Chemical warfare, nerve gases, biological toxins, atom bombs and thermonuclear warheads are lethal weapons. But there is another weapon which has destroyed the lives of far more people than all of these put together!
WHAT is the world's most devastating weapon? Most people would probably say the H-bomb. Some might say the cobalt bomb. Others may point to a rumored laser bomb, a doomsday device, or even chemical and biological weapons. But none of these is right! There is another weapon that every man carries around with him daily. It is with him when he gets up in the morning and shaves. It is with him when he goes to sleep at night This weapon is not just some theoretical device which has never been used. In the history of mankind, it has been responsible — directly or indirectly — for the deaths of multiplied millions! But men have no monopoly on this weapon. Women also use it quite consistently — often to devastating effect
The Worst Weapon in the World
What is this horrible weapon? It is the HUMAN TONGUE! Men have misused the tongue. They have turned it into a "world of iniquity." Notice what God's Word says: "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a wood of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell [gehenna — or the lake of fire]. "For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be" (James 3:5-10). The tongue, as these verses show, does not have to be a deadly weapon. When used correctly, it can be a wonderful tool for great good! But unfortunately, too few people have learned how to properly control it! Most often the tongue is used as an unguided missile which explodes upon the object of its aim with deadly effect.
HOW This Weapon Is Used
There are many wrong uses of the tongue. But perhaps the most dangerous and harmful of all is gossip. Gossip can do more damage and create more division than nearly any other activity. Why do people gossip? Do women gossip more than men? And is gossip damaging to those who do it? These are some questions to which we in God's Church should know the answers. In a study by Theodore Isaac Rubin, M.D., entitled What Gossiping Reveals About Yon, some interesting answers are brought to light. Doctor Rubin found that women have no priority on gossip! Men gossip just as much. "In fact, nearly everyone gossips to some extent, but some people carry it too far. To them, gossip becomes a chronic way of life that cannot be altered without psychiatric help." But why do people gossip? Dr. Rubin explains that some men and women are "chronic mouthmovers." They must either eat or talk. And many times they gossip just to keep their mouths moving — spouting a steady stream of words. Dr. Rubin points out another major reason for gossip. "Boredom and apathy also breed gossip. Idle talk becomes a filler to compensate for empty hours. Lonely people whose lives have become dull and devoid of interests use gossip as a form of reaching out or relating. Because they are not sufficiently involved with current events or issues they cannot talk about them, and they feel that talking about themselves is dull and useless — so they gossip about others.... All these lonely, bored people are so involved in gossip that they don't always realize they are telling tales or exaggerating. In short, they believe their own fabrications." God's Word shows idleness to be indeed one of the major causes leading to gossip. Speaking of younger widows, Paul says, "And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, SPEAKING THINGS WHICH THEY OUGHT NOT" (I Tim. 5:13). Idleness breeds much mischief. An old adage says, "An idle mind is the devil's playground." Even so, we might say an unguided tongue might be called the devil's mouthpiece. An idle mind leads to idle words — and combined they do the work of Satan, not the work of God! An idle person's thoughts degenerate from fabrication to fantasy, and finally, almost without exception, to malice.
"Repressed anger is perhaps the most common cause of malicious gossip," says Dr. Rubin. He goes on to explain that many people cannot admit their anger toward someone else. So they disguise it. They release their venom in the form of deadly gossip — hatred and murder (I John 3:15) in the form of words! They seek to destroy through the spoken word! God's Word bears this out: "He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool" (Prov. 10:18). Also God says, "He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him" (Prov. 26:24). And again, in verse 28 of the same chapter, "A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin." Have you ever been angry at another — hated another — but tried to conceal it? Jealousy and envy are also common motives for gossip. Says Dr. Rubin, "The object of gossip is to put down that person so as to remove the craving for what that person owns." When we put down another person, we think we are raising ourselves. This is sheer vanity! Have you ever envied another person? Have you been jealous of the things someone else possessed or the prestige of his position? We would all have to admit that at some time we have. When we did, we found ourselves tempted to speak evil of others. We wanted to impute motives and make insinuating remarks. We tried to excuse our stations in life in comparison with theirs by implying evil — gossiping. Subconsciously we wanted to "put them down" verbally — thus exalting our own self-image.
Tales CAN Hurt!
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me." You have heard this little saying and perhaps have said it yourself as a child. Parents usually quote this jingle when little children are hurt by something another child says. Thus, most of us grow up thinking that words won't hurt us. We try to harden ourselves against the words of others. But the Bible plainly tells us that words can — and often do — cause damage. Notice: "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth" (Prov. 26:20). In verse 22 God says further, "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." Yes, words can hurt — they can hurt one's reputation; they can hurt a person's health; they can hurt friends; and they can hurt the one who misuses them himself! God certainly minces no words here. He tells us plainly how destructive the use of the tongue can be. Its use in spitting out thoughtless or mischievous words may cause irreparable damage to someone's entire life! The misuse of the tongue can cause serious offense. Notice what Solomon wrote: "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city..." (Prov. 18:19). How often have you "let fly" with your mouth and offended somebody else?
An Incredible Paradox
How can men praise God — stand in Church and sing praises to God, and lead in prayers over their family table and in Church — and at the same time speak evil from motives of repressed anger or envy of their brothers in the Church? Blessing and cursing comes from the same mouth. God says these things ought not to be! (James 3:10.) "SPEAK NOT EVIL ONE OF ANOTHER, BRETHREN. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge" (James 4:11). Brethren, God has given His Church a great commission to perform! That commission is to proclaim THE GOOD NEWS OF GOD'S WORD to the world. We are all part of a great team organized to carry out that purpose. Therefore, we should speak the pure Word of God! But how many of us are speaking evil of our brothers? How many are using their tongues for a wrong purpose while claiming to belong to the body of Christ to help proclaim God's Word to the world? Again, God commands, "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, AND ALL EVIL SPEAKING... grow..." (I Peter 2:1-2). This is the way to preserve your life. God explains, "For he that will love life, and see good days, LET HIM REFRAIN HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL, AND HIS LIPS THAT THEY SPEAK NO GUILE" (I Peter 3:10). We cannot be God's true people — His true servants — and speak evil one of another. We must not tolerate gossip and the tearing down of our brothers through malicious, evil words. "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, THIS MAN'S RELIGION IS VAIN" (James 1:26). Brethren, there is FAR TOO MUCH GOSSIP in God's Church! There are far too many talebearers! There are too many people repeating stories that do not concern them!
What Not to Say
Some will say that they do not gossip — they merely tell "the truth." Thus, they feel that in telling "the truth" they are justified! But they fail to realize that the Bible defines a gossiper as one who not only speaks lies, but also repeats evil — even if it is "the truth" — when and where it is NONE OF HIS BUSINESS or the business of the listener! You don't always have to tell something just because you know it! MANY things are far better left unsaid, even though they are true. For instance, in motion pictures today producers make the assumption that because certain deeds (adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, etc.) are done, it is all right to discuss them and show them on the screen! They couldn't be more WRONG! There are many things which are better forgotten. Says the Apostle Paul: "For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret" (Eph. 5:12). Whenever you repeat any information about an evil deed to someone who should not be involved and has no business knowing, then you are gossiping. When you talk about anyone's faults to someone who can do nothing about them, you are gossiping. Even when you repeat the truth — whether that truth is about an evil deed or sin — to a person who is merely a bystander, you are gossiping. Gossip, naturally, also takes the form of misinformation. To imply motives, or to insinuate untruths, is gossip and lying. Hopefully, most of God's people are not involved in this type of gossip — but many of God's people are involved in speculations and repeating matters! This kind of gossip is absolutely forbidden in the Bible because of its devastating effects. "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; BUT HE THAT REPEATETH A MATTER SEPARATETH VERY FRIENDS" (Prov. 17:9).
How to Conquer Gossip
What can you do about gossip? How can you overcome this abominable habit in yourself? There is something you can do personally. You can begin an active campaign against gossip by stopping it at its source! Here's how. First, learn to recognize gossip in your own conversation. There will be many times when you will be so absorbed in conversation that you will not realize you are actually gossiping. However, after the talk is over, you can look back and see where you gossiped. Once you apply your mind to analyzing your own words, you can catch yourself while talking. Then, as you are conscious of your words — which we certainly should be, since we are going to be judged by them — you will finally begin to think BEFORE you speak! (Prov. 15:28.) Second, REPENT of gossip. Don't take it lightly. You will never overcome gossip until you are deeply convinced of its evil. Most people, after they've gossiped, just shrug their shoulders saying, "Well, I guess I really should not have said those things, but...." Go to God on your knees. Realize the seriousness of gossiping. Ask God to forgive you for your attitude of heart which may have been the spirit of murder, or at least the spirit of carelessness and unconcern. Realize that Christ had to die to pay the penalty of THAT sin, too! Third, don't REPEAT gossip. If you've been gossiping — CHANGE! Put an END to gossip in your life! You know how empty you feel after an unprofitable conversation centered around gossip. So decide not to do it again! Determine in your mind not to tear down yourself and others by your words. Instead, be positive — use words profitably to uplift and build up others as well as yourself. Once you recognize gossip and repent of it, and henceforth stop repeating the pattern of conversations that lead to it, you will not be a gossip. But remember. Don't lend your ear to gossip, for this encourages others to gossip. And it is just as wrong. A gossiper needs an ear. He must have someone to listen to his talebearing. But if he finds no one to listen, then he can't gossip. So simply don't listen to gossip! God's Word condemns the listener just as much as the gossiper. Yet many of us actually encourage others to gossip. We egg the gossiper on, delighting in the tidbits of poison he pours forth. We want to mind other people's business. We want to get the juicy evils that come from gossip. Have you ever noticed that people tend not to be as excited to hear good news as to hear bad news! Have you ever noticed how slowly good news spreads and how quickly bad news gets around? Why? Because of human nature! By nature we want to listen to gossip and spread it. But you can stop it! Just DON'T listen! And don't gossip yourself.
Judged by Our Words
There is a Judgment coming. And God's Word plainly tells us that we will be judged by how we use our tongues. God says, "A fool's lips enter into contention, and HIS MOUTH CALLETH FOR STROKES. A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul" (Prov. 18:6-7). Jesus put it right on the line when He said: "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? FOR OUT OF THE ABUNDANCE OF THE HEART THE MOUTH SPEAKETH. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, THAT EVERY IDLE WORD THAT MAN SHALL SPEAK, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. FOR BY THY WORDS THOU SHALT BE JUSTIFIED, AND BY THY WORDS THOU SHALT BE CONDEMNED (Matt. 12:34-37). Can anything be plainer? Jesus tells us we will have to give account for our words, Me will be judged by what we have said! Words are not empty. Words are much more powerful than we might imagine. We all feel — humanly, that is — that after words are spoken, they're forgotten. But words are not forgotten. And although the sounds of words fade and the vibrations stop — those words can linger on and face you in the future. What are the fruits of your words? Have your words separated friends? Have they hurt the reputation of another! Have your words caused strife? If so, you will have to give account. Brethren, we are in a Work that is spreading good news! Is it right that we should spread evil news to one another? Of course not. Let's repent of gossip! Let's get rid of its cancerous growth from our midst! Let's really believe — and practice — the instruction of Psalm 15:1: "Lord who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour." Determine now that you will not listen to gossip and not spread it. Determine in your own heart and mind to spread news of good events!