Whispers

Whispers

Scripture: Proverbs 16:28, Leviticus 19:16, James 3:2-8
What is the cruelest word in all the Bible? This broadcast looks at what the Bible says about the whisperer, the talebearer and the gossip. The Bible tells us we must give an account for every word spoken.
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Today we're going to study about the most cruel word found in all the Bible. This word describes a class of people who indulge in the most devilish, despicable work ever invented by the evil one. Friends, I appeal to you to let this message do its searching work in your heart. Don't try to remember how many other people might need this message, just let it sink into your own heart. So terrible is this sin, that only a few have ever openly admitted being guilty of it. But few can escape the inward sense that they have been guilty at some time or other. Our main text is Proverbs 16:28, "A whisperer separateth chief friends." Put with that Leviticus 19:16, "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people."

Friends, there are many types of sin that God despises; some of them are too awful to even discuss on the air. Sometimes I think we deceive ourselves by classifying sin. We look at certain ones as being quite respectable. They are usually the sins of the spirit, such as envy or pride. Then, on the other hand, is the disrespectable class of sins-usually the sins of the flesh. But listen, in Proverbs 6:19, seven deadly sins that God hates are listed, and right in the midst of them we find this one of which I am now speaking. Notice now in verse 19: "He that soweth discord among brethren ... a false witness that speaketh lies." In other words, a whisperer, that's what we are talking about. This is the word that has such a loud echo. It's a soft sounding word, but it has the noisiest, loudest echo of any other word-it has broken more hearts, it has wrecked more homes, destroyed more friendships than any other word, probably. A whisperer speaks in all languages, he crosses all boundaries, he's a member of all churches, he's the bearer of false rumor and report. We might as well face it, friends, one of the natural, evil traits of the human heart, of human nature itself is in telling evil things about other people. I cannot explain it-none of us can understand it, it is an unholy, ungodly bent of mind. It is a mystery. By the way, it's a sin which often besets those who are saints in every other respect. The whole body might be brought under the control of Christ, but the tongue is very difficult to control. In fact, it's practically impossible to control it.

In James 3:2-8, we read this: "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. ... But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." Oh how true those words, friends. Here's where alienation and disaffection is often created. Why does God hate it so? Why did He say it was one of the seven deadly sins of man? I think because it is often done with a flair of religious sanctity.

The gossiper often speaks as though he is defending some violated religious principle. Usually it is to justify conscience that he only implies or intimates some evil tidings about another individual. Listen, one false insinuation has more power than a hundred good deeds. A slanderous whisper never completely dies out, it will outlive a thousand sound arguments. The trouble is no one will let it die until it has scorched and slashed and slain a soul, scarring it for all time to come.

Satan is the father of lies. Remember that question, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree?" Genesis 3:1. Now why did Satan put it in those words? It was a lying implication. He knew that God had said that they should only refrain from one tree, yet he implied that God had forbidden them to eat of any tree. That's the earliest form of misrepresentation and exaggeration that we find in the Bible. The devil is the father of lies, and the father of exaggeration. But his modern disciples are called whisperers. They don't come out in the open very often and speak; they just go around whispering. And the intimations of what they whisper are very, very poisonous and deadly. Perhaps it may be in this form. "What an unfortunate experience that poor girl had!" Or, "Many people have made mistakes, but we can't hold it against her." No details, mind you. Just the basic material there of some good, juicy gossip. And then somebody else picks it up and makes it a little bigger and passes it on in a more exaggerated form. And very soon that poor individual has been slashed by tongues that can kill. Yes, there's plenty of irresponsibility when it comes to this matter of the tongue. Imaginations begin to work overtime and to repeat half truths that have been twisted out of proportion. And by repetition they become horrible in their content. The self-righteous soul who started the suspicious rumor is ready to blame everybody else when the results are brought into the open.

I heard of two women who were walking along the street and they met another woman as they walked along. One of them said, "Do you see that woman over there? She's terrible. She's the biggest gossip in town. She repeats everything I tell her." And I am afraid this is very, very true concerning a lot of other women and a lot of men as well. Why? Why is this mania so wide spread to tell everything bad that we know about another? In much talk there is usually no lack of sin.

One old minister was approached in his study one day by a young woman of the parish. And she said, "Pastor, can you keep a secret?" He said, "Yes, can you?" And you know, she had nothing else to say because she was about to tell him something that shouldn't have been told.

What a solemn thing Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, 37. He said that we will give an account for every word we speak. Think of it! A record is being put down in heaven, in the books of heaven. Those phone conversations will all be recorded up there. The idle chatter that takes place in the home. The unkind words we say about someone behind their back. Who is not condemned by these verses, friends? Who cannot look back and blush to remember things that have been spoken in secret. Who has not spoken and would then give a hundred dollars to take back the words again? Oh, yes, but the damage has been done, and usually there's no way to repair it.

The story is told of an old farmer and his wife who were riding back from town in the old country wagon. As they rode along, the wife made this observation, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could pull along together like those horses are pulling the wagon?" The farmer said, "Yes, and we could too, if we only had one tongue between us."

And so it is that the tongue is a world of evil sometimes, bringing in dissension and division in the home. Someone has said that the first screw that comes loose in the head is the one that controls the tongue. The Apostle Paul, by the way, commended the women who were not busy-bodies and who would stay quietly at home. Now I am not making that reference to imply that only women are involved in the matter of gossiping and speaking idle things. But an interesting story has gone the rounds about an old Puritan pastor in London who had just come to his new parish. After a few weeks one of the ladies of the parish met him after the service and said, "Pastor, I have these scissors here and I wonder if you would give me permission to do something? I've observed you now for a number of weeks, and there's something that bothers me a great deal. And I wonder if you would give me permission to correct it?" She said, "The tassel on your robe is just too long and I'd like to shorten it." Well, the pastor went ahead and gave permission for it to be done. Then he said, "Madam, there is something also that I've observed about you, and I wonder if I could have the scissors and if you'd give me permission also to correct something." And she said, "Oh yes, surely." "Well," he said, "put out your tongue."

It has been said that we should make our words as palatable as possible because some day we may have to eat them. The old country doctor who would tell his patients to put out their tongue in order to find out about their physical condition suggests also that the tongue can reveal spiritual conditions as well.

Well, what did Jesus have to teach on this subject, anyway? He had a good chance once when some Pharisees brought a woman who had been taken in the act of adultery. Jesus, you remember, just bent down and wrote in the sand, and the accusers went out one by one. Now if Christ spared that guilty woman, who was obviously very, very much at fault, because he told her to go and sin no more, what would he say concerning one who had been judged on the basis of half truths and false rumor? I tell you, Jesus would show the accusers a flash-back of their own ugly past that would cause them to slink away in shame. It is so strange how we judge people so harshly, and yet we try to justify our own selves.

Somebody has said, "I've often thought what a heaven this world would be if only we behaved to our fellow men as we do to our dog." And that's true. Thousands of people would never, never hurt their dog for a moment, and yet they put thousands to the torture, perhaps, by their false, cutting remarks. Passing on gossip-it is curious how we misjudge and misinterpret.

Here is something that should teach us a real lesson about judging. Abraham Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg address, but how did it go over with the newspapers the next day? You know what appeared in some of the most famous newspapers of the day, after his speech had been made? The Chicago Times had this to say: "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States." The local Harrisburg paper wrote this the next day: "We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation, we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall no more be repeated or thought of." And the London Times said: "Anything more dull and commonplace it wouldn't be easy to produce." So see how Lincoln was misjudged and falsely represented by these newspaper reports!

Oh yes, it is easy to look back and see how Satan operates through whisperers, slanderers and gossipers. I think of Nehemiah, one of the Old Testament characters-heroes of the faith. He was the victim of a whispering campaign. He was building those walls of Jerusalem, you remember, and a malicious opposition sprang up against him. Three men were at the head of the opposing forces. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem, the Arabian. First they tried to ridicule the wall he was building; they made a big joke out of it. They said a fox could come by and knock it down. Next, they tried an armed attack, but he just put weapons in the hands of his men and they kept on building the wall. Then they hired counselors against him; and finally they began to slander him by false report. If you read Nehemiah 6: 6-8, you'll find these words: "It is reported ... and Gashmu saith it" that you're committing treason against the king. Notice those expressions: "It is reported," "and Gashmu saith it." Oh yes, Sanballat, Tobiah and Nehemiah have been dead for a long time, but this fellow Gashmu, strangely enough, is still alive. He's the author of "They say." Gashmu belongs to all races and languages. He has many aliases. Among them are these: "they tell me" ... "have you heard" ... "this is off the record, but." Yes, Gashmu is hard to locate. His name is never found in the phone directory, and if you locate an address, he has already moved on. He's the symbol of the tale-bearer, the defamer, the slanderer, the whisperer.

In the New Testament, the book of Romans, Paul gives a list of depraving sins. Beginning with Romans 1:29-32 he lists some of the most hateful, fleshly sins that men can commit. And among them, he puts whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, fornicators, murderers. But right in the midst is whisperers. And then he goes on to say, "They which commit such things are worthy of death."

Ah, friends, have you ever noted that of the twelve tribes of Israel only one name will be left out of the city of God? The names of the twelve tribes are on the gates of the New Jerusalem. But one is missing-that's Dan. In Genesis 49:17 we read that he was a backbiter. His name will not be on the gates of heaven; there will be no entrance for him as a gossiper and slanderer.

You know, even those who repeat bad reports are condemned in the Bible as Proverbs 17:9 makes clear. "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends."

Well, in closing friends, how shall we relate ourselves to false rumor and report? First, give no cause for it to be made. Phillips Brooks once said these very, very impressive words: "Keep clear of concealment, keep clear of the need of concealment. It is an awful hour when the first necessity of hiding anything comes. The whole life is different henceforth. When there are questions to be feared and eyes to be avoided and subjects which must not be touched, then the bloom of life is gone." So don't retaliate, friends. Keep at your task. We could be chasing the devil's dogs the rest of our lives and never get anything done for God. Just keep at your work and follow the admonition of the Scriptures in Psalm 34:13, "Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile." You can't do it alone, but by the power of God it can be done. Put Gashmu from our midst, dear friends, and let's not be a bearer of evil report and of gossip against others.

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