(Proverbs 26:22 – The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down into a man’s inmost parts.)
Forrest Gump was right. Life is like a box of chocolates. Resisting the temptation to listen to gossip is as hard as turning down a tasty dessert. All of us can relate to the temptation of a tasty dessert and all of us can relate to the temptation of a juicy piece of gossip. The only way to avoid giving in to either, is to not take the first bite. If you don’t take that first bite, you won’t hunger for another one. Relish the taste of just one choice morsel and you find yourself wanting more. But just like when you give in to eating that whole box of chocolates, coming back for just one more until they’re all gone, when the box is empty, you’re left with nothing but regret and shame in the inmost part of yourself for the gluttony you have shown.
I’ve been dealing with some foot issues recently and have seen a couple of doctors to try and get an accurate diagnosis. While at my last exam, my doctor kept putting pressure on areas of my feet to try and locate the specific area of pain, or at least that’s what I thought he was doing. In trying to help him out, I attempted to show him where the pain was, but he said, “Wait a minute. It’s just as important where you’re not having pain as it is where you are having pain.” I found that to be spiritually profound! Just as what you feel and what you don’t feel is important in diagnosing the condition of the body, what you feel and what you don’t feel is equally important in diagnosing the condition of the heart. Some areas of sin give us noticeable discomfort, while some areas don’t bother us at all. But the areas that don’t bother us are just as important as the areas that do. For instance, we might be very sensitive to lying, but not so much to gossiping. We might not feel anything at all when we gossip, while lying might cause us great distress. Wise doctor. I think I’ll keep him.
James 3:6 says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Seeing the devastation and destruction of all these fires in the news today drives this scripture home for me. It’s sobering to realize that just a little spark of gossip can be as devastating as those fires. I find it interesting that James used fire to describe the damage of the tongue. Maybe it’s because unlike other disasters, fire must be started, it can spread and it can reduce life to ashes, just like gossip. We can start a fire, or we can prevent a fire. We can spread a fire or we can contain a fire. Those are our choices. Before we speak, we need to remember that our words are like fire. We cannot reverse the damage they do; we can only mourn their destruction. Controlling our desire to gossip is like putting out a fire. “Without wood, a fire goes out.” (Proverbs 26:10). James said the tongue “is itself set on fire by hell.” I don’t know about everyone else, but being the instrument of hell used to spread devastation and destruction in people’s lives is not what I want my tongue to be used for!
Proverbs 10:12 says, “Love covers all wrongs.” Love covers, plain and simple. It doesn’t expose, it doesn’t spread, it contains and prevents from the harm of exposure. Kind of like when we have a bad cold and we cover our mouth when we cough or turn our heads away when we sneeze to prevent spreading germs; love turns away from gossip to prevent spreading shame. We don’t go around sneezing on people we love! Genesis 9:10-23 records the account of Noah becoming drunk and laying uncovered inside his tent. Ham “saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers” but Shem and Japheth “took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then walked in backwards and covered their father’s nakedness.” They “turned their faces the other way so they would not see their father’s nakedness.” That’s what love does. It covers, and it turns its face away from another person’s shame. Ham, by the way, brought a curse upon his own son for what he had done. The commentary in the NIV Study Bible says, “Ham’s mocking attitude revealed a severe lack of respect for his father and for God.” So does ours when we mockingly gossip about others and expose their shame instead of covering it. Proverbs 10:19 cautions, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” A man of few words is a wise man. Words are powerful. They can hurt and they can heal. We need to choose them wisely. When tempted to taste and share that juicy piece of gossip, we would be wise to remember Titus 3:3 – “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” Ouch! I think my spiritual pain has been accurately located.
MY LITTLE FINGER
I had a little finger that I pointed everywhere
I even took it with me down on my knees in prayer
Self-righteously I aimed it at every sin I saw
No one could escape from it, I pointed it at all
“That one there gossips and that one there tells lies”
“That one there is very vain and that one there has pride”
I touched on all the sin that my spiritual eyes could see
All except the ones that dwelt inside of me
Then one day while pointing, this vision I did see
The Lord my God was standing there, pointing his finger at me
“You my child have gossiped, and you my child have lied”
“You my child are very vain and you are full of pride”
“And perhaps you have forgotten with your nose all out of joint”
“That your mother always told you it is not polite to point”
“No my Lord, this can’t be so!” “No my Lord,” I cried
“How Lord can you say those things and hurt me so inside?”
With gentle words of comfort, came softly His reply
“My child you must remember that you will be judged too”
“When you point at others judging what they do”
Humbly now I hung my head filled with shame inside
And pointing my finger at myself, “Forgive me Lord,” I cried
(Romans 14:4 – “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”)