs says about the mouth is the Lord hates such conduct.
So stop being involved with the kind of evil thinking and speaking that God actually hates. Why would I want to do that? As a christian, I don’t want to do that anymore. These six things the Lord hates, yes seven which are an abomination to Him. A false witness which utters lies and one who spreads strife among brothers.
We come to the New Testament, we find the same kind of stuff. It exemplifies the judgment that comes upon those who misuse words. For example, Paul speaking in Romans chapter 1 says:
being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God.
It all goes together. That’s like a package there. Although they know the ordinance of God, those who practice such things are worthy of death. And then he goes on in Romans 16 to say:
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
In other words, if a gossip is someone who betrays confidences, stirs dissension, separates close friends, stirs up strife, starts fires, is characterized by satanic verbage, misrepresents others, and of course uses their tongue without restraint, then we have to conclude gossips are not to be trusted. And that you shouldn’t be one. But also gossips are not to be associated with. Proverbs 20:19 says this:
He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.
You can’t get much clearer than that. I mean that’s pretty direct, shoots-from-the-hip, which I like when the Word of God actually does that. But I didn’t mention this, that the word gossip in the Hebrew, it means to become evening. To grow dark. It could literally be translated: he will keep himself doing it at evening. In other words, gossips continually reveal things that should be kept in the dark. They don’t know how to keep secrets or private information about others. Avoid that person who talks too much and talks too freely. It may be your secrets next, if you associate with them.
Now that you know what a gossip is, i’m sure people are saying and you’re saying to yourself: I don’t want to be that person. And now I know more about the character that person, the motive of that person, the results of that person. I don’t want to be that person. So there are some applications that we can consider this morning. And it’s the applications that go with what Paul said in the Ephesians chapter 4 and I’d like you to turn there now as I bring this to a conclusion. Verse 22, he says to the Ephesian church:
that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which which is being corrupted in accordance with the lust of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.
Here is the great principle that we have as a Christian: the put off put on principle. Put off sin, but when you repent of sin and put it off, you’re not done yet. Now you got to put on righteousness, right? So take off the dirty clothes of gossip and slander and tale-bearing and whispering, and put on the new clothes that is going to now determine your character in Christ.
Remember, Christians are supposed to be different. They are being transformed. They are being conformed to the image and likeness of God. This transformation is progressive. Transformation shows that new life has been implanted in your heart as a born-again believer. It shows the believer belongs to a new family. They live in a new kingdom and they have a new master. That’s what it shows. There are three terms that we see here in this passage. That’s the put off, to be renewed, and then to put on. That’s what we’re to do.
So the book of Ephesians is telling us what kind of speech we are to put off, and what kind we are to put on. All believers are to change their habit of communication. That’s one of the first indications that we really are confronted with in the Word of God, concerning the way we talk. Ephesians 4:29 says:
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.
So he’s giving us the first application: avoid unwholesome words. Here’s the warning concerning our words. We must not allow any bad or worthless speech to escape from our lips, unless our words will strengthen and help those who actually hear us. No unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth. This is not specifically referring to impure or foul language, but to language that is unwholesome, profitless, idiotic, incompetent, and really of no use to anybody. Our words do not have to be dirty to be worthless. Speech, the tongue, will be our most troublesome and uncooperative member among our remaining corruption.
It was in Matthew where it was talking about the mouth of the scribes and the pharisees, where the Bible says:
You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart…For by your words, you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
The tongue is actually neither our friend nor our foe. It is merely a messenger that delivers the dictates of the heart, either good or evil. Whatever comes out of your mouth was already in your heart. So when we say something and then we say after that, I didn’t mean that. Yes, you did mean that. See, that’s how careful we have to be with our words. We have to be much more careful than we ever were before in our life as a believer. And it comes with the strength and power of the Spirit of God. You cannot do that on your own, without God’s help. You cannot handle controlling your speech without God’s help. The mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. What we say comes from our thoughts and our desires and our intentions. What we say is what we really intend to say.
So we are to avoid words that attack a person’s character. Or name-calling. Words that tear down, rip apart, hinder growth, or cause disunity. We are to avoid words that cloud or bypass the problem. And of course like it says in Ephesians, we are to avoid words that grieve God’s Spirit. In verse 30, it says:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
There is the two attitudes put up against each other: the old attitude and the new one. The old speech and the new speech that is given to us as believers. When we speak, our language, according to Ephesians, should be edifying language. Instead, when we speak, our word should impart blessing and spiritual benefits, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment.
You noticed that in this passage of Scripture, you not only have the control of the tongue, but you have discernment of the circumstances. You have the discernment on who you were speaking to. You know how to give to the person you’re speaking to. You know how to give in the need of the moment. So that’s wisdom. And what you want to give is grace to those who are listening to you. Corrupt speech may not only injure our fellow human being but also maybe an offense against the holy Spirit of God.
It assumes as a reality that we Christians must not allow this to slip our minds, that the Holy Spirit is an abiding presence in our life. He is a comforter by whom every Christian in the Bible says is indwelled permanently. Where we go, He goes. Because of the nearness of the Holy Spirit, who knows our thoughts, He is the first to hear our words. So we must avoid the sins of the tongue which certainly gives Him an offense, which includes all forms of speech which may cause injury to others.
Remember the Holy Spirit, the very essence of His being is holy. All unholy speech must be nauseating to Him. Scripture is informing us that we have the Holy Spirit and His power that is presently at work in us to know and to desire God’s will and then to do His good pleasure. That’s what we’re to do.
A third application would be this: ask yourself questions before speaking. Talk to yourself. We ought to be doing a lot more of that as Christians, talking to ourselves. What what do we say to ourselves? Will what I’m about to say tend to tear someone down or build that person up? Does my wife deserve for me to say what I’m about to say right now? Does my husband deserve what I’m about to leash on him or her right now? See I’m asking myself questions before I say one thing. Good practice to be involved with as Christians. Is what I’m going to say kind? Is what I’m going to say actually needful? Isn’t it annoying when people give you a lot of information that they think is needful but is not needful at all? It’s annoying. It’s not needful. Do I really need to say this right now, or should I put it off for a better moment in a better day, when maybe the atmosphere is calmer? See I’m using wisdom. We ought to be using wisdom as Christians before we say one thing.
You know, that means also that we’re probably going to be talking less. And you know, what? That’s all right. It’s all right. Be thinking more, asking a lot more questions about yourself, and talking less. Then when you do talk, you’re going to have something to say. And not only that, you’re going to be blessing the person who’s listening to you. Because you’re going to be considering the other person and maybe where they’re at, what they’re doing, what they’re about, maybe the issues they’re going through, and you’re going to be able to come over and hold them up. Bless them, comfort them, encouraged them, pushed them another step in the right direction. That’s what we ought to be doing as Christians, to use our words. Anybody can cut somebody apart with their words. They can vent, to get that off my mind. A Christian can’t say that anymore. You don’t have to get that off your mind, specially if it’s not edifying and gracious and kind and needful.
So that brings me to this: learn the positive power of the tongue. Remember, the tongue has power. I start off with that. You and I have power and that power is right in our words. So in Proverbs, the tongue is exposed as not only being capable of evil, but good. Proverbs 15:2 says:
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fool spouts folly.
And then it says in verse 4 chapter 15:
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.
So the first really positive power of the tongue is that of using the tongue to give wise counsel and sound advice. Wise counsel and sound advice. Look at Proverbs 10:31, it says:
The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, but the perverted tongue will be cut out.
To give wise counsel to someone is very much needed today. Of course in Proverbs 15:7, it says almost the same kind of thing where it says:
The lips of the wise spread knowledge.
That means they disperse knowledge. They give discernment. They give understanding. They give wisdom. Proverbs 10:13:
On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found.
And then Proverbs 12:15:
But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
So to give counsel, you must listen to counsel. If you don’t listen to counsel yourself, then you cannot give counsel. In fact, the one who doesn’t listen to council, it says in Proverbs: that person is a fool. Proverbs 27:9:
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.
In other words, words that smell good. Ever come across a fragrance that you like. Every time you smell it, it reminds you of where you were, maybe when you smelled it the first time? Either somebody’s cologne or perfume or the scent of flowers this time of year. Honeysuckle is an amazing flowers. The fragrance is so strong, you could to be pretty far away and still smell it in the air. And it reminds you of things. There’s something about counsel that is sweet. Smells good. It’s got a beautiful scent to it. It’s effective. And it brings gladness to your friend and people. Proverbs 15:22:
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.
If you don’t know what to do, if you don’t know where to go. Like the Bible doesn’t really tell you where to go to college or what branch of service to join, to join it all. Or who to be married to. Or what career to pursue. Or where to live. Ask some people who’ve been around to help you work through those issues so you can make the right decision. That’s counsel. You can use your mouth and the power of your mouth to help people and steer them in the right direction. People need that today, and you could be the one who actually provides that.
A second thing would be to give reprove, rebuke, and spiritual exhortation. Everything we say with our words is not always “positive”. Sometimes we have to rebuke people, but there’s a way to rebuke people properly. There’s a way to reprove people properly, and at the same time, bring spiritual exhortation. Maybe this is the most difficult. Yes, it is the most difficult use of the tongue because it’s very hard to master. It’s very hard to get control of it, if we ever do. But it is a necessary part of helping people through life. No, you should not do that. No, this is not the right way to think about this. No, you’re not looking at it right. Letting people know those kind of things are very significant in directing people onto the right path.
So all real instruction is not pleasant. Truth is painful. It cuts right down to the recesses of our heart, but it is necessary for growth and wisdom and spiritual being. Proverbs 27:6:
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
What is that all about? Actually, the word faithful in the Hebrew has a unique stress to it. It carries the meaning: to be carried by a nurse. When it’s put in that way, it brings with it the care of a nurse to someone who is in need. If a nurse puts a painful needle into someone’s arm to administer a drug that will ultimately heal them, the painful procedure seems unpleasant yet it is needed to obtain the favorable result of wellness. That’s how the word is used. And sometimes you have to wound somebody to be able to heal them. You have to get into their life and tell them the reality of the situation and pray that they would listen to you. That’s going to be wounding to them. But you’re doing it with the motivation to heal them. Not to hurt them; to heal them.
To rebuke someone you love does not come with delight. It comes with actually great reluctance and difficulty. Maybe this is this one area we should be speaking more. And we speak less because sometimes we don’t want to feel like if we said something hard to someone, that they’re going to walk away and maybe not have any association with us anymore. And that may be the case. But it doesn’t mean you don’t still do it. If the motivations and the intentions of your heart before God are right, sometimes you have to tell people hard things.
But I would say that according to Proverbs, it is our duty to be faithful to a friend, to carry out such the distasteful tasks. It is for the best. The wound will heal and the pain will subside. The two in the end will draw closer and they may even gain the coveted title of best friends.
You only can have one best friend in this life. People may have many friends, but do you have a best friend? Someone who you can talk to about anything and they’ll be with you no matter what. Proverbs 12:18 says:
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
So a friend’s correction can be life-giving and an enemy’s kiss can be treacherous. Yes, your words are that powerful.
And of course, there is this last one here. And that just simply to give encouragement, an encourager. The encourager of Proverbs has learned the skill of living a healthy, balanced life which gives them a deep reservoir of knowledge. To help downcast, to lift up the discouraged, to come alongside and help the troubled heart. They have this dogged personal attentiveness over their life, to learn what wisdom is and then to be able to live it. In Proverbs 4:20, the son is taught early to put off evil and sinful speech and to walk the straight line.
This would be the last passage that I’ll look at here. But notice what it says. It says:
My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.
I would say one last thing and it’s this: the best use of our words is when we give the bad and good news of the gospel to somebody. That’s the best use of our words, to share with them the gospel of Christ. For it says in Romans:
Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved…How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it’s written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.
Let me just end with this. Came across this short story. I thought it was very pertinent to the message this morning. It’s a story about a person who tells of a particular individual who was concerned about these two pockets they have in their shirt. One has a hole in it, and the other is carefully watched and has no hole and make sure that no hole develops in it. Everything that person heard that is hurtful and nature, insulting, cutting, remarks that are evil, gossip, unclean suggestions, or any such thing like that, he would stick in the pocket with the hole in it. And then everything that he heard that was kind and true and helpful, he would write on a piece of paper. Also he’d write the other things on a piece of paper. And he would also put that piece of paper in the pocket with no holes.
At night he would turn out all that is in his pocket without the holes, go over all that he had put into it during the day and thoroughly enjoyed the good things that had come his way that day, as far as conversations in speech that were wholesome, good, kind, and honoring.
And then he would reach into the pocket with holes. And he would find nothing there. And then he would laugh. And he would rejoice that there are no evil things to rehearse.
Too many of us we rehearse the other. Putting the evil things in the pocket without the hole, so that we maul over them again and again and the good things in the pocket with the hole, so that they are quickly forgotten. We do the reverse. I think that’s we ought to do. Things that have come to us, let’s put in the pocket that are evil and are slanderous and are gossip, put in the pocket with the holes. At the end of the day, you’ll have nothing to rehearse. All the other things keep in the pocket that has no holes. And you’ll have something to think about that is wholesome, kind, good, edifying. It will just strengthen and make you stronger as a person.
So that’s it this morning concerning the implications of the Ninth commandment. Let’s pray. Today I ask You, o Father, that we may use our speech to encourage, to confer favor, to give hope. Also Lord, grant us strength to be generous in our words of commendation. Give us the perceptiveness and the insight with our words to respond to thoughts that made touch the soul of another person and give them well being. Lord, may our words be sincere and true, coupled with a desire to care for my neighbor’s character and integrity, therefore by the Spirit of God keeping the Ninth Commandment. I thank You, and I praise You Lord, for all these things in Christ’s name. Amen.