An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire. A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
Nobody living today would deny that pens are indeed mightier than swords. Social media has given everyone a means to write on any and every subject one chooses to talk about and express their thoughts upon. News media use the written and spoken word to convey ideas and opinions that usually stir up opposing viewpoints and get people arguing over myriad topics, the chief being politics. Many people don't understand just how powerful words can be! Proverbs 18:21 says 'Death and Life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.' Children here in America are committing suicide because of being bullied, most of the bullying happens in the form of words. Words, your words and mine, have power!
The verses today speak of those who look for ways to use their words to destroy. An example of this is the 'he said/she said' gossip mill. We all know people who just can't seem to be happy unless there's something stirred up, some bit of juicy news to spread around about this person or that, and they can't seem to be content unless they are in the middle of the mess, or at the very least, watching the 'fireworks'. The Bible calls such people ungodly, froward or perverted, talebearers, false witnesses, and myriad titles. Now the question becomes: are we part of the gossip mill? A prime example of the 'Christian' gossip mill looks similar to this: "Oh, Sister so-and-so, I have an urgent prayer request about our poor friend _____. I don't know if you heard but..." followed by a rattling off of whatever sinful behavior or perceived wrongdoing on the part of the person being 'prayed over', concluding with "Just awful what they are doing! But we need to pray for them." Brothers and sisters, you just did, but not to the One who can do anything about their issues. Just from my personal life, I could give example after example of 'prayer requests' like these. One acquaintance of mine outright asked me if certain rumors she heard about a mutual friend were true! "(They) are my friend, and while they aren't perfect, neither am I, and I don't talk about my friends in such a way." Have I always answered like I did that day? To my shame, no! I've had to learn to answer properly when the gossip mill starts turning.
I'm going to add an addendum here and say that if someone comes to you with an issue about another Christian that they are wanting to get resolved but need you to come as a witness, then you should go and be an honest witness and help to the person asking. That is Biblical and right (see Matthew 18:15-17 for reference). Now, back to the devotional/study.
How many of us have lost a good friend because someone told us something about them that may or may not be true? And even if it was true, instead of going with us and helping to make it right, the talebearer sat back and watched as the friends went at each other, accusing each other and finally ending their friendship over what was said in the heat of the argument. Or have you and I been the talebearer? Note what Jesus said concerning what we speak in Matthew 12:34-37, "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 men 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." WOW!! Jesus was talking to the Pharisees when He made these statements. The Pharisees (religious teachers) claimed that Jesus cast out demons by the name of Beelzebub and Jesus was correcting them quite sharply. They knew the law of Moses, made a habit of studying it, yet they refused to recognize Jesus as their Messiah, but called into question every thing He did. How many people turned away from Jesus because of the rumors these men spread about Him? Later when the apostles were going about teaching and preaching the Gospel, it says that many were fearful of the Jews or fearful of the Pharisees because they could be kicked out of the synagogues and the Temple. James (the brother of Jesus), writes in James 3 about controlling our tongues. In James, we are admonished to not have bitter words mixed with sweet words, to be vigilant about the words we speak.
Jesus said in Matthew 12 that our words come from what we have stored in our hearts. If we gossip and go around telling tales on each other, what does that say about the treasure stored in our hearts? People who curse and use foul language, we'd say they have consumed too many bad television shows, or been around people who curse a lot, maybe both. The same is true of us when we choose to spread gossip or start rumors about people. It all comes down to what's in our hearts. One way to expel the bad is to replace it with good. The Word of God is ALWAYS good, and filling ourselves with God's Word replaces the evil treasures we have stored in our minds and hearts. Replacing bad music with good, godly music that edifies our souls is another way to clean out the bad and put in the good. Perhaps we should also be aware and careful about who we allow to be in our inner circle! Gossiping friends will entice us to gossip, but friends who encourage and remind us to walk humbly with God will help pull us towards right living and right speaking. Jesus said we would give account for every word we let fall from our lips, whether good or bad, and He doesn't lie! Is it hard to always speak right, to always avoid gossip? Starting out, yes! But 'walking' in Scripture gives the idea of practice, and as we practice habits, we get better at those habits. Nobody who plays the piano ever became really good by just playing every now and then, and the same principle applies to practicing godly habits. But it gets easier the more we practice and pretty soon, those old, evil habits will fade away and people will take notice. Pretty soon, those gossiping friends won't want to share with you their tidbits and rumors because it's no fun sharing 'news' with someone who asks "Is that true? Did you see/hear that yourself? Maybe you should pray to God instead of me about their shortcomings.." or the fatal "Let's go ask them ourselves about this issue!" And we should pray and ask God's help in controlling what we say. Let's not be counted as ungodly or perverted by God. but strive to do AND speak right. Proverbs 16:13, "Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right."
Lord Jesus, You said in Your Word that we would be held accountable for every word we speak. I ask that You forgive us for speaking wrong things, for gossiping about others and using our mouths to be ungodly. Father, I ask that You grant us wisdom and understanding in this area of controlling our tongues and help us to guard ourselves in what we hear and to make right choices in what we choose to listen to and repeat. Holy Spirit, please help us to learn the Word, to hide it in our hearts so when we speak good things come out of our mouths. Thank You Lord for teaching us from Your Word and help us to apply what we learn. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!