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Psst! Have You Heard...? - Leviticus 19:11-18

Taught on | Topic: Gossip | Keywords: gossip, holiness, social media, tongue, prayer, love

The sin of gossip has never made it into the same lists as murder and manslaughter. It's regarded as one of the "little sins" that even Christians are unwilling to avoid. But gossip is in the same family as murder because it assassinates a person's character. It destroys reputations, disrupts families, divides friends, and causes heartbreak. And the problem isn't just in the speaking but in the hearing as well. Let's look at a direct command not to gossip.

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2/11/2018
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Psst! Have You Heard...?
Leviticus 19:11-18
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
The sin of gossip has never made it into the same lists as murder and manslaughter. It's regarded as one of the "little sins" that even Christians are unwilling to avoid. But gossip is in the same family as murder because it assassinates a person's character. It destroys reputations, disrupts families, divides friends, and causes heartbreak. And the problem isn't just in the speaking but in the hearing as well. Let's look at a direct command not to gossip.
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White Collar Sins

White Collar Sins

We say we want to be holy, yet we tolerate sin on a daily basis, comfortable with its permeating presence in our homes, our relationships—our very lives. And while we view murder, lust, and lying as unbearably wicked, we trivialize gossip, gluttony, and envy. In the series White Collar Sins: Death in Its Sunday Best, Pastor Skip Heitzig challenges us to view all sin as destructive and recognize its painful consequences.

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Outline

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  1. Words Are Personal (vv. 11-12, 14, 16)

  2. Words Have Potential (vv. 11-15)

  3. Words Are Powerful (v. 16)

  4. Words Should Be Purposeful (vv. 17-18)

Study Guide

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Recap Notes: February 11, 2018
Teacher: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Psst! Have You Heard…?"
Text: Leviticus 19:11-18

Path

The sin of gossip has never made it into the same lists as murder and manslaughter. It's regarded as one of the "little sins" that even Christians are unwilling to avoid. But gossip is in the same family as murder because it assassinates a person's character. It destroys reputations, disrupts families, divides friends, and causes heartbreak. And the problem isn't just in the speaking but in the hearing as well. Pastor Skip looked at a direct command not to gossip, sharing four practical observations about our words:
  • Words Are Personal (vv. 11-12, 14, 16)
  • Words Have Potential (vv. 11-15)
  • Words Are Powerful (v. 16)
  • Words Should Be Purposeful (vv. 17-18)
Points

Words Are Personal
  • The word you is used fifty-four times in Leviticus 19, where God gives a direct command not to gossip along with other general rules drawn from the Ten Commandments about how to use our speech.
  • The average person spends one-fifth of his or her life talking. We have incredible capability to express ourselves verbally and lots of opportunities to do so. But that brings up a challenge: because our words are also written—on paper and computers, on social media and in texts—we are moving toward progressively less personal ways of communicating.
  • We must beware of thin relationships—"friends" we've never met and people we follow without knowing more than what they ate for breakfast.
  • Probe: Pastor Skip noted that "real fellowship isn't limited to 140 characters." What are the pros and cons of social media and texting? What efforts do you make to ensure you are developing deeper relationships with people?
Words Have Potential
  • In Leviticus 19, God focused mainly on the negative potential of words, giving commands on how not to use them. We need to use restraint with our words.
  • If we reverse those negative commands, we can see positive ways to speak. For example, "you shall not swear by My name falsely" (v. 12) can be seen conversely as a command to pray, worship, intercede, and bless in the Lord's name.
  • Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 12:18 says, "There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health." Some words encourage; others discourage. Some impoverish; others enrich.
  • James 3 describes the incredible potential of the tongue, making it clear that only God can help us control ours.
  • Probe: Read James 3:2-12. What points stick out to you? Discuss why we should seek God's help in controlling our tongues.
Words Are Powerful
  • God directly commands us not to be talebearers. A talebearer wants you to have a negative opinion about the person they're telling you about.
  • The difference between a talebearer and a concerned friend is the difference between a butcher and a surgeon; both cut the meat, but with totally different purposes in mind.
  • It's easy in church circles to bear tales, couching gossip in holy-sounding language—a "concern" about someone or a prayer that casts the person being prayed about in a bad light. Because it's a prayer, people will tend to think it must be true, whether it is or not.
  • How do you know if you're spreading gossip or not? Do you raise your voice to share it, or lower it? "A whisperer separates the best of friends" (Proverbs 16:28).
  • Probe: Review the list in Proverbs 6:16-19 of things God hates. How many of them have to do with words? Which do you think is most dangerous, and why?
Words Should Be Purposeful
  • God describes gossip as "[hating] your brother in your heart" (Leviticus 19:17). Our words reflect what's going on inside our thought life. Words are a gauge of the heart.
  • As Jesus said, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45).
  • Washing a mouth out with soap doesn't get to the root of the problem—but love does. Love "does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6).
  • Gossip comes from people who hate, not people who love their neighbors as themselves (see Leviticus 19:18). We love others when we go to them directly with the issue we have with them. Matthew 18 lays out Jesus's protocol for nipping gossip in the bud.
  • The reason why so many mouths are opened in gossip is because there are so many open ears wanting to hear it.
  • Review Pastor Skip's five questions to ask when someone gives you a bad report on someone else:
    • "Why are you telling me?" Have they already gone to the person directly and need your help as a witness? Or do they just want to gossip?
    • "Where did you get your info?" Direct experience or hearsay?
    • "Have you gone to that person directly?" Matthew 18 tells us to.
    • "Have you checked the facts for yourself?" Always a good idea.
    • "Can I quote you on this?" This is the real litmus test for their intentions.
  • Probe: Have you ever applied this list to a situation? If so, what were the results? If not, what effect do you think it would've had on a gossipy conversation?
Practice

Connect Up: Knowing that God hates words that are divisive, discouraging, and destructive, are you willing to ask Him if you need to work on any of these types of speaking? Read Matthew 5:11-16. If you are the light of the world, how should that affect your speech? What does it mean to bear God's image instead of being a talebearer?

Connect In: What are the effects of talebearing in the body of Christ? Read Matthew 18:15-17. What would happen to gossip if Christians put Jesus' words into practice in everyday life? Will you commit to trying it out the next time you face such a situation?

Connect Out: How you deal with gossip as a Christian can really set you apart from the pack, whether it's at work, at the gym, or in your neighborhood. And how you handle it (especially when it affects you personally) matters to God. Read 1 Peter 2:12. Discuss when to tell the truth, when to be silent (see Exodus 14:14), and when to confront (see Matthew 18)—but remember: do it all with love (see Colossians 3:14).

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. The human tongue can inflict a lot of damage through gossip
    2. We are given a direct commandment from God not to gossip
    3. The book of Leviticus is about holiness
      1. Holiness is God's least attractive attribute
        1. We want to talk about God's love, power, grace, etc.
        2. Holiness scares us
        3. We don't really know what it means
      2. Of all God's attributes, His holiness is mentioned most
    4. In Leviticus 19, the Ten Commandments are repeated and fleshed out (see vv. 1-10)
    5. In verses 11-18, the author talked about our speech
  2. Words Are Personal (vv. 11-12, 14, 16)
    1. They convey who you are as a person to others
    2. The word you occurs fifty-four times in this chapter alone
    3. God has given us the capacity to communicate with our words
      1. Men and women communicate differently
      2. Zacharias was made mute for not believing his wife would conceive (see Luke 1:5-20)
    4. We not only speak words, but we also write them down
      1. Letters, email, social media, texts
      2. Written words are harder to understand
        1. You cannot hear intonation or inflection
        2. You also cannot see body language
      3. The fullest form of communication is in person
      4. Social media has revolutionized the way our culture communicates
        1. Our language is changing meaning
        2. We are cultivating thin relationships
  3. Words Have Potential (vv. 11-15)
    1. We can choose to use our words for good or for bad (see Proverbs 18:21)
      1. Some words can destroy—others can delight; some words can enrich—others can kill (see Proverbs 12:18)
      2. James acknowledged the potential of the tongue (see James 3:2-10)
    2. The tongue can bless or curse
  4. Words Are Powerful (v. 16)
    1. Talebearers
      1. There may be traces of truth in what they say
      2. They are not trying to reveal truth; they are trying to ruin the person they are talking about
      3. The difference between a talebearer and a concerned friend is the difference between a butcher and a surgeon
      4. Words can ruin one's reputation by bearing a tale
      5. Rakil = slanderer
    2. As believers, we have become very crafty at the sin of gossip
      1. We package it not as gossip, but as concern
      2. We package it in prayer
      3. To discern whether what you are sharing is gossip, ask yourself whether you raise or lower your voice as you tell it (see Proverbs 16:28)
    3. Of the seven things God hates, three of them have to do with the tongue
      1. If God hates something, we should pay attention so we don't do it
      2. "One who sows discord among brethren" (Proverbs 6:19)
  5. Words Should Be Purposeful (vv. 17-18)
    1. Words are just a gauge of the heart (see Luke 6:45)
      1. If you speak good things, it reveals good things are in your heart
      2. If you speak bad things, it reveals bad things are in your heart
    2. If you really love people, you don't slander them (see 1 Corinthians 13:6)
      1. If someone hurts you, you must go to that person directly and talk about it
      2. Don't talk about that person—talk to them (see Matthew 18:15)
    3. The problem is not just that people love to say gossip; it's that people love to hear it
      1. There wouldn't be so many open mouths if there weren't so many open ears
      2. We enjoy hearing gossip (see Proverbs 18:8)
    4. When someone wants to bring you gossip:
      1. Ask them why they are bringing it to you specifically
      2. Ask them where they got their information
      3. Ask them if they have gone directly to that person
      4. Ask them if they have personally checked out the facts
      5. Ask them if you can quote them on it
Figures referenced: Tim Challies, Billy Graham, Bill Grayolis, Erik Jan Hanussen, Adolf Hitler, Gervase Markham

Works referenced: "Solomon on Social Media"

Hebrew words: rakil

Cross references: Leviticus 19:1-10; Proverbs 6:19; 12:18; 16:28; 18:8, 21; Matthew 18:15; Luke 1:5-20; 6:45; 1 Corinthians 13:6; James 3:2-10

Topic: Gossip

Keywords: gossip, holiness, social media, tongue, prayer, love

Transcript

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Hello, and welcome to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. We pray God uses this message to grow you in your faith. And if he does, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely, at calvaryabq.org/give.

The sin of gossip usually isn't in the same lists as murder and manslaughter, and it's regarded as a little sin that even Christians commit. As Skip continues our series, "White Collar Sins," he looks at a direct command not to gossip. Now, please open your Bible to Leviticus, Chapter 19 as Skip begins the message, "Psst, have you heard?"

Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Leviticus. Yes, you heard right. Leviticus, Chapter 19. If you're unfamiliar with your Bible, it's easy. Just go down three blocks from the beginning. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus. You'll be right there. Third book in the Bible. Leviticus, Chapter 19 today.

We're doing a series, we call it "White Collar Sins." And the idea is that these are sins that we dress up and make them look respectable, and yet they can be and really are, at their root, very vile. So we want to address those and we've had a, believe it or not, a great time so far in this series. So we're at Leviticus, Chapter 19. As we begin, I want you to look up at the screen and take a look at the power of the tongue for a moment. Now, that's a snail on the left. And on the right is the tongue of the snail magnified in a microscope a couple hundred times.

So a snail, we know, is slow and slimy and sluggish, but strong. And its strength is in its tongue. It's like a secret weapon all curled up. And the average snail has 1,000 sharp teeth on the tongue. Some species of snails have over 10,000 teeth. And one scientist under the microscope guessed that about 30,000 teeth on a single tongue of a single snail.

So it uses these teeth to saw through leaves and stems and the like. So it's very, very strong. But that tongue can be very destructive. That's the point. Well, the Bible tells us of another tongue that can inflict great harm, and that is your tongue and mine. It is the human tongue. Probably more sins have been committed by our mouths than all other body parts combined.

I was listening to a radio talk show awhile back, a Christian program where people would call in questions, they would be answered or discussed on the air. And I tuned in right at the time when they were talking about speaking in tongues, the controversy of that spiritual gift that is disputed by many different churches. And as they were going back and forth about is it OK to speak in tongues, is it not OK to speak in tongues, is it a legitimate gift or not, I thought, well, nobody seems to be really concerned about the real problem. And real problem isn't just speaking in tongues, it's speaking. It's using our tongues, period.

That's really what we have to watch. And in particular, it's speaking a certain way. It's using our tongues to form words for a specific purpose. Now, as I describe this vice to you, it is personified and you'll be able to tell what it is. I am more deadly than the screaming shell of a cannon. I win without killing. I tear down homes, break hearts, and wreck lives. I travel on the wings of the wind. No innocence is strong enough to intimidate me, no purity is pure enough to daunt me.

I have no regard for truth, no respect for justice, no mercy for the defenseless. My victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea and often as innocent. I never forget and I seldom forgive. My name is gossip. Well, now that we've named it, let's study it. And to do so, I have asked you to turn to Leviticus, Chapter 19. Now, the Bible does talk about gossip in a number of different passages, from Genesis to Revelation. But the reason I've asked you to turn to this passage is because we are given a direct command from God not to do it. It's a hefty, unmistakable, thou shalt not command. And our anchor text is Leviticus 19.

Go down to verse 16, where it simply says, you shall not go about as a tale bearer among your people. Doesn't get any more direct than that. You shall not go about as a tale bearer among your people. Now, let's just step back for a moment, because we're looking at the book of Leviticus and this book has a single theme. It could be summed up in one word: holiness. The book of Leviticus is about holiness, God's holiness.

And I suppose that of all the attributes that God has, holiness is God's least attractive attribute. If you just think about how people deal with God, holiness would be his least popular one. We love to make a lot of God's love, that's an important attribute to us. We want to talk about God's mercy and God's grace, important attributes to us. We want to talk about the fact that God knows everything, he's omniscient. God's power is another attribute, he's omnipotent.

But God's holiness probably takes lowest billing. It scares us. And that's probably because number one, we don't really know what it means. And number two, we don't really know what it would mean to us. But here's what you need to know. Of all the attributes of God written about in scripture, holiness is talked about more than all of them. In fact, God is called holy more than he is called loving or gracious or merciful or powerful. He is called holy. So it's obviously very important to him. And I share all that upfront information because you're going to come across it in some of the verses we're going to look at.

So the theme of this book is holiness, God's and yours. And the book of Leviticus could be divided simply by saying that the first half of the book is about approaching God's presence and the second half of the book is about accepting God's precepts. So approaching God's presence, accepting God's precepts. Chapter 19 falls into the second portion of the book, so it's about accepting God's precepts. And you're going to notice something, it's familiar to you as I read. What we are going to look at are what you know as the 10 Commandments. They're repeated and then they're flushed out. That is, they're explained in various life situations.

So, for example, if you look at verse one of Leviticus 19. And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel. And say to them, you shall be holy for I the Lord, your God, am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father and keep my Sabbath. I am the Lord, your God. Do not turn to idols nor make yourselves molded gods. I am the Lord, your God. So just in the first four verses, we have a repetition or a hint of the first five of the 10 Commandments.

Then in verse 11, he starts dealing with, among other things, what we say, our speech, our words. What I like to do in verses 11 through 18 is look at four practical observations about our words. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to start wide and go narrow. That's the approach. I'm going to go very general and then we'll get specific. Or if you like, I'm going to start shallower and go deeper.

So the first observation about words is that words are personal. Words are personal. They personally convey who you are as a person to others. So notice a word as we go through a couple of verses. Look at verse 11. I'm going to emphasize the word, you'll see why. You shall not steal nor deal falsely nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear-- verse 12-- by my name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of the Lord, your God. I am the Lord.

Verse 14, you shall not curse the death nor put a stumbling block before the blind. Boy, you've got to be creepy to do that. But you shall fear the Lord your God or fear your God. I am the Lord. Verse 16, you shall not go about as a tale bearer among your people, nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor. I am the Lord. Now, I counted, in this chapter, the word "you" 54 times in this chapter alone.

God is speaking through Moses to the people, telling them about their personal expression, their personal life, fleshing out the 10 Commandments to them personally. So here's the theme. God has given us an incredible capacity to communicate who we are through the use of our words. We can communicate our thoughts, our feelings, our values, our ideas, our ideals to people, our desires, our dislikes through our words, and we do regularly.

The average person will end up speaking one fifth of their entire life. That's incredible. You will spend one fifth of your life talking. Now, some will do much more than that, some will do much less than that. One fifth of your life will be spent verbally communicating, talking. If you want to know what that looks like, if you were to take the words you speak in a single day and translate them into published literature, a single day of your speech would produce a book that's 50 pages long. A 50-page book. In a single year, that would be 132 volumes of 200 pages per volume.

So that your whole lifetime would be upward of 3,000 volumes, or 1,500,000 pages. And that's the average. The average person speaks for one fifth of his or her lifetime. Now, you also know there is a difference in the genders between male and female. And I'll put this very delicately, but it would seem that females have a greater linguistic ability. Let's put it that way. A more developed linguistic ability, able to use words maybe better, maybe differently.

So what the experts tell us-- and you probably read many of these kinds of things-- but the average woman speaks 25,500 words a day. That's average. The average male speaks 12,500 words a day. So there's a big difference. Now, what does that mean? It means he comes home after eight hours of work. Comes home and he's already used up 12,495 words. He's got five left. She's just getting revved up. So he's got five words left. What's he going to say? Well, he's going to say, what's for dinner? That's three. And good night, he's done. That's five words.

Now, here's the result. If you were to ask him, hey, how's everything at home? He's going to say, great. Ask her how everything's going at home, and she might say, well, he never really tells me anything. This is why I've always found it humorous in the Bible that when Zacharias the priest is burning incense in Jerusalem in the temple and an angel comes to him to announce that his wife Elizabeth is going to have John the Baptist, Zacharias-- who is talking to an angel, angel says, this is going to happen-- John the Baptist says, prove it. It's like, really, prove it? An angel is talking to you. Isn't that proof enough?

And he goes no, give me a sign that this is really going to happen. So the angel goes, really, you want a sign? All right, I'll give you a sign. You won't be able to talk till that baby is born. Now, how is that for him going home and he can't say anything or stop any conversation, but his wife is awfully excited about a miraculous birth? She's an old lady having a baby. And she's going to be talking to him all day and he can't say a word. And it's frustrating for her because he can't say a word.

I've always thought that was just a humorous portion of the Bible. So words are personal. We use them to communicate who we are. But we are faced with a challenge in our day and age, because we not only speak words, but we write them down. We write them down on paper, we type them into our computer screens, we text them on our mobile devices, we post them on social media. And with each of those steps, our communication becomes more and more impersonal. We get less personal with all those stages.

So written words or texted words are more difficult to understand, because you're seeing the word and ascribing meaning to the word that you see, but you cannot hear the intonation or the voice inflection. And that would change everything. And so a better form of communication than reading a text or an email would be to pick up the phone and talk to the person, because they might say that sentence a little bit differently than you read it to mean. Because now, you're getting a fuller communication, you're hearing tone and inflection.

But even that isn't ideal, because there's still a lot of the conversation that you don't pick up on because you don't see what experts have called for a longtime body language, which changes everything. So a person might say something using the words that you would read in a text or using a voice inflection you would hear on a telephone, but when they say the sentence, they raise an eyebrow. Well, that means something. Or they might say a word but give a smirk. Well, that means something. Or they'll talk and as they talk, they shift their posture. Well, all of that means something.

So the fullest form of communication is to eye-to-eye have a conversation, where you are engaged in that conversation, hearing words and using words. Now, I say we have a challenge. What do I mean? Well, social media has revolutionized the way our culture communicates. Nobody will dispute that, everybody who's been studying this for years would agree with that. Social media has revolutionized the way our culture communicates. For the first time in history, it's possible to have friends you've never met, to follow people you don't even know.

So our language itself is changing meaning by the way we communicate. We are cultivating what Harvard Business Review calls, thin relationships. Thin relationships as opposed to full, rich relationships. Thin relationships. Gervase Markham, a Mozilla Foundation computer programmer wrote this-- and I quote-- "social networking encourages people to have a greater number of much shallower friendships. I know what 15 of my friends had for breakfast but I don't know whether any of them is struggling with a major life issue. If this trend continues," says Markham, "people in 2020 will have hundreds of acquaintances, but very few friends."

So you see, if fellowship is limited to 140 characters, it's not real fellowship. So words are personal. We use them to communicate who we are. Now, let's go a little deeper. Words are not only personal, words have potential. As we look at the verses that are before us with our open Bibles, we can look at them and we can surmise that there is great potential in the tongue. Now here, the potential is seen negatively. It's put in a negative form. You shall not do this.

So the reason it's put in negative form, you shall not, is for impact and to restrain the improper use of the tongue and to redirect a proper use of the tongue. Right? So if we reverse these negative commands, we can see the potential instantly. For example, look at verse 11. We're told in the second part of that verse that we're not to lie to one another. OK. So that's what we're not supposed to do. Don't do this, don't lie to each other. Now turn that around. If we're not supposed to lie to each other, it also means we can what? Tell the truth, be truthful, be honest.

That's the potential. We can lie or we can be truthful. We can be honest. We can be wholesome. Also look at verse 12. You shall not swear by my name falsely. There's another negative. Don't do that. Don't swear by God's name falsely. OK, now turn that around. We can't swear by God's name falsely, so that means we can pray. We can worship. We can offer intercession. We can bless in the name of the Lord.

Go down to verse 15. There's no negative, there's just a positive. It says, in righteousness, you shall judge your neighbor. Now, just think of the incredible potential to make personal judgments of human beings, personally or civilly, in a courtroom. So all of this incredible potential can be summed up by a single verse in the book of Proverbs, Proverbs 18 verse 21, that says death and life are in the power of the tongue. There's the potential. Death and life.

You can say a word that destroys, you can say a word that delights. You can say words that enrich, you can say words that kill. Incredible potential. Let me give you another verse out of Proverbs, does the same thing. It wraps all of this potential up, both negatively and positively, in one little nugget. Proverbs 12 verse 18. There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword. But the tongue of the wise promotes health. You see how you got a bad way to use your tongue, a good way to use your tongue? There is the potential, which way are you going to choose?

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword. I bet all of you know a sharp-tongued individual. You can see that person in your mind's eye. It might be somebody you saw in the mirror today. Might be yourself. Sharp-tongued people, verbal terminators, I call them. They just [ROARS] like a fire-breathing dragon. There are those who speak like the piercings of a sword or a snail, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. That's the potential.

Now, the book of James also does this. And if you feel so inclined, if not I'll just read it to you, but the third chapter of the book of James if you're quick with your thumbs, in your New Testament, you can find James Chapter 3. James spends a chapter talking about our mouth, talking about how we use our tongues as Christian men and women. And he addresses the potential. James Chapter 3, verse 2. He says, for we all stumble in many things. Can I get an amen? We all do, don't we? We blow it in a lot of different ways.

If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships. Although they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires. Even so, the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest, a little fire kindles? Down in verse 8 James 3, but no man can tame the tongue-- inferring only God can do that. It's an unruly evil full of deadly poison. With it-- now listen to this potential-- with it, we bless our God and Father.

And with it, we curse men who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth perceive blessing and cursing. My brethren-- speaking to believers-- my brethren, these things ought not to be so. Amazing, James says, the potential in a human tongue. In Greek mythology, there is a character named Proteus. And Proteus was the old man of the sea. He was the being that was subservient to Poseidon in the Greek myths. But Proteus had a very interesting ability. He could change form. He could morph. He could change appearance. So he could be a tree, he could be a pebble, he could show up as a lion or a dove, a serpent or a lamb.

That's like the tongue. The tongue can bless and curse, bless and blast. It can sing, it can slander. It can encourage, it can discourage. As an illustration, let's compare two people in relative recent history, and compare how both of them, known for their speech, used it in two different ways. Let's compare Adolf Hitler and Dr. Billy Graham. Adolf Hitler swayed people with his speech, great masses of people. He turned a nation with his speeches, with his words.

So when Adolf was growing up, he was tutored in giving speeches, in communication, and in mass psychology by a renowned European astrologer and occultist by the name of Erik Jan Huanussen. He taught Adolf how to speak, how to speak to crowds, how to win crowds in his favor, how to turn their thinking around. And you know the results. It's been estimated that for every single word in Hitler's book "Mein Kampf," that 125 people lost their lives in World War II. He's responsible for the death of millions of people.

Compare that to Dr. Billy Graham who used his tongue for nothing else than proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. Billy Graham has preached to more people than any single human being who has ever lived in human history. Dr. Billy Graham has shared the gospel of Christ to over 215 million people in the stadiums of 185 different countries. Think of the different potential between those two individuals. So words have the potential to affect people for good or for evil.

So words are personal, words have potential. Let's take it down a level. Not only that, but words are powerful. That's the thought in verse 16. Listen to the power. You shall not go about-- this is a direct command-- you shall not go about as a tale bearer among your people. Now, what is a tale bearer? It's pretty easy. A tale bearer is somebody who bears a tale. I know you're going, duh. Think about it. He's carrying, he's bearing a tale. He has a story that he's bearing. He's carrying a story.

And it's a story about someone. And a tale bearer has a story about someone, usually he doesn't like or she doesn't like. And there may be traces of truth in the tale that they bear. Maybe certain parts that are true, many parts that are not. It's a spin on the facts. But this person is telling the tale not to reveal the truth. The purpose is not to reveal the truth, the purpose is to ruin a person. The purpose is when I bear this tale in your hearing, you're going to hear it and change your thinking about the person I'm telling you about. You're going to change what you think about them.

So I might say, well, let me tell you what he's really like. Let me tell you what I heard her say when I was eavesdropping. Well, you don't know all the facts. Let me tell you what really happened. And people lean in. The difference between a tale bearer and a concerned friend is the difference between a butcher and a surgeon. Both cut the meat, but for very different reasons. The tale bearer is bearing the tale to change a person's thought life about the person. So words are powerful. They can ruin, ruin a person's reputation in certain cases for life.

The Hebrew word talebearer, by the way, is rakil, and it means a slander monger, somebody who bears or carries harmful information about some other person. The basic English translation, the Bible in basic English just says, do not go about saying untrue things among your people. Other translations say, don't be a gossip. Don't be a gossip.

Now, we as believers have gotten very crafty at our favorite sin of gossip. We've gotten so good at it that we don't say just psst, let me tell you the truth. We go, hey, I have a concern. My heart is burdened. Oh, if your heart's burdened, unburden your heart. Right? That's what we want to say. When you say my heart's burdened, I feel so bad for you. I want you to unburden your heart.

Or we get even worse than that. We get even more vile than that. We couch it in a prayer. And we can change the way a person thinks by our prayer. So listen to this. Oh Lord, I just pray for Skip. Lord, you know the truth about him. You know what he's like. You know what he's done. Now, you hear that and you go, really? He's bad? I mean, I know he's bad. I didn't know he was that bad. Or, he's done something? What has he done? Right? It's taking you somewhere. That tale is spinning the way you think about that person.

Listen to something shocking I discovered. A study by the "New York Daily News." And I just looked at this and I read this and I reread this a few times to see how they approached this poll and how they discovered it and how many people they used to do it. According to the "New York Daily News," 80%, 80% of normal conversations consist of gossip. I hope you're going, wow. 80% of normal conversations consist of gossip.

Now, that's what they found. This is also true online. It's very reflective of that. One article entitled "Solomon on Social Media" by Tim Challies says, and I quote, "there are many websites, blogs, and Twitter accounts dedicated almost entirely to gossip and sharing what is dishonorable rather than what is noble. At eh end of his article, he just gives the best advice ever. Avoid these people and their gossip." Just avoid them. Avoid these people and their gossip. Good luck.

You go, I don't understand. How can you tell if it's gossip or if it's just news? Let me ask you a question. Do you raise your voice or lower when you tell it? You see, if you go, hey, come here, that's usually not news. News is, hey, come here. You raise your voice. That's news. When you have to lower your voice, show something is up. You see, it says in Proverbs 16 verse 28, a whisperer separates the best of friends. It's done in secret.

Listen to this true story. Bill Grealis owned a flower shop in a little town in West Virginia called Campbells Creek, West Virginia. Bill decided he was going to get proactive about his life and get healthy. So Bill went on a diet. Isn't that great? He went on a diet. See, and that's good. He's losing a little weight, looking better. Well, he started losing weight. As he lost weight, a rumor developed around town that he had AIDS. He had AIDS because he had lost weight. After all, he's a guy, he owns a flower shop.

So people started talking, whispering. They had a keen sense of rumor and they started making up stuff. He's got AIDS. And so graffiti showed up on the walls of his shop, his windows were broken. One lady refused to go in the shop. She owed money, she had a check that she wrote. She opened the front door, threw the check in the shop, and got in her car and sped away. So Bill was sick of it. He quit his diet. Right? Stopped being healthy, quit his diet. Went and got a blood test for AIDS. Of course, it showed that he didn't have any. He posted the medical results on the window of his shop. Didn't help.

The rumors still persisted. Because now, it's a story. Everybody's hearing the same thing over and over again. His van, his delivery van got trashed. His business went in the hole. The man did not have AIDS. He didn't need AIDS. He was destroyed by gossip. His life was decimated. There's an old proverb that says, the tongue is but three inches long, but can kill a man six feet tall.

Now, listen to this. Do you know that there is a list in the Bible of the things God hates? Now, just hearing that, if you've never familiarized yourself with this portion of scripture, that in and of itself should get your antennas up. If God says he hates something, you want to find out what he hates so you don't do that, right? If God says, I don't like it, that's one thing. If God says, I hate it, I want to know what that is.

So there's a list in Proverbs 6 that says, six things God hates, yea, seven, are an abomination to him. OK, that's strong language. Hate, abomination right there. Of the seven things God hates, three of them are sins of the tongue. And among them, one of them is he who sows discord among the brethren. Here's God saying not, I wish they wouldn't do that. I hate that. I hate that. He who sows discord among the brethren. So words are personal. They have potential. They are powerful.

Let's go to the deepest level. And that is, words should be purposeful. They are and they should be, for the right reason. Verse 17. You shall not hate your brother. Where? In your heart. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of your people. But you shall love your neighbor as yourself. And here's why, I am the Lord.

See what he does? He now reaches down below the tongue, below the words that are spoken, down to the very deepest level of where the words are formed in the thought life, in the mind. What the Bible often refers to as the heart. Now, why does he do that? Because words are just a gauge of your heart. What is spoken on the outside reveals what's the inside. If good things and edifying things come out in your speech, that's what reveals is your heart. If foul things come out, that is your heart. Well, I said that, but I don't mean that. I don't think so.

If you go to a doctor, a doctor says something interesting. When you first come to see he or she, the doctor will say, stick your tongue out. You go, my tongue? I've got a side ache. But the doctor knows that your tongue can reveal a lot about what's inside of you. It can reveal if you have a a vitamin deficiency, if you have an infection of sorts. So he says, stick out your tongue.

Now, listen to what Jesus said. A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good. An evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks. You're familiar with it, you just quoted it. A good person brings out good, an evil person brings out evil, because from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Now, when I was a kid, I had mouth trouble. Maybe all kids do, but this kid did. I said some pretty bad stuff.

And my mom did something about it. She had a little fix called a bar of soap. Have you ever had your mouth washed out with soap? You have. So curious, I mean, that's a lot of people. What brand was it? Like Ivory, or? So my house, Irish Spring. So if you know anything about soaps, you know that's like a real strong blech. And she took that Irish Spring mega bar of soap, put it down there and washed my mouth and I'm gagging. And you know what? It didn't help.

It didn't fix things. Now, it did that day. Maybe that week. Maybe I walked by the bathroom, see that soap. But it didn't fix things permanently. Why? She didn't go deep enough, that's why. The problem wasn't the mouth, the real problem was the heart. The heart needed to be clean. That was the issue. So notice what he says. You shall not hate your brother. That's feelings that you have, that thoughts you have toward them. And then verse 18, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

So how do you get control of a tongue? Easy, love. If you really love people, you don't slander them. You don't. That's hateful. If you really love people, you don't gossip about them. That's not love, that's hate. That's hate speech. So love will keep you from slander, it will keep you from gossip, it will keep you from defaming. Because Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, love does not rejoice in iniquity, love rejoices in the truth.

OK. Let's press this a little further. It's one thing to say good, love everybody. Thank you, I'll love. How is that love displayed? Somebody hurt you. Somebody says something about you. You feel injured by somebody. And the answer is, let it go. No. The answer is by talking to the person directly, going to the person directly. Please notice verse 17, you shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of it. In other words, you don't talk about that person, you talk to that person.

See, most people talk about that person to another person. No, you go to that person and you say, hey, I've got a problem with that. And you deal directly. That's the healthiest way. Go personally and reconcile is much better than hating him in your heart and stewing over it in your heart. This is the same thing Jesus said. Jesus said, Matthew 18, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him. What's amazing is that nobody does that anymore.

A clear command of Jesus, go to that person, fix it, reconcile it, deal with it and move on. Nobody does that. Well, I'm going to go tell 50 other people about that person first. Maybe I'll get around to it, maybe I won't. Oh, I'll just let it go and forgive it. No, you go to that person. You go directly to that person. You shall love your neighbor, not libel your neighbor. Love your neighbor.

Now I have to say this, because I think this is equally as potent and true. The problem isn't just that people love to say gossip, the reason they love to say gossip is because there's a lot of people who love to hear it. They wouldn't be saying it if people didn't love to hear it. There wouldn't be so many open mouths if there weren't so many open ears. And they know that if they hear something, oh, tell me more, tell me more. And all of a sudden, you know, I'm your audience.

Proverbs 18, listen to what it says. The words of a tale bearer are like tasty trifles. They go down to the innermost body. See, it feed something perverse. You hear something and go, oh. Yummy. Tell me more. What else you got? So let me encourage you. If somebody that you know comes to you to tell you an evil report about somebody else-- by the way, if they're going to gossip to you, I guarantee you they're going to gossip about you.

So ask them some questions. Number one, when they come to you, ask them this. Why are you bringing this to me? Why are you telling me this information? Do you want me to be part of the fix? Do you want me to go to that person with you? I'll do it, I'll help. Let's reconcile this together. If you need help. Or are you just doing this to slander that person? Why are you telling me?

Number two, ask them this. Where did you get your information? Well, I don't reveal my sources. Then I'm not going to listen to you anymore. We're done. Question number three, have you gone directly to that person? You're telling me about it, have you told him yet? No, I told 50 other people first. Question number four, have you personally checked out the facts? See, they got information and they're now telling you or acting on it. Where did you get your information?

But not only that, have you personally checked out the facts? Well no, but I heard from three people the same thing. So? Maybe they all know and love each other. It's collusion. And question number five, this usually will stop anybody with an evil report, can I quote you on this? Because they're going to probably say, oh no, don't involve me in this. Well, you're already involved by telling me. So now, I'm going to quote you on this, because that's where I heard it from.

You're going, boy, I'm never going to tell Skip anything. That might be good. Don't develop the tongue of a snail. Let's develop the tongue of the wise that promotes health for the honor and glory of the God who is holy and says, be holy, because I am. Father, we come before you as your people, as your imperfect people with imperfect lives. We know that you love us just the way we are. You love us, the whole package. You love is just as we are, but you love us too much to leave us the way we are.

You're always wanting to grow us up, mature us. And this is perhaps one of those areas where some of us struggle the most, with our tongue. We have this inclination to unburden our soul about what happened to us. Not to the person who did it to resolve it, but to somebody else who would just sympathize with us. One of the most unhealthy things in the universe, it has destroyed so many people, so many reputations, so many homes, so many churches, so many friendships. So many.

Father, forgive us. Take control of our tongue. May we love you and honor you enough to even put ourselves on the line and at risk by the sometimes embarrassing action of telling somebody what you did just then offended me deeply. And I just want to bring it to you and I want to get it right and fix it and move on.

Lord Jesus told us to do that, Father, you, through Moses, told the children of Israel to do that. We read that here. We need, Lord, that grace of your spirit, to be men and women that use our speech, filled with grace, seasoned with salt. You said, words fitly spoken, are like apples of gold and settings of silver. Help that to mark us, in Jesus' name. Amen.

The problem with gossip isn't just in speaking it, but in hearing it as well. How will you avoid gossip and keep your words encouraging and purposeful? Let us know. E-mail us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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Date Title   Watch Listen Notes Share Save Buy
1/14/2018
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Sin in a Three-Piece Suit
Matthew 23
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Someone remarked that our sense of sin is in proportion to our nearness to God. We’re usually good at being aware of blatant wickedness, but what about less obvious infractions? Are we willing to point fingers at others for flagrant iniquity while coddling our own vices? The truth is that many are too Christian to enjoy sinning while being too fond of sinning to enjoy Christianity. My purpose in this series isn’t to condemn anyone. I hope to stimulate a heart for holiness for a fulfilled life and happy relationships. To start off this series, consider five characteristics of sin.
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1/21/2018
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The Lazy Life of the Couch Potato
Proverbs 6:6-11;Romans 12:11
Skip Heitzig
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The first in our list of White Collar Sins will be laziness—showing a lack of effort or energy, the unwillingness to act or, in some cases, even care. Though many would smirk at this as being petty or trivial (after all there are much worse things in the world), the Bible itself addresses it as being substantial since many other lives can be affected by it. Laziness grows on people; it begins in cobwebs and ends in chains.
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1/28/2018
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Fighting the Green-Eyed Monster
Genesis 37; Acts 7:9-10
Skip Heitzig
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Some attitudes can go undetected, at least for a while. You can't see someone committing envy or having resentful thoughts. But envy is detrimental because it blinds us and makes it impossible for us to think clearly. It discolors everything around us and steals our peace. Some know what it’s like to be envied, like Marilyn Monroe who once quipped, "Success makes so many people hate you." But most of us from time to time struggle with envying someone else.
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2/4/2018
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The Destructive Harvest of a Bitter Heart
Hebrews 12:14-15
Skip Heitzig
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We all know someone who has become embittered in life. They have planted kernels of unresolved anger and resentment and have become entrapped by the overgrown jungle of the bitter fruit it has created. To choose the bitter path (and it is a choice) is to walk down a self-destructive road that banishes peace and promotes self-centeredness. Let’s consider several Scriptures and the four attributes of a heart poisoned by bitterness.
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3/11/2018
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Gluttony: Society’s Most Acceptable Sin
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Skip Heitzig
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Overindulgence has become a hallmark of our modern American culture. Our bodies are constantly alive with conflicting desires and drives. The temptation to eat too much, drink too much, or indulge in any number of things is constant. And it is also trivialized. So what if a person eats a little too much? It’s his body! It’s her life! Or is it? How can we bring honor to God with our bodies? Is caring for them carnal, or is it a responsible activity of stewardship?
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3/25/2018
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When You Haven't Got a Prayer
1 Samuel 12:19-25
Skip Heitzig
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The great mission worker Hudson Taylor was often refreshed by times of prayer. His son noted, "For forty years the sun never rose on China that God didn't find him on his knees." Someone called prayer the gymnasium of the soul. When was the last time you had a good "workout"? Today we delve into the mysterious cooperation of the divine and the human and consider the last topic in our White Collar Sins series--prayerlessness.
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There are 6 additional messages in this series.