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Showing posts with label Gossip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gossip. Show all posts

Monday, June 17, 2024

Warning! Do Not Judge! | A Sermon on James 4:11-12

Today, we continue our series on the book of James.  Last week, we learned about choosing God's way over our own selfish desires.  Today, we'll look at James 4:11-12 and talk about the power of our words.  James says a lot in this short passage about how we speak to and about others.  Let's see what we can learn. 

James 4:11-12
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Don’t Slander One Another (James 4:11)
James starts out by telling us not to slander one another.  Slander means speaking falsely or maliciously about someone, damaging their reputation.  When we talk badly about others, we hurt them and ourselves.  We are all part of God's family, and He calls us to love and support one another, not tear each other down.

Let me give you an illustration.  If you are on a baseball team, it's important for everyone on the team to support each other and work together to win.  But if someone is spreading rumors about their team mates, it creates division and distrust in the team and makes it much harder to work together and succeed.  Well, as Christians, who is on our team?  Everyone in our church is on our team.  We aren't competing against eachother, but against the powers of darkness among us.  So we should not slander and spread rumors because it creates distrust and makes it harder to work together and succeed in bringing God's Kingdom on earth.  

And if you think about it, there are other people on our team even outside our congregation.  Everyone in a Bible believing church is also trying to make disciples of Jesus and bring God's Kingdom on earth.  So, we are not competing against other churches in our community.  We all have the same goal.  If they succeed, we succeed.  If we succeed, they succeed.  So let us not bring division in God's universal church or spread rumors and slander.  Let us root for each other and pray for each other to all succeed.

And if we have a broader definition of success, we could include our whole community and our country as being on our team.  Don't we want our community and country to succeed?  Then let us not tear each other down, but build ach other up as much as it is in our power to do so.

What are some ways Christians may be guilty of slander?
Gossip – Sharing unverified or private information about someone else's personal life.  Talking behind their back about their mistakes or failures.

Spreading Rumors – Passing along information that may not be true or is exaggerated, which can harm someone's reputation.  Speculating about someone's actions or intentions without knowing the full story.

Criticizing Leadership – Speaking negatively about church leaders or decisions they make without understanding the full context or offering constructive feedback.  Undermining authority by questioning leaders' integrity or abilities.

Judging Appearances or Behavior – Making negative comments about someone's clothing, appearance, or lifestyle choices.  Criticizing how others raise their children, manage their finances, or conduct their marriages.

Undermining People’s Faith – Questioning the sincerity of someone's faith or relationship with God based on their actions or struggles.  Making disparaging remarks about someone's participation or lack thereof in church activities.

Complaining About Others – Expressing frustration about the behavior or habits of fellow church members in a way that is unkind or unfair.  Creating division by speaking negatively about different groups or cliques within the church.

James says, "Don't Slander!"

Judging Others (James 4:11-12)
James goes on to talk about judging others.  He says when we judge others, we put ourselves above God's law.  "The law" is the moral and ethical teachings given by God, particularly the command to love one another.  Remember, Jesus said the greatest commandment (law) is to love the Lord your God.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). 

 James 2:8 mentions this "royal law" found in Scripture: "Love your neighbor as yourself."  When we speak against or judge others, we are not acting in accordance with this law of love.  Rather, we act as though we are above than the law.  In essence, we are saying God's law of love does not apply to us, or that we know better than God.  We put ourselves in a position to judge the holy law of God itself, which is both presumptuous and wrong.

Judging vs. Discerning
Now, whenever I talk about not being judgmental, I need to remind us of the difference between judging and discerning (or between being judgmental and making good judgments). 

There’s a difference.  For example:  We are currently searching for a new children’s minister for our church.  We are taking applications and trying to choose the best candidate.  How can we hire the right person unless we interview and “judge” the candidates? 

The kind of judgment James speaks against is a condemning, self-righteous attitude that looks down on others and assumes a position of moral superiority.  This leads to thinking or speaking negatively about others, spreading rumors, and causes division.

This is not the same as discernment, which provides constructive guidance with love and humility.  When we interview people we exercise discernment and wisdom.  This includes evaluating a person's character, qualifications, and behavior.  But the goal is to find the right person for the job, not to tear anyone down.

But what is someone is not acting right?  What if their behavior is clearly wrong?  What then?

If we have someone in our church whose behavior is unacceptable, we go to them in love to hold them accountable to build them up and help them be more like Christ.  Jesus even gave instructions for addressing sin among believers in Matthew 18:15-7.  He taught us to:

  • Go to the person privately and gently and respectfully point out their fault.
  • If the person doesn't listen, take one or two others with you to help mediate and confirm the issue.
  • If the person still refuses to listen, bring the matter before the church. The goal is always restoration and reconciliation (not proving you are right by tearing someone else down).
So there is a clear difference between being judgmental and making good judgments.

Humility is Key (James 4:12)
Remember, there is only one true Judge.  Our role is to love and serve one another with humility.  Humility is the key.  It reminds us we have our own faults and need God's grace too.  When we speak with humility, we build others up instead of tearing them down. 

How we speak to and about one another is important.  We are called not to slander or judge,
but to speak with love and humility. By doing this, we honor God and build a stronger, more united community.

It’s Our Job to Build a Better Future
It breaks my heart to see so much division and slander being thrown around in society.  The ignorance, disrespect, and vitriol that characterizes our public discourse is troubling.  It is ungodly, unholy, and unhealthy.  What kind of world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren?

If it concerns you too, then I invite you to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  Christians are called to be different than the world.  We are called to be salt and light—to be a positive influence on our broken world.  And we can, because we have the power of God’s Holy Spirit living inside us.

The way we make a difference is to live differently, to speak differently.  We are called to be holy as God is holy, to love as God loves, to act with humility and to treat people with dignity and respect.  The way to change the world is not to gripe about it, but to be the change we want to see.

Baptism of Joshua Kirk Ikerd
In just a moment, we are going to baptize baby Joshua, the son of Kelsey and Chad Ikerd.  Whenever we baptize our children, we promise to do all in our power to support their life of faith.  It occurs to me today this includes doing all we can to make the world they inherit a better one.  One of the chief ways we can do that right now is to act with humility and to treat people with dignity so the world becomes a more positive and loving place to live.  Will you do that?

Tuesday, May 18, 2021


Proverbs 16:27-28
27 Scoundrels create trouble; their words are a destructive blaze.  28 A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.


Which words do you think are the absolute worst? A lot of church people would argue “damn” is a bad word and GD is the absolute worst (even though both are in the Bible).  Using God’s name to damn someone or something is strong language.  Others might say the F-word is the absolute worst—and for many years it was banned from TV and movies even though Ret Butler could tell Scarlett O’Hara in 1939 “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” in the major motion picture “Gone with the Wind”.  However, if you polled the nation as a whole in 2021, you would likely find the absolute worst words you can use are racial slurs.  GD and F-bombs are dropped all the time—even on television—but saying the N-word will get you fired or even ruin your career. 

100 years ago, wrong or right, the N-word was used freely and openly by people of all colors in social settings.  Even US presidents like Woodrow Wilson, Lindon B Johnson, Harry Truman, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt unashamedly used the N-word.  It just wasn’t considered a bad word 60 years ago.[i]  Things are different today.  Celebrities like Paul Dean have had their careers disrupted or ruined because of the N-word.  Even Madonna—who made a career of scandalous, unapologetically provocative behavior—had to issue an apology a few years ago for using the N-word. 

In the 1600s, the foulest words you could use were swear words associated with God’s name.  Swearing by "God’s bones" or "God’s blood" was considered extremely taboo and not to be used in polite company.  Such foul language was fit only for sailors and pirates.  (Incidentally, the term “bloody” in the UK, as in “You bloody bastard!” may have descended from the swear “By God’s blood!” which eventually shortened to “bloody” and is still considered quite offensive in the England.)

One term we use today to “pretty up” our cussin’ is the word “darn”.  Where did the word darn come from?  Do we say it just because it sounds sort of like damn?  Darn actually evolved down through the centuries from a phrase used in 16th century swearing, “Eternal damnation”. “Eternal damnation” got shortened to “tarnation” (used by miners and cowboys out west: “Tarnation, these misquitos are eating me alive!”).  Then, “tarnation” was shortened again to just “tarn” and then that became “darn”.  What started out as one of the most offensive things you could say in the 16th century has now become a rather inert word that might be used by Ned Flanders sort of folk.  Can you imagine Ret Butler telling Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a darn.”  It just doesn't have the same punch.

Putting Pearl Earrings in a Pigs Ear
We like to pretty up our words to make them more palatable.  For instance, we don’t eat pig; we eat pork.  Pig is English; pork comes from French and Latin.  I guess pork taste better to us than pig.  The same rule applies for hamburgers.  We don’t eat cow; we eat beef because beef was originally the French/Latin word and so “100% all beef patty” sounds more appetizing than “100% all cow patty”.  I guess if you give food a fancy name, it’s easier to swallow.  Snails become escargot. Squid becomes calamari.  It’s the same animal, but if you give it a French name on the menu, people will pay top dollar for it.  If you call it by the English animal name, it's fish bait.

And that brings me to another form of foul language people try to pretty up—gossip.

Gossip is one of the vilest forms of speech that comes from human lips, but—ironically—it is the one that’s most common and accepted in polite society.  If you come into a church dropping F-bombs and GD, even the most accommodating congregation will soon escort you out the door.  However, gossip is often runs wild in churches.  This despite the extensive prohibitions against gossip throughout the Bible.

Leviticus 19:16 - Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.

Proverbs 11:13 - A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.

Proverbs 16:28 - A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.

Proverbs 17:4 - Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.

Proverbs 20:19 - A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.

Proverbs 25:23 - As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!

Proverbs 26:20 - Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.

I could go on, but it would take too long.

Just based off the number of times the Bible speaks negatively about gossip, you would think Christians would be far more concerned about gossip than cuss words.  I think Jesus and the apostles would be.

In Romans, the Apostle what Paul listed gossip right alongside some of the most despicable sins.

Romans 1:29-31
Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents.

Notice, Paul lists gossip among such despicable sins as murder and hating God.  Wow! 

You need to understand, destructive, sinful, disgusting language is not limited to so called “foul language”.  When people gossip, they are speaking in ways repugnant to God—even if they use polite acceptable words. Gossip is hurtful and offensive and God hates it.

Definition of Gossip
The dictionary definition of gossip is “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”  That’s the technical definition, but gossip is sneaky language that easily disguises itself in our conversations.  If we don’t clearly understand the nature of gossip, we may engage in gossip without even knowing we are doing so.  Also understand that not everything people label as gossip is gossip. Sometimes, people are just ashamed and if you say anything about their shameful conduct, they will accuse you of gossip.  Sometimes we do need to talk about each other's business; that's part of what living together in authentic community means. 

It's important to now what is and what isn't gossip. So, here are seven questions that may help you decide if it's gossip.

Is it Gossip?
1. How Certain am I that the information is factually correct?
If it's not true or only partially true and you are spreading it, you are a gossip.  Don't do it.  Sometimes, however, we don't intend to gossip.  Maybe we're
not sure if something is true and we're talking to people because we're trying to find out.  We may even say something like, "I'm not sure if this is true, but I heard..." Maybe we are hoping to get more information, but that's not usually the way it plays out.  The person we ask that question may begin spreading the information as truth.  The next thing you know, everyone's accepted your initial question as a fact.  If you are trying to find if the gossip you heard is true, then go to the source--the person the gossip is about.  They will set you straight.  Otherwise, it may be best to keep your mouth shut.

2. Was the info given in confidence?
If someone shared something with you in confidence (or assumed confidence), then it's a terrible form of gossip to share that with others. Deep meaningful relationships are only possible if people know they can trust you to keep a confidence. Sometimes people need to share something with you and ask for help or maybe even just vent. They need to trust you won't turn around and share that with others. One reason gossip is so evil is it erodes our ability to have deep, meaningful relationships with other people. We end up angry, hurt, and isolated and the whole community it damaged.

3. Is this important enough to share?
Not everything you hear si important enough to share.  Just because something is interesting, fascinating, or juicy doesn't make it important.  Is someone's life or spiritual/emotional/physical health at jeopardy if you remain silent?  Is it truly important or are you just wanting the enjoyment of talking about this situation?  Be honest.

4. Am I telling the story to build others up in Christ? 
Sometimes we do need to talk about each others business when it means building each other up in Christ. In the Church, your business is my business if it is about growing in Christ.  But gossip is not about building each other up in Christ.  Gossip is about derive our entertainment at the expense of someone else's situation and it's distrusting.  I can often tell when someone is about to share gossp with me; they get a certain gleam in their eye.  I don't like to gossip, but I love to eat a good steak.  I get a gleam in my eye when I'm about to eat a juicy ribeye.  When someone who loves gossip is about to share it, you can almost see the same gleam in their eye.  They've got something juicy to tell and they can't wait to devour it.  It's disgusting.  Most church people would agree pornography is distrusting.  I want everyone to understand that gossip is just as distgusting.

5. Am I telling this story to protect others in Christ?
As I said before, it's not necessarily gossip if keeping quiet could truly hurt someone.  However, we need to be honest in answering this question.  Are we truly trying to protect someone or are we making an excuse to give us the opportunity to have the pleasure of talking about someone else's business?

6. What is my motive for telling this particular person about it?
Although we sometimes need to talk to about each others business, we don't necessarily need to talk to everyone about each others business.  Why do you want to tell this particular person about this situation?  Are they the right person to talk to?  Do they really need to know?  Be very careful who you bring into the conversation.  Be clear when you are speaking in confidence and expect people to keep your confidence.

7. Have I prayed about it?
Ask God whether you should talk or remain silent.  Consider: if Jesus were sitting in the room with you during the conversation, would he be pleased with what you're saying?  The fact is, Jesus is there.  He is not pleased when we gossip.

If you are prone to gossip, everyone you talk to likely knows you will talk the same way about them when they're not around. You don't want to be known as a gossip. People want to feel like you have their back, not that you're always talking behind their back.

Gossip is poison—even though it taste sweet. It destroys the person who shares it, harms people who hear it, and hurts people about whom we gossip. Gossip is a deadly evil.

If you are more concerned about “cussing” in the world outside the church than you are about gossip in the church, then you need to check yourself. You need to pray to the Lord for forgiveness for the times you engage in the evil of gossip. You need to repent and make a commitment to clean up your foul language or else you may be in danger of eternal damnation.

How we use words matters. Our words can either build up and bring life or tear down and bring death. Let us pray our words bring life instead of death.

Father, forgive us for using foul language, especially when disgusting gossip was disguised as pretty words.  Help us to be honest, faithful, gracious, and loving when we talk to and about one another.  Help our most important motive be love and to build one another up in Christ.  Father, You created the whole universe with words; You spoke and it was.  You made us in Your image and gave us powerful words to speak.  Forgive us for deforming Your image by speaking words that bring darkness and death.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we may speak words of light and life from this day forward. Amen.


Monday, August 17, 2015

The Eighth Commandment

Exodus 20:15

            I like to plan ahead.  Whether it is with my wife and kids, or with my extended family, or with the staff of our church or other church leaders, we will often look at our calendars together and plan ahead.  Collaborating and syncing calendars and schedules has become a lot easier with the use of computers and smart phones, but back in the day, we would sit down with an actual calendar and write in our plans.  If something was still tentative, you would write it with a pencil in case something changed and you needed to go back and erase it.  But once something was firm, you would write it in pen—signifying it would not change. 
            God has His plans for us too.  And of all His plans, the Ten Commandments must surely be permanent.  The Ten Commandments were written—not with pencil or pen, but—by the very finger of God on stone tablets as a permanent record of God’s instructions.  The Commandments were placed inside the most sacred object in ancient Israel, the famous Ark of the Covenant.  They were given to the Israelites and handed down through the generations to us today to teach us how to live a good life, pleasing to God in a healthy community of faith.
            There has been much debate about the 10 commandments in recent years.  Christians and secularist argue whether the Commandments should be displayed in public places like schools or courthouses.  Lost in all this controversy is the sad fact that most people in our country—including the Christians who are most zealously in favor of displaying the Ten Commandments—don’t even know the commandments.
            All summer, I have been challenging you to memorize the Ten Commandments.  Do you know them yet?  Let’s see how you do.  Can you fill in the blanks in the list below?  Let’s try.
The Ten Commandments: 
1.     Do not _______ any God except the Lord.
2.     Do not ____ _____ of any kind.
3.     Do not ______ the ____ of the Lord.
4.     Remember to _______ the _______ ___ and keep it holy.
5.     Honor your ______ and ______.
6.     Do not ______.
7.     Do not commit ________.
8.     Do not _____.
9.     Do not _______ _______ against your neighbor.
10.  Do not _____.
Good!  Keep working on it.  You still have a few more weeks to complete the challenge.

Today we will look at the Eighth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:15
15 “You must not steal.”

A Straight Forward Comamndment
            This commandment is so straight forward it’s hard to imagine anyone can’t understand it.  According to, to steal is – to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, especially secretly or by force.  For instance, “A pickpocket stole his watch.”  It could also be to appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment.  So plagiarism is a form of stealing..  I heard that Conan O’Brien was recently accused of stealing jokes he read on twitter and using them in his show.  Don't steal.  It's wrong.
            What about stealing someone’s reputation?  Well, that’s a great question.  Proverbs 22:1 – "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
            A person’s reputation is—their good name—is very valuable.  The Bible says it’s more valuable than silver or gold.  Now, unless you are a thief, you probably wouldn’t think of stealing someone’s silver or gold.  However, if you talk bad about someone behind their back you are damaging their reputation.  If you gossip, you are damaging their reputation.   By damaging their reputation, you are stealing one of their most valuable assets.  It’s like you have broken into the home and cracked open their safe and stolen some of the gold or silver jewelry.
            How many have ever gossiped or talked about someone behind their back?  You probable didn’t think of it as stealing, but in a sense that’s what you were doing.  What does that make you?  What do you call someone who steals?  A thief.
            If that seems a little harsh, consider Romans 1:29, where it describes how wicked people are.  It says, “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.”  Notice it lists gossip in the same company as greed, hate, and murder.  If you gossip or slander or talk badly about people behind their back, you are a thief who steals the most precious asset a person has and you are breaking the Eighth Commandment.  Stop!
Stealing from God
Here’s another great question--do we ever steal from God?  Yes.  Sometimes we do.  We steal from God when we money when we do not give a proper offering to God at the church.  Listen to what Malachi 3:8 says, “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!  “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’  “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.
            John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, said it this way:  “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” 
            We must always remember that the money we have is not really ours to do with as we please.  It belongs to God, along with everything we have and even our lives.  The basic financial principle about giving throughout Scripture is that you should give 10% of your income to God through the church.  This is the same principle Jesus taught his disciples to follow.  Really, if we are Christians and have given our lives to God, we have already chosen to give up everything for him.  So we are not giving just 10%, but 100%.  Fortunately, God allows us to keep 90% for ourselves and place 10% in our offerings at the church.
            However, according to research in 2012 by the Barna Group[i], only 12% of born again Christians in America qualify as tithers.  (That is, the total amount they give to the church divided by their household income was 10% or more).  That means out of every 100 Christians, only 12 are actually tithers.  The rest are stealing from God.
            And what is the result of this?  Churches all over America are anemic, weak, underfunded, under maintained, and do not have the resources they need to do all the ministries God wants us to do. 
            And we really have no excuse.  We live in one of the most prosperous nations in the world.  According to UN reports[ii], nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day.  The median US household income is around $138 per day (or $50,500 per year) and yet we still think we cannot afford to give a proper tithe as God asks.
            Now, I command you, in the name of the Lord, to stop stealing!  Ephesians 4:28 says, “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.”  James 2:10 says, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”
           When we think we are righteous or better than others, the Ten Commandments point out that we are all guilty of breaking God’s law.  In our hearts, we are murderers, adulterous, thieves.  We are sinners.  And Romans 6:23 says, “The consequences of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
            So let me end by inviting you to stop, turn away from your sin, and ask Jesus to forgive and save you.  Take hold of the power of the Holy Spirit that you might live a new life according to God’s will.