Sunday, 20 July 2008 00:00

Pierces of Swords: Gossip Speech

I Timothy 5:13 (ESV)

Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies saying what they should not.

The Bible says there are two kinds of speech: (1). Aptly spoken words are like apples of gold (Proverbs 25:11), and (2). Reckless words are like pierces of swords (Proverbs 12:18). The Tongue can be either a scalpel in the hands of a loving surgeon or a knife in the hands of an assassin. We've begun our series looking at "pierces of swords" or reckless words.

The man who with the breath lent him by heaven, speaks words that soil the whiteness of a life; is but murder, for death is given, as surely by the tongue as by the knife! (Jean Blewett)

In the early church there was a system of caring for widows that is unfamiliar to us today. Widows with no family (including nephews or uncles) were called "widows indeed" and were enrolled in a program through which all financial and material needs were met by the church. In I Timothy 5:13, Paul instructs Timothy not to enroll young widows (under 60, vs. 9, vs. 11), because they could remarry. Further, young widows who were enrolled in this program seemed to be susceptible to a particular sin of the tongue (v.13) - gossip!

  1. The source of gossip - "They learn (to be) idlers" (v.13).
    The old saying "idle hands are the devil's workshop" comes from this very verse. The verb phrase "to be" is not in the original. Literally, when there is no purpose or focus for the day, idleness descends, and when idleness falls, gossip rises. This is why people who are without work, without purpose, without daily tasks are quite susceptible to gossip.
  2. The sin of gossip - "going about from house to house" (v.13).
    When I gossip to you, I either plant a negative idea in your mind about someone else or I confirm a suspicion you're having. The sin of gossip is not having an opinion about someone else, or a judgment about someone else, but rather "going about from house" talking about, rather than to, someone (see appendix at end of outline).
  3. The sensation of gossip - "not only idlers, but tattlers and busybodies" (v.13).
    The word "tattler" is an interesting word used only this once in the New Testament. Its root is "to boil up" or to "bubble up" like soap bubbles bob to the surface. It gives the idea gossip is addictive and an idle person gets "busy" to find out more gossip. "What dainty morsels rumors are—but thy sink deep into one's heart." (Proverbs 18:8).
  4. The sorrow of gossip - "saying what they should not say" (v.13).
    There are some things that should not be said. There are boundaries that the Scripture gives to us regrading words about another person. How do I know if something is a pierce of the sword that we call gossip? THINK:
    • T - Is it True? You must talk to a person, not about a person, to find out.
    • H - Will it Help? This is what the Bible calls edifying.
    • I - Is it Inspiring? Does it inspire the listener?
    • N - Is it Necessary? Some things can be done without talking.
    • K - Is it Kind? Do I have the best interest of the person of whom I am speaking in mind?

    This is a good way to guard against gossip.

APPENDIX

Talk to People Rather than about Them

by John Piper

In my first sermon after being away five months, I left something out. It was in the notes, but didn't seem to flow with the main focus when I got to it. So I skipped it. But I really wanted to say it. So here it is.

You recall that in Luke 18:9, Luke introduces the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector like this, "He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt." It may seem minor at first, but notice that it says that Jesus to this parable TO some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. It does not say he spoke this parable ABOUT them. Jesus was looking the Pharisees in the eye and telling them a parable that implied that they were self-righteous. He was not talking about them, but to them.

Though it may seem minor, it contains a lesson that is huge for the health of our church. Let's be like this. Let's not talk to others about people's faults. Let's talk to them about their faults. It is easy—and far too tasty on the tongue of our sinful souls—to talk about people. But it is hard—and often tastes bitter—to talk to them. When you are talking about them, they can't correct you or turn the tables and make you the problem. But if you talk to them about a problem, it can be very painful. So it feels safer to talk about people rather than talking to them.

But Jesus does not call us to make safe choices. He calls us to make loving choices. In the short run, love is often more painful than self-protecting conflict-avoidance. But in the long run, our consciences condemn us for this easy path and we do little good for others. So let's be more like Jesus in this case and not talk about people, but talk to them, both with words of encouragement, because of the evidence of grace we see in their lives, and with words of caution or warning or connection or even rebuke. Paul urged us to use the full range of words for the full range of needs. "Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all" (I Thessalonians 5:14).

I don't mean you can't criticize President Bush without calling him on the phone first. And I don't mean you can't discuss my sermon, both negatively and positively, without coming to me. Public figures put themselves on the line and understand that everyone will have an opinion about what they say. That's okay. What I mean is when you know a brother or a sister is in the grip of some sinful attitude or behavior, take the log out of your eye, and then go to them and try to help them with humble biblical counsel.

Perhaps tell them a parable. That's what Jesus did in Luke 18:9-14. And it's what Nathan did for David, after his sin with Bathsheba and toward Uriah (2 Samuel 12:1-4). But you don't have to be that creative. Caring about the person you confront matters more than creativity.

My longing for our church is that we be free from gossip. Let's be forthright and humble. Jesus was amazingly blunt at times. Love sometimes sounds like that. He could have easily been accused of callousness or lovelessness. But we know he was the most loving person who ever lived. So let's follow him in this matter. He died for us so that all the logs and specks in our eyes may be forgiven. That should give us both courage and care in dealing with others. Especially when we realize that the faults of our brothers and sisters have also been forgiven by Jesus.

What an amazing standing place we have for relationships. A forgiven, justified, Spirit- indwelt community of people who love to gros in grace. Thank you for loving to trust and follow Jesus in the way of talking to each other rather than about each other.

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