Scientists today are praising the art of gossip. They explain their position by noting that this is how social norms are passed on. Apparently, people won’t know what’s right and what’s wrong unless tales of people breaking the rules are whispered undercover. I believe that’s a bunch of bunk. People gossip because it’s fun, and they can make themselves look better than the ones they’re gossiping about. There’s an important reason to shun those gossiping: if they talk about others to you, they’re going to talk about you to others. While gossip may have the peripheral benefit of passing along social norms, the thoughts in the mind of the person gossiping are usually about how to make themselves look better, not how to make society better. And that attitude makes all the difference.
As James deals with the problems caused by the human tongue, he takes the gossip picture a bit further. No longer is this gossip just anyone from the street, now they’re in the church. The church gossip is dangerous. First, the church gossip destroys the harmony of the church by disrupting the fellowship. The church gossip destroys the witness of the church when they take their gossip outside the church and non-believers see and hear the gossip, only to react by thinking, “why would I want to be around a person like that?” And, it gets worse. A gossip does things secretly, sometimes you have people who talk bad about others openly. Neither they nor the gossip are seeking to help people improve, they seek to tear others down. This is what James was dealing with. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10 NIV)
Whether the criticism, cursing really, is in secret or in public, the effect is the same: the people doing that are belittling another human being while they also claim to worship and praise God. And make no mistake about it – cursing as used here does not mean particular words that are included in the list of seven words you can’t say on the radio, cursing means denigrating a human being and making them appear to be the lowest kind of human being. James reminds us here that these people we’re attacking are made in the image of God. And, if they are made in the image of God, cursing or attacking these people comes full circle into an attack on God. For instance, when you call someone a “stinking idiot” not only are you cursing them, you are attacking who they are as one of God’s creations, and this would mean that you’re attacking God’s work. James reminds us that this is wrong.
Before I received the grace of Jesus, I prided myself on my ability to insult or curse others. I could find a way to cut anyone down no matter what they were doing. Once I came to Christ, I realized after a while that this wasn’t good. It used to be funny (ok, not really) to tell someone that they had a face that only a mother could love and that their mother wasn’t that one, but when I began realizing that my jokes at the expense of others ultimately became an attack on God’s creative work in their life. I realized that if I was praising God, I needed to have a hard time reviling His work. “But what about people caught in sin?” you may ask. There are ways to deal with that that don’t involve public rebuke or humiliation most of the time. Sometimes, though, the best way to help people caught up in sin is to praise them out of it. When we talk about their good qualities, many people want to emphasize those and thus their sinful ways get put on the back burner and disappear. People need me to show them the love of God far more than they need to hear me insult them. My goal is to use this dangerous tongue to show God’s love.
Lord, bridle my tongue. May the same mouth I use to praise You, be used to show Your love to others.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.