Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God’s Beautiful Design for Women, Day 10

Leslie Basham: According to Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, your words are serious.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Someone has called slander and malicious gossip verbal homicide. You’re killing someone’s reputation—verbal homicide, slander. It destroys lives; it destroys families; it destroys relationships; it destroys churches. I have seen it over and over and over again.

If you stop to think about it, you’ve seen it over and over again. That’s grievous enough, but what grieves my heart is to think, how many times have I contributed to dividing friends, to destroying friends or relationships, the Body of Christ, by the wicked use of my tongue to slander others?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Friday, February 17, 2017.

Beautiful design—it’s not primarily about clothing or decorating. Titus 2 tells us what true beautiful design is, as defined by the Ultimate Designer. Nancy writes about that in her new book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and she's been taking us through this passage for the last couple of weeks on Revive Our Hearts. She continues with an important component to a believer’s beauty—her gentle words.

Nancy: I can’t tell you how often it’s the case that as I’m studying and preparing to teach something on Revive Our Hearts, God uses that study to pierce and penetrate my own heart and bring conviction to me. That certainly has been true with this series on Titus 2, and in particular the phrase that we’re talking about in Titus 2 about women not being slanderers. God has been using, in recent weeks, this study to search my own heart and to bring a lot of conviction.

We’ve been talking about the implications in our lives as women of knowing and believing sound doctrine. It’s not enough just to know what’s true, to know the Word of God, but we need the “so what.” Not just what does it say, but "so what." What does this mean for my life, and how does sound doctrine, right thinking about the Scripture, how does that influence the way that I live?

Paul says to Titus in Titus chapter 2, verse 1, “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Teach people how to live in a way that is consistent with what they believe.

Then he says in verse 3, “Older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers.” We talked earlier about what it means to be reverent in behavior, and then in the last session we addressed the issue of what it means to be a slanderer. We said that the word slanderer here is the Greek word diabolos.

It is a word, when used in the Scripture, usually refers to Satan. It’s actually a name for the devil, “Diabolos,” the devil, because the devil is a slanderer. He’s an accuser; he’s a liar. But on occasion, this word is used to refer, not just to Satan, but to a person who acts like Satan because they slander, they accuse, they speak lies.

Matthew Henry is a great commentator of the past, and he said:

Slander is a great and too-common fault, not only loving to speak, but to speak ill of people, and to separate very friends. A slanderer is one whose tongue is set on fire of hell. So much and so directly do these do the devil’s work that for it the devil’s name is given to such.

We’re never more like the devil than when we’re speaking things that are not true or that are slanderous or that are malicious.

We said in the last session that slander involves spreading a false report about someone. Specifically, slander refers to saying something that is not true; it’s false. It can also involve spreading harmful information about another person, and that’s a variation, a cousin, if you will, to slander. The Scripture calls it tale bearing—spreading things about somebody else that are harmful.

Some of your translations, instead of the word “slander” will talk about malicious gossip. That has to do with spreading the truth with an intent to harm somebody. So what you’re saying may be true, but if it’s true, you’re intending to harm somebody with what you’re saying.

I’ll tell you something else that convicted me as I was studying this subject. Slander can involve just assuming negatively on somebody else’s motives—saying something about what their heart is or why they did what they did when we don’t know. We don’t know their heart. We don’t know their background. We don’t know their circumstances. We rarely have all the facts, so a lot of times we draw conclusions about somebody’s behavior or somebody’s character without knowing enough to say. Even if we did know enough to say, is it something that’s constructive or edifying for us to say?

So for Paul to say older women should not be slanderers, this means that we are to refuse to listen to or to spread reports or stories about others that are false or that are harmful. Don’t listen to it; don’t spread it if it’s not true or if it’s harmful.

One commentator said, “It’s a curious feature of human nature that most people would rather repeat and hear a malicious truth than one to someone’s credit.” Isn’t that true? We’d rather say some little juicy tidbit or morsel—“Did you know . . .” or, “Can you believe . . .” Why are we so much quicker to do that than to spread something that is true, that is edifying, that is beneficial, that’s praiseworthy?

I’ve been reading a book recently by Jerry Bridges called Respectable Sins. I’ve been asking the Lord to speak to my own heart about sins that may be in my own life that aren’t the obvious, egregious sins that we so often think about when we say “sins.” He talks about respectable sins, and he has a whole chapter on sins of the tongue. In that chapter, he includes lying and harsh or critical speech or ridicule. All these things, I think, fall under the umbrella of what I think Paul is cautioning about here.

As women, we are to be careful about not sinning with our tongues. It’s interesting that women in particular are exhorted to avoid this sin, and we have to ask ourselves, “Why?” Well, I think that men are more inclined, if they’re going to be abusive, to do it in ways that are physical.

There are in my family four girls and three boys. When we were little, if the boys were going to be bad, they were going to do it by slugging. It was going to be physical. Guys get physical. But how do girls do it? More often we do it with our tongues. We’re more inclined to be verbally abusive, but could I suggest that the way we’re abusive with our tongues is no less destructive than men who might haul off and slug each other? So Paul says to the women, “Don’t be slanderers.”

It’s a caution against sinning with our tongues—saying too much, saying things we shouldn’t say. I think this is a particular temptation to women who have time on their hands. Maybe their family is grown; they enjoy sitting around talking. Isn’t it easy to just sit and hear the latest stories with each other without thinking, Is this true? Is it benefitting those who are listening? Is it building up the people we’re talking about?

There’s a passage in 1 Timothy 5:13–14 where the apostle Paul is talking about younger widows. There’s a caution about this kind of idle and destructive behavior. He says,

They learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So [he says] I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.

There are a couple of things that stand out to me in that passage in 1 Timothy 5. First of all, did you notice that sins of the tongue often go along with being idle, versus having our priorities in order? Paul says these younger widows need to be busy doing the things God has called them to do. If you’re doing the things God has given you to do, you’re not going to have as much time to be sitting around saying things that you shouldn’t be saying.

Then notice at the end of that passage he says the women should marry, bear children, manage their households, so that they will give the enemy no occasion for slander. If women slander, what we do is give occasion for the enemy, that is Satan, to slander and accuse Christians. So by participating in slanderous kinds of conversation, we are actually setting it up for the enemy to spike by slandering, accusing believers.

So ask yourself: “Am I guilty of slander? Am I guilty of evil speaking? Gossip? Related sins of the tongue?” You may find, as God’s searches your heart, that you’ve been guilty of malicious speaking, of gossip, slander toward people who have hurt you, maybe an ex-mate, maybe a parent, maybe a boss who treated you unfairly.

We are often prone to slander those who are in authority over us if we don’t agree with how they are handling things, government officials, a boss, teens toward parents, wives toward husbands, church members toward pastors or elders, those in authority. Why is it that sometimes we slander or we speak evil of those who live within the four walls of our own homes, our family members, or roommates, or people that we’re the closest to, the people who know us best, the people that we ought to be trying to protect? Why is it so often that we slander them?

I find that it’s easy to speak evil or maliciously of those with whom I disagree. I think about during a political or an election season how easy it is, and I’ve noticed this in recent weeks in some of my own conversations with people, how we fall into making dogmatic, conclusive, negative, ugly statements about people in the political world with whom we don’t agree.

This isn’t to say that we should never express disagreement. A lot of this has to do with the heart.

  • What’s my tone?
  • What’s my spirit?
  • What’s my motive?
  • Why am I saying what I’m saying?
  • Am I trying to edify and build up?
  • Is it necessary?

It's easy to speak evil of those we don't like, or people we are jealous of, or people who have disappointed us.

Notice, as we look at the Scripture, we find out that our speech exposes our hearts. The way we talk tells what’s in our hearts. Let me read to you two or three passages that make that point.

First of all, in Psalm chapter 50, beginning in verse 16,

To the wicked God says: "You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son” (vv. 16, 19, 20).

What kind of person does God say talks that way? “To the wicked God says.” The person who slanders his relatives, his friends, who speaks evil, he’s got a wicked heart.

Think about what Jesus said in Luke chapter 6, verse 45,

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

What we say is a dead giveaway to what’s in our hearts. So Jesus is saying, "If you have a good heart, then what will come out is a good treasure. If you have an evil heart, then what will come out are evil, malicious, slanderous words."

Again, in Matthew chapter 15, verses 18–19, Jesus makes the same point, He says,

What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

Did you notice that Jesus put slander right up there with murder and adultery? It makes me ask: Are we as concerned and shocked and grieved over our sins of the tongue as we are over the evil behavior of others? Jesus put them all together, but He said slander, evil speaking, reveal what is in our hearts.

Are we as concerned and shocked and grieved over our sins of the tongue as we are over the evil behavior of others?

What does slander and evil speaking expose about our hearts? And what kinds of heart attitudes come out when we speak evil of others? Let me make several suggestions here, there are others we could add to this list, but I know one thing that it reveals about my heart when I speak evil of others—it reveals a proud heart, pride. If we can point out someone else’s fault, sometimes we can make ourselves feel better—we’re not as bad as they are, or we didn’t do that thing, they did—pride.

Pride can give me this desire to look knowledgeable, and so to chime into a conversation, because I know something the person I’m talking to doesn’t know; I have this little piece of information I can bring to the conversation. Sometimes it’s pride that will cause me to say, “But did you know . . .” I’ve had this happen—and I say it to my shame—many times where someone is speaking well of a person and I’m thinking, But they don’t know . . . Do I have to say it? It’s often the pride of my heart that causes me to contribute something negative to that conversation.

Here’s something else that our tongues can reveal about our hearts—envy and jealousy. We’re jealous of someone else’s reputation, their relationship, their influence, so we want to bring them down a notch.

Slanderous talk reveals a lack of self-control. We blurt out the things that we’re thinking without thinking about what we’re saying.

Slander can reveal a critical, judgmental spirit. My heart is critical; it’s judgmental, so it comes out in the words that I say.

Slander and evil speaking reveal a lack of love. Proverbs 10, verse 12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” A lack of love, hatred can be revealed.

Then there’s that issue of a contentious spirit, a divisive spirit. We want to get others on our side, and how often does this happen in conversations between family members where you’ve got dysfunction and discord between family members, and so if you can tell something negative about the other person, that makes the person you’re talking to want to be allied with you. All these silly, stupid games we play that are so evil, so wicked. We want to tell how someone has hurt us, how someone has wronged us, and in doing that we’re trying to draw the person we’re talking with to see it from our perspective.

What are we doing? We’re putting a barrier between the person we’re talking to and the person we’re talking about, putting up walls, division, contention. This is what’s in my heart, and it comes out so often in our speaking. That’s exactly the effect of slander and evil speaking. Not only do I have contention in my heart, but when I speak slander or speak evil of others, the effect is to divide relationships, to divide friends, to be a divider, to break up relationships.

Proverbs 16:28 says “A whisperer separates close friends.”

Proverbs 17, verse 9, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”

We divide the Body of Christ; we divide families; we divide friendships; we divide relationships when we speak evil of others. Not only do we divide, but we destroy.

Proverbs 25, verse 18, “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.” Those are weapons you would not want used against you—a war club, a sword, or a sharp arrow, but if you say something about a neighbor, a friend, or a family member that’s not true or it’s slanderous or it’s unnecessary, or it’s critical, or it’s judgmental, you are having the effect of destroying that person.

Someone has called slander and malicious gossip verbal homicide. You’re killing someone’s reputation. Verbal homicide, slander, destroys lives; it destroys families; it destroys relationships; it destroys churches. I have seen it over and over and over again. If you stop to think about it, you’ve seen it over and over again. That’s grievous enough, but what grieves my heart is to think, how many times have I contributed to dividing friends, to destroying friends or relationships, the Body of Christ, by the wicked use of my tongue to slander others?

Proverbs 11:9 says, “With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor.” When we speak maliciously, when we gossip or we say things that are not true or aren’t kind, we affect the person we’re slandering, even if they don’t hear it, and we affect the person that we’re talking to. We create a wedge in their relationship.

As I’ve been preparing for this series, it’s interesting—I don’t know if it’s just happening more often or if I’m just noticing it more. But I have seen one illustration after another of the crucial need to deal with the issue of slander and malicious gossip among God’s people and the huge damage it can do if we don’t deal with it.

A few days ago we received an email at Revive Our Hearts from a listener who was wanting to pass on some information that she felt we should be aware of in relation to someone who had been a guest on our program. Well, typically, this is the kind of thing I would not want to pay any heed to, I don’t want to pass gossip, and I don’t want to listen to it, but I thought, I’m responsible for who we have on our broadcast, and is this something that I need to be aware of?

So I went to the email, went to the website, and it turned out to be several websites that are networked together that are devoted to tearing down and destroying a number of ministries and individuals, and the more I got into it, the uglier it became. There was so much vicious, angry, bitter, slanderous talk between these people and these organizations, and this is all out there on the worldwide web. I mean, just all across the planet are these ugly accusations, “He said; she said.”

There are scores of documents posted on these websites that should have been private documents. They should never have been made public. There were things involving church discipline and marital issues. One thing led to another. I said to someone, "This is like moles in your backyard. It's all connected. It's all tied together." It was so ugly. My heart was so grieved as I looked at these reams of accusations, some of them petty, some of them very serious. They were implicating many different believers including pastors, elders, churches, ministries, Christian authors.

I trace it back to, in my opinion (I'm not sure of this), back to one, angry, bitter woman. Now, there are some men involved in this too. But the best I could tell on this particular issue, it looks like there is one woman who got bent out of joint because she was in disobedience and some spiritual leadership stepped in in her local church to deal with this situation, and she was unrepentant, unbroken, bitter, and angry. Now, she is spending her life on a mission to bring down the people she feels wronged by and everyone connected to them. And somehow, we ended up drawn into this! These are people most of whom I knew nothing about, and now we've been drawn into the fray.

This is not an effort to get at the truth. This is an effort to divide and destroy. It’s hateful; it’s vindictive; it’s destructive, and here’s a word that came to my mind as I got dragged into some of this this week—it’s devilish, diabolos, the devil. It’s satanic. The passage that came to mind was James chapter 3, verses 14–16 where James says,

If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

You think, Well, I’m sure glad I don’t have one of those websites, or I'm not out there doing that kind of stuff. But it just starts with roots of bitterness, little things said, with sending an email, with posting something on a website, with speaking a word in private, and all of a sudden you find it’s being shouted from the rooftops, it’s spreading like wildfire. How great a damage this little spark can do. It can burn down whole forests and homes, and lives can be destroyed ultimately.

Slander divides; it destroys, just like Satan does. And what is he doing in the meantime? I think he’s sitting by and cheering—cheering as we bite and devour one another. The whole thing is so opposite to God, who is a reconciling God. He’s the God who brings warring parties together. We are to be like Him.

Paul says in Romans 14:19, “Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.”

Ephesians chapter 4:3, [Let us be] “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Leslie: Your words have the power to promote peace, according to Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She’s been showing you how in a series called "God's Beautiful Design for Women: Living Out Titus 2:1–5." She’ll be back to pray, because we all need God’s power in order to live at peace and speak well.

And Nancy, you go more into depth on this topic in the new book, Adorned.

Nancy: Leslie, let me tell you a story that shows why this topic is so important. While I was writing the chapter in Adorned about slander, I got into a conversation with a close friend and started to say something about a third person. I was about to say something that wouldn’t put that third person in a good light. And I caught myself because I had just read these instructions from Titus 2. That older women are not to be slanderers.

That's an instruction that is so easy for all of us—whether older or younger—to violate. I think as you explore this passage with me in the pages of this new book, Adorned, you’ll find yourself living out the beauty of the gospel in practical ways. 

You’ll have those moments when you’re tempted to slander and you stop and realize, this isn’t bringing God glory. I’m praying the Lord will use this book to bring about that kind of transformations in the lives of thousands of women, and I’d like to send you a copy. When you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount, we’ll show our thanks by sending you Adorned. Your gift today is so important to Revive Our Hearts as together we help women live out the beauty of the gospel of Christ.

Leslie: To get a copy of Nancy’s brand new book, call with your gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll send one copy per household for your gift of any size during this series. Maybe you’ve been convicted today about the way you’ve been using your words. Tomorrow Nancy offers helpful ideas on how to respond, change, and make things right, and now, she’ll pray for us.

Nancy: Oh Father, how I pray that You would speak to us where we need to be convicted about how our words have been destructive, divisive, harmful, and devilish. I know You’ve made me, through the course of this study, a lot more scrutinizing and careful about some of the things I’m saying. I’m not out there trying to destroy anybody’s reputation.

Oh God, forgive me for the times when the things I have said have been destructive and have been devilish. Oh God, would You tame our tongues? We can’t tame them ourselves, but would You do it? By the power of Your Holy Spirit, would You change our hearts and forgive us for the pride and the envy and the jealousy and the competitive spirit and the contentious spirit that so often causes us to say things that are not edifying or encouraging, but are slanderous and malicious.

Cleanse us, Lord. Forgive us. Wash us. Purify our hearts and our tongues, and may we use those tongues to bring people together, to pursue unity and what makes for peace and mutual up-building. I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help women speak with grace, and is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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