Practical Matters of the Tongue for the Church Regarding Each Other

James 3:1-12 (ESV) 1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

I’ve had some thoughts on my mind for nearly 18 years regarding how Christians use their mouths. from my first ministry experience up until the very present day, I’ve had the “privaledge” (sarcasm) of being the source of talk, rumor and lies. It’s the price of living in the fishbowl of ministry.

However, there are others, who dare to put themselve out there for serving in the body of Christ who take a beating for no cause other than the cowardice of others.

I will not spill the ugly details of past hurts. It would do no good to you or make the points necessary for today’s post.

I have not written about this issue because I have a “sharp tongue”, meaning, I can hurt very easily with my words. I’m not a gossip monger. But I have a “sharp tongue”. So, the natural question comes to mind when I think on this issue of the tongue, “who are you to write or speak about such?” Well, I’m a pastor of a local church who has been in church and global work for 25 years, and I’ve watched the tongue and its misuse devastate people including myself. It must be written about, and it must be dealt with.

The truth is, if you are in leadership you will see the effects of the tongue more than anyone else because you usually get the rotten fallout of unfettered yapping after its far too late, and you get to clean up the mess. Sometimes its about you, and sometimes its about your family, and sometimes its about your co-laborers, and sometimes its about your decisions, and sometimes its about others in your fellowship, and sometimes its about your tribe or doctrinal nuances.

You will always have to make decisions, and when your decisions are public ones people will sin against you. Bottom line.

How do we, inside the fellowship of the local church, care for one another practically when it comes to the use of the tongue? I say “inside the fellowship of the local church” because you can never address or control what people will say in the larger Christian community…like the dude who called me a “neo-conservative” and “Marxist” in a recent post…you can read the comments if you like, they are approved by me for your enjoyment. It’s rather entertaining. So, I can’t control those things, but I can control my covenant fellowship relationships, and so can you.

Here we go:

Don’t feel at liberty to say whatever you want whenever you want under the false guise of “transparency”. 

Transparency is good when it comes to dealing with matters of the soul for healing and for care, but gossip or folly under the banner of “transparency” is sin.

Proverbs 13:3 (ESV) Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

Proverbs 18:7 (ESV) A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.

Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.

Proverbs 26:28 (ESV) A lying tongue hates its victims,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Proverbs 29:11 (ESV) A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Part of our disciples is learning when to speak and when to keep our mouths closed.

This does not mean we shouldn’t speak prophetically the word of the Lord when it’s right and necessary. That gifting is to be worked out in life groups and personal relationships as we learn by trial and error in love for one another.

Kill rumor mongering

The whole “somebody said” stuff kills souls. On more occasions than I care to count, I, my wife, my colleagues, my friends, my church members have been the victim of a coward who will say, “somebody said” but the rumor spreader won’t say who or what exactly was said.

What is the result of such foolishness?

1) Suspicion on the part of the person that stuff was said to. They begin to wonder who said what and don’t know who they can trust.

2) Retreat from community. Why continue to expose oneself to that kind of abuse? What if it was someone you are or supposed to be close to? Is there a proverbial knife in my back from a close associate? Et tu, Brute?

3) The wound of the soul in having false words spread about you, and living with the reality that people think you guilty of something and you can’t even defend yourself against injustice.

Hey, don’t do this….(word I can write in a blog or say in public speaking) stuff. You know what I mean?

If rumors come your way:

1) Have enough personal courage to crush those rumors.

2) Tell the person who is spreading the rumor to stop, and go back to the source and have them stop it. SHUT. IT. DOWN.

3) Guard the innocent victim of the rumor from knowledge of people sinning against them by spreading rumors about them. When you go tell someone “he said you said”, this causes trauma in the soul and unnecessary hurt and frustration. THIS IS A DEBATABLE  POINT, but if you do tell them, you need to advocate for them and help them crush the rumor by going with them to any and all necessary personal appointments to confront source of the rumor. Be courageous not a coward. This is a practical way to love someone. You know you would love this yourself if someone were advocating for you, kept you from hardship and prevented you from trauma. Jesus said to do for others as you would have done for you. Try applying the Golden Rule to rumor mongering.

Knowledge that people are sinning against you does no good to you, rather it hurts you with a hurt that is hard to heal unless the person who informs you has taken steps to stop the sin and is willing to kill the sin against you by advocating for you.

4) If the “rumor” is true, then it still does not need to be spread. Even those “guilty” of some infraction deserve to be treated in an honorable manner.

5) If the “rumor” is serious enough, the victim may need the chance to confront the source of the rumor. Nothing shuts that mess down like the coward who started it all getting confronted by an innocent victim. But this requires discernment on whether the victim needs to receive the wounding of knowing what has been done and knowing if the person who has propagated the rumor would wound them further.

See, we don’t really believe sin to cause death. Playing with and handling sin is like holding an explosive when it goes off. You may survive, but there are parts that will never be the same, and you’ll live with those scars forever.

Rumors and sinning against one another does the same thing to the soul. So, don’t play with sin.

The bottom  line is that it’s your job to crush rumors not to spread them to the person they’ll hurt the most. Preserve the soul of the victim by guarding them from hurt. Preserve the soul of the spreader and source of the rumor by helping them to repent so Jesus don’t have to get them. Jesus cares about his church, and he’ll shut that mess down in time, and he may do it with a rod of iron not a gentle voice. Unnecessary beating p of the Bride of Christ will result in Jesus taking care of and defending his bride. #believethat

Assume the best about your people

We get into trouble when we fail to assume people we are in covenant with have the best intentions. The human soul, wrecked as it is and under repair in Christ, has a tendency to to assume the worst about the people it is closest to. Until you learn this tendency through age and wisdom, you can let your fallen assumptions run away with you, and if unchecked, your “innocent” question about what you are thinking to a friend can turn into a “fact” in the ears of the person you were talking to. Then they go tell their friend, and the next thing you know your assumptions formed by false feelings have turned into a forest fire for the person you were simply wrong about. That’s hating people not loving people.

Assume the best about your people. Period.

Don’t be so enamored with being liked that you let a soul cancer spread through your inactivity

Sometimes we don’t deal with things biblically because we want to be liked and don’t want to come off as “harsh”.

Newsflash! It’s not harsh to stop sin and preserve peace. It’s called righteousness.

If we are more concerned with being liked than being right, then that’s a sin issue to deal with.

Proverbs 29:25 (ESV) The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

So, it’s been cathartic to write this. Perhaps it will be helpful to you for your discipleship and for fighting for people rather than against them. There is nothing in the New Testament about tearing each other down. Rather, it’s full of commands to build each other up. Let’s practice that beginning today.


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