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A Most Hurtful Sin:

The "Tongue of Evil"

by Chuck Missler


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We were recently embarrassed by the advertising of one of the talks at a recent conference that was billed as "The Devil-Driven Church," by Dave Hunt. Many naturally anticipated an attack on Rick Warren, a pastor whom we regard very highly.

(Dave's talk actually extolled Rick Warren's exemplary personal conduct and did not denigrate his very popular book, The Purpose-Driven Church. Dave's concern centered on the extensive quotes from The Message, a disastrous paraphrase of the Bible. His talk was not focused on Rick Warren, but on the widespread failure of many pastors to truly stand for the real Gospel, and not succumb to the vacuous counterfeits that litter the Christian landscape.)

However, in a quest for a catchy title, inappropriate injury was done to a brother in Christ. An apology has been sent to Rick by the promoter of the conference for the unintended slight caused by the promotional title. But this highlights an issue we all need to guard against: what the Bible refers to as "the tongue of evil." It appears in Psalm 34:

What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

Psalm 34:12-13

This is also quoted by Peter:

For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

1 Peter 3:10

!AvlLashon is the Hebrew word for tongue.[r Rah, designates evil, bad, disagreeable, or malignant. This, of course, includes slander; however, it also includes derogatory remarks even if true! [rh!Avl Lashon HaRah, "the tongue of evil" is regarded by the rabbis as a sin closer to murder than to theft, because it can't be undone. A stolen item can be returned. But gossip is like toothpaste out of the tube: it can't be put back or undone.

Gossip, in its most formal form, is a violation of Exodus 20:16: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." However, even in its more subtle forms, gossip is probably accountable for more personal pain and suffering than most of us have any appreciation of. Gossip is a form of betrayal! Common and casual, yet it is hurtful beyond our reckoning. Quietly, behind the flurry of daily priorities, its venom does its silent work, undermining confidences, betraying relationships, and spreading unseen injustices.

The tongue is a ready and willing instrument to talk about our neighbor behind his back.1 It is disturbing to note how many of us have been injured - deeply - by gossip and by those who accept, without checking, negative or derogatory innuendos whispered behind our backs. Even if ostensibly true! What an opportunity! To display loyalty, love, and by assuming the most charitable construction - in advance - to demonstrate the foundation of a relationship. An occasion devoutly to be wished.

And there are numerous allusions to all this in the Scriptures that we acknowledge as our ultimate guide:

Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:16

A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.

Proverbs 11:13

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbs 18:8

He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.

Proverbs 20:19

Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

Proverbs 26:20

As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.

Proverbs 26:21

Our Lords example:

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone...

John 8:7

Pauls summary:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Phil 2:2-4

Who is a true friend? One who doesnt require explanations. One who gives us the benefit of the doubt. A friend is one who is loyal and shuns any form of betrayal. We know, of course, that none of you are guilty of these abuses; these suggestions have been offered to help you counsel your needy friends. (Right?)


  1. Cf. Romans 1:30; 2 Corinthians 12:20; James 4:11.

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