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What You Say and What You Listen toby Duane Mabee on May 19, 2022
“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yeah right! Words have tremendous power to harm, just ask the parents of the teenage boy who killed himself over things that were posted on Facebook. Check with the mother of the young woman whose unfinished suicide note was found next to her lifeless body. All she could manage to write were the words, “They said…” Something “they” said led her to take her own life.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits,” (Prov. 18:21 ESV). Words have incredible power. That’s one reason James 4:11 commands, “do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it,” (NIV). Other translations say, “do not speak evil against one another”.
The word translated “slander” means to speak ill or evil of, to degrade, defame or slander. It is to damage or destroy a person’s reputation in the minds of others by speaking in ways we do not want people to talk about us. The English words include the concept of speaking falsely about another person in order to damage them, but the word also prohibits speaking what you believe to be true in a way that destroys their reputation.
When you think about people talking about others in these ways, it’s obvious how destructive it is to relationships and churches, so it’s a mystery why so many Christians allow it and participate in it. What’s not mysterious is the damage it does to the body of Christ.
The Word of God is clear. We are not to verbally destroy other people no matter how good it makes us feel or what it gains us. We are not to participate with those to do it by listening to their verbal sabotage and accepting it as true. Instead, we are to speak only that which is helpful for building others up, (Eph. 4:29).
Speaking evil of others always creates division. That’s what it intends to do. If we are going to be the people God wants us to be, individually and corporately, we must create a culture where slander is unacceptable and unaccepted. We must ensure that our personal use of words and our corporate use consistently seeks to affirm and build others up. We must create a culture that graciously identifies slander and calls it out, rather than assuming that it is true.
Think about it. How do you want others to talk about you? If someone were speaking evil about you, what would you want those listening to do? Do that for the other believers you know.