The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:6
Can you guess who I am? I have no respect for justice and no mercy for defenceless humanity. I ruin without killing; I tear down homes; I break hearts and wreck lives. You will find me in the pews of the pious as well as in the haunts of the unholy. I’m wily, cunning, malicious, and I gather strength with age. I have made my way where many fear to tread. My victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea, and often as innocent! I feed on good and bad alike. I never forgive and seldom forget. I travel from mouth to mouth. My name? My name is gossip!
Can you guess who I am? Yes, sadly, I admit that I can. For I’ve seen the havoc wrought by a gabby mouth, I’ve watched an unruly tongue separate close friends, and I’ve been around long enough to realize that gossip is more deadly than a cruise missile.
We sometimes forget these realities. We use words without restraint. We tell stories without considering the consequences. We parade our thoughts with little to no regard for truth, no respect for justice and no concern for the innocent. We look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in our own eye (cf. Matthew 7:3). And we casually, even flippantly, engage in spiteful chatter without a twinge of concern for the people we malign.
No wonder the Bible refers to the tongue as “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body . . . a restless evil, full of deadly poison . . . it corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” James 3:6,8.
But it needn’t be that way. The tongue can be tamed. You can overcome a tendency to gossip. You can learn to be discreet. You can make a choice that will positively influence your future. You can discover the enduring quality of words used wisely.
The secret to success is discovering how victory over gossip has nothing to do with self control but everything to do with Christ control. That’s right. You can change for the better. You can stop spewing out mud. You can swim against the current. You can use your tongue like honey, rather than vinegar. You can use your words to caress, rather than cut. You can keep your tongue from evil and deceit. You can make it your life’s resolution to abstain from slander. And you can build people up, instead of breaking them down. It starts when you identify gossip as sin, when you stop trying to deal with the problem in your own strength, when you admit you’re helpless and powerless to change, when you turn to the only One who can make you different, and when you ask for forgiveness and hand over the reins of your tongue to Christ.
So ask Christ to tame your tongue. Tell Him you want the necessary understanding to hold your tongue (cf. Proverbs 11:12). Pray for a tongue that brings healing and commendation (cf. Proverbs 12:18). And appeal to Him to keep your tongue from sin (cf. Psalm 39:1). There is no other way. “No man can tame the tongue” James 3:8. Without Christ you will fail. Without His forgiveness and cleansing you’ll stay in the grip of gossip. Without the inner power that comes from knowing the fullness of His Spirit you will not be able to live, think, act, and speak with discernment. And without His intervention you will continue to succumb to the vulgar and shoddy attire of an indiscreet tongue.