Robert Wurtz II
An ungodly man digs up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire. A froward man sows strife: and a whisperer separates chief friends. (Proverbs 16:27, 28)
I once heard a former private detective admit that he quit the business because he was tired of destroying peoples’ lives. His investigations had separated friends, marriages, and other relationships. Yet Proverbs 16:27 says that the ungodly man (or woman) digs for information that can be used to destroy people. Their lips are like a burning fire.
We are told categorically in Proverbs that where no wood is, the fire goes out: so where there is no talebearer, strife ceases (Proverbs 26:20). This is a simple truth. It is axiomatic. If strife exists there is likely a tale-bearer (gossiper). Solution? “Cast out the sower of discord, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.” (Proverbs 22:10) The source of discord is the one who packs tales.
Kindling and Rekindling Evil
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) categorizes fire as either accidental, deliberate, or unknown. Those recorded as unknown are included in the accidental category. Yet how can a “fire” get “accidentally” started and a bunch of strife breaks out in a group or a church (so to speak)? It can happen when people recount information about people or conversations (spoken words) wrongly or out of context.
Consider this well-worn illustration of three statements lifted from the New Testament:
1. “Judas went and hanged himself.”
2. “Go and do thou likewise.” 3. "Whatsoever you do, do quickly."
Can you see how important context is? This is how a “fire” can get started. When we recount a story we need to give the context and recount it accurately or we may be guilty of sowing strife and discord. It may be accidental but it was preventable. How many forests and homes have been burned to the ground and life and property lost because of carelessness and recklessness with natural fire? And how many relationships have been burned to the ground because of careless recounting of details or comments taken out of context?
Some “fires” are intentional or what I am calling “spiritual arson.” The tongue is a fire and a world of iniquity. It is the defiling member of the body. Gossip is little more than fanning to a flame a fire that was destined to go out on its own. How many times can a “juicy” tale be rekindled? How many times can a person breathe fresh breath on the dying coals of some event before the flame finally goes out? How many times can an evil story be recycled before it finally lands on the rubbish heap?
Burning Down Churches
Is this a harmless evil we have discovered? No! To spread secrets and tales is to traffic in the fires of hell. Wrath can flow from the tongue no matter how loud or soft the tone of voice is. An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression (Proverbs 29:22). The implication of this verse is that if you have strife and offense, you have an angry man or woman. The enemy looks to destroy the churches of God primarily through those who are angry, bitter, or somehow hurt. It’s as if the enemy has a war room with a map and looks for angry, disgruntled, and bitter people to serve as landing strips and base camps to traffic fresh supplies of destructive words.
The Sin of Whispering
He that covers a transgression seeks love; but he that repeats a matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9) Surely it is sin to always want to know the latest, but to be the vehicle on which that information travels is wickedness. Indeed there is something admitted in scripture of the enticement to listen to the latest gossip. Proverbs 26:22; The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. (ESV) Yet, Proverbs 18:8 takes a different perspective; The words of a tale-bearer [are] as self-inflicted wounds, And they have gone down [to] the inner parts of the heart. (YLT)
The clear implication of these passages is that though the words of a gossiper may taste good to the ears (so to speak), they destroy the heart from within. They destroy how you feel about others. They destroy your respect for those you once respected. All the while they go down like morsels stroking the pride and ego of the hearer that somehow feels the better about himself because he has heard a tale of the shortcoming of another. It is foolish pride.
Hearing harmful information (gossip) makes no man or woman a better person – it merely makes them aware of the frailty of a friend or a foe. The enemy might whisper into the heart, “Don’t you feel so much better knowing it! Did not that go down so smoothly?!” God forbid. May the words of a gossiper be as wormwood in our ears and gall in our hearts. May God grant us the wisdom to identify a fiery tongue when we see it and confront it for what it is; a destroying weapon that is at total enmity with what God seeks to accomplish in the unity of His people.