Posted in gentle speech, lying, slander

Alistair Begg on "The Use and Abuse of Words" Right speech in a wrong world

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And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalm 141:3)

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:10)

This morning I listened to Alistair Begg’s sermon about words and their abuse. I have been thinking about words for a long time. You might be familiar with this adage:

“Before you speak, ask yourself: “Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?”

The quote is often attributed to Buddha, or Guru Sai Baba, or the 1920 Quaker book The Children’s Story Garden or the 1835 poem “The Three Gates of Gold” by Beth Day”, or…

You get the idea. It’s a cultural parable. More to the point, the bible has much to say about tongue, lips, speech, lying, and truth.

My goal with this blog is three-fold, as stated in the menu on the right: encouragement, discernment,

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and prophecy. The work of discernment often means I expose a false teacher by name, or report on a false teaching. I report on negative trends in Christianity or church life. The flood of falsity is never ending and of one lets it, can taint one’s attitude into one that is overwhemlingly negative.

Satan’s flood of falsity began in the garden of Eden (actually it began in heaven when Lucifer declared himself above God and pride was found in his heart). It reentelssly continued int he Old testament. In the NT after Jesus ascended, satan immediately flooded into the church with all kinds of false teachers bringing false doctrines.

Paul was especially grieved by these men. he called out Alexander, Hymenaeus, Philetus, Jannes and Jambres, Phygelus and Hermogenes who deserted. Diotrephes plagued John…all these men brought with them false teachings to the first century churches, immediately. It’s never stopped.

Satan has never let up. We still fight the battle of truth against evil today. One thing we are called to do is:

“Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Romans 16:17

The way we mark them is what is at issue here. And I’m not just talking about right speech solely in discernment issues but a Christian’s talk in general. It is very easy to get unnecessarily critical and to stay critical. After that comes sarcasm, mocking and then anger.

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)

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When speaking of brethren or speaking of the lost, our speech is supposed to be gentle and kind. (1 Peter 2:1, Colossians 4:6). We are supposed to respect our leaders and give them double honor. On the other hand, Paul called false teachers’ talk “gangrene”, (2 Timothy 2:17) the teachers themselves “men of depraved mind” and “fools.” (2 Tim 3:8-9). He said “Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:15).

I said it a few days ago and I’ll say it again. It is a delicate balancing act, to properly discern, to speak rightly in all the different situations, and to remain holy in life and speech. When does one speak with righteous anger? When can one use biblical sarcasm? When should we be gentle? No one is perfect, but we can strive toward the persistent tendency to do right, and that includes our speech.

I’ve noticed that courteous speech on Facebook declines immediately when doctrine is brought up and opinions on it vary. Disagreements among Christians on Twitter turn nasty in a heartbeat. Personal attacks, sarcasm, mocking, and anger are the go-to replies of the day. Slander abounds! I don’t like that. I try hard to reign in my own sarcasm, though there is a biblical place for it. I’m not wise enough always to know when I’m correctly walking the line of loving, sarcastic admonishment, and sarcasm that intentionally (or unintentionally) hurts, so I try not to be sarcastic at all.

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Foolish talk is strongly discouraged in the bible. We will be called to account for every careless word we speak. (Matthew 12:36). The bible is clear about what the LORD hates. HATES. There are seven things in particular that He hates, and two, maybe three, involve the tongue!!

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
(Proverbs 6:16-19).

A lying tongue and false witness are two kinds of speech the LORD hates. A person sowing discord could also be related back to the former two because lying and slander bring discord. This is serious. When the God of the Universe, Ancient of Days, Holy Judge of all Mankind, tells us He hates lying, slander, and careless words, we must pay attention.

When I was in journalism we were told that the public will always fill in a gap with a negative. If we weave a story loosely, the public’s mind will fill in the holes with scurrilous thoughts. Therefore we needed to be as tight as possible. Even hinting at something is just about the same as libel, because of the implications one can make by using our words as a springboard.

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, (2 Timothy 2:25)

Another kind of loose, damaging speech is whisper campaigns. Whisper slander campaigns are the most successful kind of negative campaigns, because they ruin reputations and darken the mind against the person slandered. Satan was successful in his whisper campaign against God in heaven and turned a third of the angels against Him!

Here is a famous and well-used parable to illustrate the damage of words, and how fast they travel. If you listen to Pastor Begg’s sermon on the Abuse of Words, you will hear this at the end.

Let’s mind our speech, and say edifying and kind things. If we have to make a person as a false teacher or a threat to the brethren, let’s speak the truth in love.

Alistair Begg: The Use and Abuse of Words


Parable of the Feathers

Once upon a time a certain man went to the town pastor.

“Pastor, he confessed, “I’ve been slandering my neighbors. I am truly sorry for what I’ve said and how I’ve treated them. I want to take back all the bad words I’ve said and then be done with it. How can I do this?”

The pastor said: “Go pluck 3 chickens. Stuff a bag with the feathers, then go put one feather on every doorstep in town. Return to me when you have finished.”

“Pastor, I have obeyed your instruction. What should I do now?”

“Now,” said the pastor, “go pick up every feather.”

“But, but,” spluttered the villager, “they’ve been there all night! The wind has already blown them all around!”

The pastor nods in agreement. He said, “You may turn from your sin and be forgiven, but the wind has blown your words everywhere, and the spent word, like the fired arrow, isn’t coming back.”

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Further Reading:

Gary Alan Fine has done extensive work on the social impact of rumors and legends. In his interesting book Rumor Mills, he wrote,

“Telling stories enables one to slip into the role of a transmitter who can refer to his or her sources for testimony and claim to transmit facts without being criticized.”

He also wrote, Difficult Reputations: Collective Memories of the Evil, Inept, and Controversial
which examines the lasting effect of rumors upon a reputation.

Todd Pruitt at Reformation21 advises pastors to do their part in ceasing to perpetuate rumors and hoaxes by consulting Snopes once in a while before including that cute story into their sermons. Snopes is a website that de-bunks rumors that have quickly taken on a life of their own in email or social media. Facebook’s Hoax Slayer also does a good job.

Preachers – Spend some time with St. Snopes this week

Posted in cooking competition, gentle speech, slander

Talkin’ smack aboutcha

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” (1 Peter 2:1).

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

The concept of slander or a lying tongue comes up a LOT in the bible. I tried to find a definitive number of how many times we read about lying, false witness, slander, or hateful speech, but I couldn’t. The number of mentions I did find ranged from 60 to 140, and I know there’s more. God is serious about slander.

I like to watch cooking competitions. I mentioned that before, recently. Regular competition shows are awful, many of them. The goal seems not to be to encourage someone in their talent or help them to improve in a dignified way, but to put them down in the most cutting way possible so as to get laughs, ratings, and to humiliate the contestant.

And the competitions where the competitors talk smack about each other are just gross.

The cooking competitions are usually rated G, that’s why I like them. Each has its own flavor, ha ha, but there are a few that are just plain mean (Hell’s Kitchen) and others that are nice. I’ve enjoyed newcomer American Baking Competition and four-year old Masterchef particularly, because they are nice.

That’s because judges seem to be encouraging and the point seems to be genuinely about food, not drama. For example on Masterchef the contestants are offered cooking lessons on days off by the famous chefs who on other days are their judges! And the judges on Masterchef do not seek to cut the heart out of the person, but build them up and let them compete with dignity and to improve their skills while they are there. If they fail a challenge and are asked to leave, they are always encouraged to keep trying and given a compliment on the way out.

But last Wednesday night was a turning point for me on Masterchef. The judges were extremely cutting (OK, just Joe Bastianich) calling one contestant a “narcissist in full denial”, and said “thanks for nothing” when presented the food. The contestant had demonstrated that he wasn’t teachable, but it is up to the teacher to maintain self-control with all his students. The contestant was humiliated on national television.

Worse, the show has added twists to the competition this year that seem unnecessarily hurtful in that they are designed to force contestants to compete in a cold-hearted, hard-boiled way.

Worst of all was the glee with which one contestant gloated over the stumblings and failings of one fellow contestant who was eventually chopped. She said nasty things about him and chortled at him in all his stress.

Once the nastiness can is opened all the worms come out. Talking smack about the other contestants only goes down hill from there.

In previous years contestants would not say such cutting things about each other. They might say “I think I am a better cook” or “I wouldn’t have handled it that way” but not to say outright “the guy is an idiot and I want him out of here.” That’s why I enjoyed the shows in the first place.

I may have said this before, but with the advent of Netflix, and the ability to engage in binge watching, I notice that year three seems to be the year that a show takes a dark turn. This is holding true for Masterchef. The program is partway through season 4. Season 3 was a highlight because gentle and positive and dignified Christine Ha (Left, who eventually won) projected a high-road respectability that seemed to permeate the competition. The judges were encouraging instead of cutting, too.

I had already opted out of Top Chef, while Food Network Star seems to be headed downhill as well. The focus is now on the infighting between contestants instead of cooking and improving cooking. Nowadays with most even G-rated competition shows, it’s as Tony Soprano said, “Always with the drama, you!

I’ll watch Masterchef one more time, this week, because returning champion Christine Ha is making a guest appearance. After that, it’s American Baking Competition all the way. If the usual trend holds up, I’ve got two and a third years of that show before it takes its dark turn. 

If God doesn’t want us to slander and hates bitterness and malice, then we should not watch shows where the judges OR the contestants exhibit such traits. I’m careful about who to invite into my home. This includes television characters. I don’t like hate speech. God hates it. I don’t want to engage in it or encourage it by allowing its expression inside my home, because it pollutes me.

On last Wednesday’s episode of Masterchef, the fellow contestant’s gleeful hatred and persistent vocalization of a man who by all accounts seemed loyal and kind and skilled and a good dad was too gross to watch any more. This is not entertainment. It’s rebellion.

Be wary of slander. It’s bad not just when we do it. It’s bad when we listen to it in others. It’s bad when we know it will be present in a situation or a TV program but we seek it out anyway. Maybe we even laugh at the insults when they’re talkin’ smack about someone, forgetting that they are still real people even if they are on TV.

Jim Nix Photography, Creative Commons use

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)

This standard is getting harder and harder to apply but we know we are supposed to be having speech that builds up:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Is the speech you’re listening to (and thereby accepting into your soul) on movies and TV competition shows good for building up?

Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

Sobering advice. I know this dramatically shrinks the pool of available entertainment, but… Jesus comes first. Personally, I’ve been slipping. I’ll have to more carefully monitor what I take in via entertainment by using this standard, in addition to working on making sure that I am not talking smack about anyone else!

Some days it seem as though there is SO MUCH room for improvement! Fortunately we have the Holy Spirit who helps us grow into holiness.

“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

Posted in gossip, slander

Pssst, have you heard the latest about her?

We are studying 2 Corinthians 12 this week at church. I was reading along and got to the last couple of verses and the Spirit made some of it leap off the page. You Christians know what I am talking about.

“For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.” (2 Corinthians 12: 20-21).

I stopped at “whisperings.” It strikes me that whisperings is listed in a list of sins along with the more vocal and physical sins of contentions, outbursts and tumults. Compared to those, whisperings seems hardly noticeable, and certainly one of the lesser sins. Or is it?

Looking up the Greek for that part of the verse we see that whisperings is “psithurismos”. This is an onomatopoetic word that is supposed to imitate the sound it describes. This word in the Greek is a sibilant, sounding like sss-sss. The word means a secret slandering, a whispering. Strong’s Concordance says, “Psithyrismós (from psithos, “whisper”) – properly, a whispering to “quietly” spread malicious gossip; “whispering” that launches “secret attacks on a person’s character” (Souter). Psithyrismós is “an onomatopoetic word for the sibilant murmur of a snake charmer.”

Snake charmer, eh?

Going further, I remembered the verses from Ezekiel 28. One day last year I was asking myself, “How DID satan get a third of the angels to side with him? They live with God in perfect holiness. How did satan convince them?” The verse says-

“Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones” (Ez 28:16).

My bible study involves reading the bible a lot, and asking myself questions. The next question I’d asked myself was, ‘what widespread trade? It’s not like there was a mall in heaven…” I looked up the Hebrew word for trade, and it is rechullatecha, meaning traffic, merchandise, from root word rakal. Rakal means to go about, selling. So satan was selling a bill of goods. The ultimate root is rakil, slander. Aha! So, satan was actively perpetrating a slanderous whisper campaign among the angels by going about, here and there, spreading lies and slander and gossip against God’s character.

If you ever wondered why the sins of gossip and murder are near each other in a list of grievous sins in Romans 1:28-32, it is because murder kills the body and gossip kills the character. If you ever wondered how efficient it is to kill someone’s character by talebearing, just look at how successful satan was with slandering and gossiping about God. He was able to convince a third of the multitude to side with him. He was able to convince Eve to taste the fruit. We saw from satan’s interaction with Eve that he sidles up and whispers just enough slander to get you to start looking at things in another way (Hath God really said…? Genesis 3:1)

Of the six things God hates, even seven, three are the speaking sins akin to slander and gossip: a lying tongue, a false witness who bears lies and a brother who spreads dissension (Proverbs 6:16-19).

We know that satan is the accuser of the brethren, (Rev 12:10). We know that the word devil means slanderer.

The bible is replete in the OT and the NT about talebearers, gossips, whisperers, loose tongues, and slander. Paul talks about whisperers several times. The next time you want to say something about someone that is a tale, and you lower your voice so no one else but the gossipee hears, just remember psythyrismos, means snake charmer. Do you really want to whisper like a snake and charm the devil?

Posted in bible jesus, prophecy, satan, slander

Satan’s merchandise: lies and gossip

I’m in the midst of watching The Fuel Project, a series of short videos explaining the roots of satan’s evil and his influence in the form of all the false religions of the world from Genesis to Revelation when he is finally defeated.  Kim from The Mystery of the Ages sent it to me and I’ve watched 40 parts already and have found it to be interesting when describing the secular and biblically sound when referring to the bible.

In the first 7 parts, Satan’s fall is explained, why and how. The narrator focused on Ezekiel 28 and especially verse 16 to describe how satan convinced 1/3 of the angels to follow him into rebellion against a Holy God whom they personally knew and  worshiped. I’ve often wondered how angels who saw God’s power in the creation (Job 1:6-7) and who visited the throne room (Ex 37:9) could possibly follow satan? What did he tell them exactly to make them a better offer?? That is answered in Ezekiel 28:14-16 —

“You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned.”

The scene here is a prophecy against the King of Tyre. The previous chapter is spent lamenting the city of Tyre (Lebanon) and its earthly ruler. But as we know from so many examples and passages in the bible, satan is often the puppet master pulling the strings behind the power that is shown through the earthly ruler. The Prince of Persia is another example. Satan is the power behind the throne, so to speak, in many cases. He is the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), prince of the powers of the air (earth and near environs; Eph 6:12) and at one point remember, he offered Jesus every kingdom on earth (Mt 4:8-9).

In the Ezekiel chapter the scene sifts from the earthly ruler in the flesh (Prince of Tyre, ch. 27) to the supernatural power of the King of Tyre (satan, ch. 28). It is said that wickedness was found in him and through his “widespread trade” he was filled with violence. In this case, the widespread trade does not mean economic traffic. Does one believe there were shops in heaven, with checkouts and money exchanged? No, surely not! What would satan possess that would be better than hat the angels already had? No, instead, the phrase widespread trade comes from the Hebrew word r’kullah, the main word rakil, meaning slander.

Satan went on a whispering campaign against God, the same as he did later to Eve (“Hath God said? Genesis 3). he went around and around and around ceaselessly to the angels, whispering that God was a tyrant, He was egotistical, He was withholding from them the good stuff, whatever that was. With Eve we know satan insinuated God was withholding the knowledge of good and evil. Whatever satan said to the 1/3 of the heavenly host that ended up following satan, it was lies and we know that he was a liar from the beginning.

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). Devil means slanderer.

Revelation 18:12-14 alludes to this satanic lying bill of merchandise. When Babylon the false economic system is fallen, satan is accused of trading in “merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.” The last phrase, souls of men, is a merchandise not in the physical but in the celestial. A good, short study on ‘Satan’s Celestial Slander’ is from Dr. Richard Davidson from Andrews Theological Seminary (7th Day Adventist) here. If you want a thorough examination of the Hebrew word for merchandising used in this context of Ezekiel 28 and the wider exhortations in the bible not to be a slanderer, go here. (Truth Magazine).

A whispering campaign according to Wikipedia, is “A whispering campaign or whisper campaign is a method of persuasion in which damaging rumors or innuendo are spread about the target, while the source of the rumors seeks to avoid being detected while spreading them.” Whisper campaigns are considered unethical, but are used frequently in political campaigning as a strategy. If you apply all the corruption, lies, and unethical behavior from any current Presidential campaign in the US to satan’s original merchandising campaign of busily flitting from angel to angel, painting himself as the better candidate for God-hood, you have the idea of the meaning behind the Ezekiel verse and satan’s method of achieving it. No wonder there are so many prohibitions against slander in the bible!

Agostino Carracci, Whispering Angels

His relentless whispering campaign worked. A third of the angels were swayed, followed satan, and are now forever damned.

If you also put in your mind the energy expended in any political campaign, and think of the Ezekiel verse where the visual image is of satan going all around heaven whispering his bill of goods to the angels, several other scriptures come to mind.

Job 1:1 “The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
Job: 2:2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”

Dan 12:4 “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.””

It is the eternal restlessness of a fallen angel, now a demon, who seeks his will above all and is relentless in stalking the world and its inhabitants. One of the names for satan is Beelzebub (Baal-zebub) and the entire name is Lord of the Flies and zebub means fly. This kind of fly is a hard-to-kill, strong and biting fly that lives entirely by sucking blood of cattle or people. It is the zebub and also known as tsetse fly in Africa. Satan was given that name because he was supposed to be able to be lord over these much-feared flies that caused destruction to cattle and sickness to people. It is one of the reasons God sent a plague of flies to Pharaoh, to show HIS mastery over the flies in the face of helpless false gods. This name was given to the god because he was supposed to be able to avert the plague of flies which in that region was to be feared.Flies never settle for very long Anyone who is not saved will feel that eternal restlessness n his spirit as well. Satan is truly Baal-zebub, Lord of the Flies.

That is satan, flying here and there, to and fro, roaming up and down, claiming blood from victims and buzzing in your ear. There are two lessons here. One: satan is relentless. Flies always come back to garbage no matter how often you swat them away. Second: satan’s lies are powerful. He cold sway angels who knew God in person, in heaven, for perhaps eons. Do you think he cannot sway you? I know he can sway me, if I let him. I use my flyswatter often: studying the Word. It is, after all, how Jesus rebuffed that pestilential fly, He repeated the Word back to satan in each temptation.

Jesus has won the victory. Satan is merely a created being who was completely crushed at the cross and only has been in his frenetic death throes this last 2000 years. But the time the Tribulation comes, he really panics, for he knows he has but a short time. (Rev 12:12). For us, though, beware slandering each other, engaging in ‘widespread trade.’ Do not be a fly, going here and there, whispering things that murder someone’s reputation. Certainly be sterling in all your communications about the LORD. Because His are perfect unto us! And that is a campaign worth participating in!