The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and instructed them to “put on” the new man which is created in the righteousness of God and true holiness. As he instructed them in their Christian walk, he provided them clear instructions on what types of sin to avoid. In the listing of corrupt sins that Paul condemned, several of the actions are related to evil speech. As we consider the words of Paul to the church at Ephesus, it would do us well to consider our own lives in light of Holy Scripture and make sure that we are not guilty of these sins of the tongue.
Ephesians 4:24-32: And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and truef holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to giveg to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good toh the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Sins of the tongue are like “fast food” sins. They are convenient, easy to commit, and often seem very satisfying at first. However, the effects of such sins can often harm entire families and linger in the minds of people for many years. Sins of the tongue sting. As Christians, we should guard ourselves to make sure we are not guilty of these horrible sins. Unfortunately, many churches are holy in many areas but filthy to the core when it comes to sins of the tongue. Many churches boast about their evangelism and wonderful ministries, but they are living loosely with their tongues. To the world this is not only hypocrisy in the highest, but it does not demonstrate a genuine love for one another or a love for the world. As Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, the sins of the tongue are exposed and condemned.
1. Lying – To lie about someone is a harmful thing. It not only hurts the individual, but it tarnishes their testimony inside and outside the church body. Since Paul is writing to a specific church, consider the truth of how this plays out in your own church body. If you lie against someone, it creates a lack of trust regarding that individual in the hearts of people for years to come.
2. Corrupt Communication – From gossip to anger filled screaming matches, corrupt communication is always condemned. It does not matter if the communication is from lay persons toward staff persons or staff persons toward lay persons – corrupt communication is a sin. Paul instructs the church at Ephesus to speak words that edify (build up) as opposed to that which tears down.
3. Evil Speaking – Often times people who have been wronged hold grudges and speak evil against people in private or even in public settings. Paul condemns that type of behavior. Even those who have been wronged should be willing to forgive – just as Christ has forgiven them.
Each Christian should examine their own heart and remember that each individual Christian will stand before God and give account of every idle word that they speak (Matthew 12:36). This humble truth should be a constant barrier that prevents the stinging sins of the tongue. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ should speak words that edify – all for the glory of God.
Pastor Josh Buice
In the famous sermon preached by Jesus widely known as the “Sermon on the Mount,” He warned that people would speak evil against Christians. According to Jesus, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12). When someone gossips, lies, and speaks evil against you – it is extremely difficult to rejoice in that moment. However, the Christian life will be full of opportunities to learn this behavior that Jesus teaches. In fact, those in the ministry will have a double dose of opportunities.
Recently it was made known to me that someone was speaking evil against me – even behind my back. I knew that it was untrue and that the intentions of the person were not pure, but the ability of my heart to rejoice in that moment when I received the phone call was very difficult. When evil speech comes from a critic on a website or anonymous letter – it hurts – but not near as bad as when it comes from someone that you know and once trusted. The flesh wants to strike back. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – so it desires to get even. Just when I felt my blood pressure starting to rise, the Holy Spirit brought to my memory a verse of Scripture that I had been soaking in and meditating upon in my study as I had been preparing to preach it. It was found in the text cited above when Jesus warned that people would speak evil against the children of God. However, not only is there a warning, there is a command to find joy and rejoice in that moment. Often when the Holy Spirit brings these things to light it has a tendency to reveal how much sanctification is needed in my own life.
I found myself going out on a run that afternoon and I found myself thinking about the evil speech that had been spoken against me. It was ringing in my ears. Although it had an opportunity to bring harm to me, during my run, as I pounded the pavement around the country roads near my home, I became convinced that the birds that fly through the air and peck on the ground in the fields near me as I pass by do not worry. Therefore, my God is much larger than those who seek division, speak evil, or gossip behind my back. He is the mighty God. He is the faithful Creator. He is powerful. He is the Lord of Hosts. He is the Sovereign King. If a blue bird is not going to worry – neither will I. Furthermore, the words of Jesus also soaked into my heart and mind and as I rounded the corner on my run, I realized that I should be happy that people would speak evil against me. That means that I am actually doing what my Christ has saved me to do. I am fulfilling my purpose. If I must suffer evil speech for doing what Christ has called me to do – than so be it.
Although the daggers of evil speech do hurt (especially when your heart is pure and innocent) – they are nothing compared to the sweet satisfaction and sufficiency of God’s Word. It is amazing how God always has His Word there and ready to bandage up the open wounds that are inflicted by the world of sin. God’s Word is sufficient to every Christian – even those who preach it on a weekly basis.
To God be the Glory!
Pastor Josh Buice
It is not a secret that the internet is a powerful tool which has benefited the church over the course of recent history. From evangelism to edification – ministries around the world are making use of the internet’s ability to reach people with the life changing message of Jesus Christ.Unfortunately, with the power for good also comes power for evil! Since we are living in a sin cursed world full of fallen thoughts, motives, and desires – the internet is being turned into a weapon for war rather than a tool for the glory of God. Today, many individuals and ministries are becoming the subject of attack through internet blogs, personal websites, and public web forums. Rather than keeping their ideas, opinions, and complaints out of the public eye, people are utilizing a new way of attacking ministers and churches by the use of public internet websites. In many cases it may start off with only a desire to ask questions regarding change, discipline, or direction of a church ministry, but it eventually turns into a wildfire that rages out of control and destroys people in the process.Church Attacked A church in Georgia, which I shall call “PM” in order to conceal their identity, has become the subject of a relentless attack in recent months. The attack started against the pastor when he refused to allow major sin to continue within the membership of the church. He confronted leadership within the church with accusations of adultery and fraud. The pastor then confronted other members of the church due to their sinful behavior of personal attacks. Some of these members left the church before they could be properly disciplined, but others were eventually publicly dismissed as a result of their unwillingness to repent. After the attackers started writing mass letters to membership regarding the pastor, they turned on the entire church in public websites and web forums. These attacks have harmed children, families, and visitors of PM.Question AskedHow should disgruntled members of a local church handle their problems? Should a public web forum or website be used to “air out” dirty laundry between members, ministers, and ministries? Does the Bible have anything to say about the use of the internet for such debates and disagreements?In order to answer the question at hand, I think we must first realize that the Bible is the all sufficient guide for our lives as Christians. We can learn much about how to handle these types of situations by evaluating the Word of God.Question Answered (James 3:1-12; Matthew 12:26)The book of James is often described as “New Testament Proverbs.” It reveals godly wisdom in a New Testament context. As we review the third chapter of James, we see that the tongue is the most deadly body part of the human body. Not only is it deadly, but according to James, it is unable to be fully tamed!
Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things (James 3:3-5a).
Illustration – Horse (3)A horse is a large powerful animal. In comparison to a person, the horse is hundreds of times stronger and more powerful – but it is controlled with a bit that is placed in the mouth just on top of the tongue. As the tongue is controlled by the bit, so is the horse’s head. As the head is controlled, the entire body is also brought into submission. Therefore, in order to rely upon the horse to obey, a bit must be used on the top of the horse’s tongue.Illustration – Ship (4)Just like the horse, a ship is also controlled with a very small member. The entire ship is controlled by a rudder at the back of the boat. The rudder turns and so does the ship. The massive size and power of the ship is controlled by the small member which sits at the back of the ship.Application – Tongue (5a)James uses these two illustrations in order to demonstrate the importance of the tongue. Although the tongue is a small member, it remains very powerful. It possess much power and ability to control the entire body of a human being.The point James was making is very clear! Like a horse is controlled by his bit (on top of his tongue) and the ship is controlled by a small rudder, we as humans are controlled by our tongues. If we are going to be used for God’s glory, our tongues must be in submission to Him!Illustration – Wildfire (5b – 6)
Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
Wildfires destroy! This past summer (2007) we witnessed many destructive wildfires in the state of California. What started with dry conditions turned to fuel for a small spark. This spark grew into a small fire that rapidly grew through dry and windy conditions into a monstrous wildfire. This fire destroyed homes, lives, and habitats.James was making a clear point in this text. Just as wildfires destroy, so does the evil speech that is brought forth by the tongue. Therefore, we as Christians must guard our tongues in order to prevent such rapid and destructive wildfires. Although James never knew of the internet in his day, he certainly understood that specific conditions (wind and dry weather) could produce fuel for a small spark which could grow into a massive wildfire. In our day, these conditions are present with the internet. Although it often starts with a seemingly small spark of words which are the translation of audible words or internal thoughts, it quickly turns into a wildfire that rages out of control and brings about much destruction in the end.Illustration of Beasts (7 – 8)
For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
In this section, James compares the tongue to animals of the earth and sea. According to James, all manner of animals have been tamed by man, but no man can tame his tongue! James goes further to say that the tongue contains all manner of evil and poison. What a warning for Christians to consider! As fallen humans, Christians still battle with the old sinful ways of our past. Therefore, since James says that no man can fully tame the tongue, we must always guard and filter our speech before it comes out of our lips and before we hit the infamous “publish” button.Illustrations of a Fountain, Tree, and Vine (9 – 12)
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
James ends this section on the tongue with straight application that comes from his last two illustrations. James claims that we as Christians should not bless God and curse men which are made after the similitude of God. He goes further to claim that out of the same mouth should not come both blessing and cursing. He proves his point with two clear illustrations. James’ first illustration involves a fountain. According to James, a fountain does not produce both bitter and sweet water. In relation to the tongue, we as Christians should not have blessings and cursing coming from our tongue. James’ last illustration involves a tree and a vine. According to James, a fig tree does not produce olive berries and a vine does not produce figs. In order to strengthen the argument, James claims that in the same manner as olive berries and figs come from two different sources, the Christian’s mouth should produce only those things which bing glory to God.Conclusion = For God’s Glory We must all realize that words do have the power to hurt! When people fight and feud in the blogosphere – it does not help the message of Christ! Small criticism that grows into a mega wildfire will bring much damage to children, families, will disgrace the name of Christ, and will eventually damage efforts of evangelism. Every idle word we speak or type must be done for the glory of God. If we as Christians can honestly live our lives through the filter of God’s glory – our speech will ultimately bring edification to the church rather than disgrace. Does this conclusion outlaw all efforts of critique or brotherly disagreement? Absolutely not! It does however suggest that dirty laundry should not be aired out in public forums – for it brings about much more harm than good in the end. Blogging is not a sin and is continuing to be used for God’s glory in many ways, but the messenger (blogger) should always seek to avoid harmful attacks that could dishonor God. While I believe that we as Christians should bring to light heretical ministers and movements, we should allow our voice of disagreement within our local assembly be heard among family members only in order to exalt God to the highest!
Matthew 12:36But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
For the glory of God!Rev. Josh Buice