Keep the Door of my Lips - Psa. 114. 3
R. V. Court, Bristol, England
It has been said that 'gossip' is one of the most grievous and harmful habits that can be known in any assembly. It is, of course, harmful anywhere in the world outside, but we regard it as being normal there, just a natural display of a nature still controlled by sin. The reason it is worse among a company of God's people is because it is one of Satan's most powerful weapons to wreck the witness of that company and to set it on the level of the world to which that company should be witnessing. It certainly cannot be linked in any way with the 'fruit of the Spirit', Gal. 5. 22-23, but is clearly linked with the 'works of the flesh' mentioned earlier in that chapter.
Gossiping is cruel, destroying the character of others, it is usually false, or at least grossly exaggerated. The person "who indulged in it has no right to claim that he loves his brother or sister whom he is defaming. Even if the thing which is being passed on is true it is certainly in defiance of the statement in James 5. 20 that love covers a multitude of sins'. Gossip multiplies them!
This is not a new phenomenon - this is clear from the following references to it in the Old Testament:-
Lev. 19. 16 - 'Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among the people'.
Prov. 11. 13 - 'A talebearer revealeth secrets; but he that is of a faitlvful spirit concealeth the matter'.
Prov. 20. 19 - 'He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets, therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his Hps'. Prov. 26. 20 - 'Where no word is, there the fire goeth out; so, where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth'.
In Psalm 119 it is obvious that the psalmist knew something of the effects of this evil practice. In verse 69 he says 'The proud have forged a lie against me', and it is certain that it was being passed on. One can imagine one person meeting another, and very eagerly saying, 'Have you heard?', and out comes the lie, with embellishments, and the recipient of the message of course passes it on, often with tragic results.
Years after the above quotations the problems were still there and James found it necessary to urge restraint on the tongue because of the massive damage created by gossip.
Sometimes matters which are considered to be wrong must be dealt with by the assembly, but there should not be haste in dealing with a matter until it is established, without doubt, that the offence which is being considered has actually been committed. There should certainly be no idle or malicious spreading abroad of the charges. The guidance given to the elders of Israel in Deuteronomy 17. 2-7 is very helpful, and we do well, as those not now under law, but under grace, to do at least that which the elders did then. But, notice what first must be done, verse 4, 'thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and behold it be true, and the thing certain', then action must be taken. The basis for action must not be gossip, but the establishment of the facts.
In relation to this sad matter our Lord uttered strong words in Matthew 12. 34-36. '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'. See also Matt. 15. 18-19.
There will be no problem with our speech if our hearts are taken up with spiritual things. Surely we need to pay very close attention to the exhortation in Philippians 4. 8, 'Whatsoever things are true . . . honest . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report. . . think on these things'.
When we are tempted to pass on something we have hear we need to consider - Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? May our constant prayer he, 'Set a watch O Lord upon my mouth, keep the door of my lips'.