God's Beautiful Design for Women: Living Out Titus 2:1-5How to Control Your Tongue
Leslie Basham: How do you know whether you’re about to gossip? Nancy Leigh DeMoss has this advice.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Ask yourself this question: Is the person you’re telling a part of the problem or a part of the solution? If they’re not a part of the problem, and they’re not a part of the solution, then probably it’s something you should not be saying.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Thursday, October 2.
Slander is serious. That’s what we discovered yesterday from Titus 2. The passage links slander with the devil. Today Nancy continues in the series God’s Beautiful Design for Women and explains how to avoid slander.
Nancy: Many of you are familiar with the name Jonathan Edwards. You know that he was one of the men God used in a significant way in the First Great Awakening in the 1700s. He was a pastor and an author and a great thinker and revivalist.
His wife was Sarah Edwards, and you may have read or heard something about Sarah. She was the mother of their 11 children. In the introduction to the Works of Jonathan Edwards, which is a wonderful, huge, two-volume set, there’s a bio-sketch of Jonathan Edwards where it talks quite a bit about Sarah Edwards and her marriage to Jonathan.
One of the things that it says about Sarah struck me as I think about this whole issue of how we use our tongues. It said,
Sarah made it her rule to speak well of all so far as she could, with truth and justice to herself and others. She was not prone to dwell with delight on the imperfections and failings of any, and when she heard other people speaking ill of others, she would say what she thought she could with truth and justice in their excuse or divert the slander by mentioning those things that were commendable in them.
In other words, if she heard somebody saying something unkind about someone else, she would try and change the conversation or divert it or say something encouraging about that person.
It goes on to say,
Thus, Sarah was careful of everyone’s character, even of those who injured and spoke evil of her. She could bear injuries and reproach with great calmness, without any disposition to render evil for evil, but on the contrary, she was ready to pity and forgive those who appeared to be her enemies.
What a testimony! How would you like to have that said about you? What a commitment: to speak well of all. That’s what the Scripture says we should do.
We’re in Titus chapter 2. I hope that as we’re in this lengthy series, you’re reading Titus for yourself and particularly memorizing and meditating on these verses in Titus chapter 2. In verse 1 Paul tells Titus that he is to teach what accords with sound doctrine. What does sound doctrine, right biblical thinking look like in real everyday life in the context of our lives as believers and in the context of the local church?
Well, in verse 3, here’s what it looks like for older women. We talked first about older men, then older women—we’ll get to younger women before long in this series. But now he’s talking about the character of older women, and he says sound doctrine, as it flushes itself out in older women, means that they will be reverent in behavior and then that they will not be slanderers.
This is a description of what older Christian women are to be like, and it’s not just for older women. If you’re a younger woman, or perhaps you’re like myself, you feel like you’re in that in-between stage. As I’m approaching 50, I’m trying to decide whether I’m younger or older, and the fact is that I’m an older woman to some women, and I’m a younger woman to some other women. So regardless of where you fit in that season of life, this is what we are to be aspiring to. This is what our lives are to look like. So he says older women are not to be slanderers.
Slander is what is specifically addressed here, but as we’ve been saying, more broadly, I think he’s referring to sins of the tongue:
- idle words
- tale bearing (which is whispering behind somebody’s back)
- evil speaking
This whole family of sins of the tongue, or what I referred to in the last session on slander, Jerry Bridges’ book Respectable Sins, these are sins that we consider respectable. But Jesus lumps them right together like sins of adultery and murder and drunkenness. He puts them all together. They’re sins of the tongue.
We’ve talked about what slander looks like, what it is, and these related sins. We’ve talked about why we slander and the effects of slander, how it divides and destroys. But in this session, I want to focus on how to become a woman who is not a slanderer. Paul says older women are not to be slanderers. That’s to be true of all of us. We are not to be slanderers.
How can we become a woman who does not sin with her tongue, whose words do not divide and destroy? Let me give you several suggestions, seven to be exact, and don’t try and jot all of this down because I’m going to talk faster than you can write. But if you’ll go to our website, we’ll have all these printed out for you, and you can perhaps even take them and write them down on a list that will help you remember these things.
First of all, if you’ve been guilty of slander or evil speaking or gossip, humble yourself. Acknowledge the fact that you have been a slanderer; that you have destroyed with your words. There are two directions we need to humble ourselves—in the vertical relationship with God, and then in the horizontal relationship with others.
First of all, if you have slandered or spoken evil of others, tell God the truth. He knows it but acknowledge it, confess it to God.
- Acknowledge your sins of the tongue—what you have said.
- Acknowledge the sins of your heart—what caused you to say those things. Not just “I slandered” or “I spoke evil” or “I gossiped,” but what was it in my heart that caused me to do that?
- Confess to God the root issues—the pride, the jealousy, the wanting to look better, the comparison, the competitive spirit, the underlying sinful heart attitudes.
Be honest with God. Say, “I have slandered. I have sown discord among believers.” That’s, by the way, one of the seven things that God hates. It’s an abomination to Him for us to use our tongues to sow discord among believers. How often do we do that in the work place, in our homes, in our churches. Confess it. Humble yourself. Acknowledge it to God.
Then humble yourself before others. This is still under that first point of humbling yourself. Go back and confess it to the person to whom you spoke. I tell you what, if you will purpose in your heart to go back every time and acknowledge that you have slandered or you’ve spoken evil or you’ve gossiped, and to seek forgiveness, it will do a lot to put an end to that habit in your life because you’ll get tired of having to go back and humble yourself. Purpose to go back to the person with whom you spoke and humble yourself.
Then, let me say this, you may also need to seek forgiveness from the person about whom you were speaking. You may have slandered or spoken evil, for example, of your husband in front of your children. Of course, you need to go back to your children and confess that, but you may need to go back to your husband if you have caused your children to have less respect toward him. If you have undermined his authority and his leadership in the home, then go back and seek his forgiveness.
Humble yourself. You may have done this toward your pastor. You may have rendered him or another leader less effective in their leadership. Go back and humble yourself and seek their forgiveness.
Some weeks ago a woman asked if she could meet with me, and I said, “Of course, I’d be glad to talk,” and she came. We sat down together, and she began to sob as she shared with me a situation which I was familiar with a little bit of it but not the details. She had been hurt, and the hurt had turned to disappointment and bitterness and anger in her heart. She had drawn conclusions based on having only partial information—she didn’t have all the facts, which we rarely have all the facts about a situation—and she’d picked up an offense.
As a result, for months she had been living with bitterness and hatred in her heart toward a number of individuals. As a result of the bitterness and anger in her heart, she had slandered these people, and God had convicted her of this. The Holy Spirit was working in her heart, and by the time she came to talk to me, she was already broken. We talked and prayed together, and it was a precious thing just to see how seriously she took this sin of bitterness and anger and slander.
Now let me say, based on my perspective of this situation, she was a lot less wrong than maybe some of the other people involved. But she started out by saying, “I’m not here to talk about anybody else’s sin. I’m here to talk about my own. I want to deal with my own sin.” As I listened, my heart was kind of broken because I felt like this woman had been caught in the cross fires of some other people’s sins, but she was so wise not to blame them but to take full responsibility and to be broken and humbled before God. She said, “What do I need to do?”
Before we finished our conversation, I said, “Would you like to talk to one of those people just to get started?” She said, “Yes, I would.” I said, “Would you like me to call that person and see if they could come meet with us right now?” She said, “Yes, I would like to deal with this.”
I made a phone call. One of these individuals came over, joined us within a matter of minutes, and we were sitting down. This woman just poured out her heart to this individual, told that person just what she had told me. She said, “I’ve sinned against you. I’ve slandered you. I’ve been bitter in my heart. I’ve undermined your leadership. Would you please forgive me?” It was so precious to watch as this person, of course, extended grace and forgiveness to this woman. I watched the reconciliation taking place. Slander divides, but speaking the truth, speaking in humility brings people together.
This woman went from that place and went and talked to another two or three other people who had been involved in this. She went one by one to the individuals and said, “I want to make this right.”
I talked to her recently, and I said, “How are you doing?” And she said, “The bitterness is all gone. It’s all gone.” She had this sting, this hurt, this wound in her heart, but as she took the steps to deal with her attitudes and her sins of the tongue, God by His Spirit just removed the bitterness and set her free.
There may be some people you need to go to and say, “I have sinned against you with my spirit, with my tongue. I’ve undermined your leadership.” Go and talk to the people that you have spoken to about others and make a habit of humbling yourself if you’ve been guilty of slander, evil speaking, or gossip.
Then number two: Put off all slander and evil speaking. I believe we need to have a zero tolerance policy about slander and evil speaking and gossip as Christians and in the church and in our relationships. Paul says in Ephesians 4, "Let all bitterness and wrath and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, along with all malice" (verse 31). All of it. Put it off.
Notice, by the way, in that passage, that bitterness is a root sin that often leads to sins of the tongue. So don’t just put off the sins of the tongue, put off the heart attitude of bitterness. Get rid of the bitterness. Don’t hold on to it. Let it go.
Now, does that mean we should cover up sin? What if you’re aware of sin in someone else’s life? I think that’s an important question because people do sin against us, and in the illustration I just gave you of the woman who came to see me, there are some sins that others have committed.
Here are some questions we need to ask as we think about the sins of others and how they affect us:
- Have you prayed for them?
- What’s your motive in talking about it?
- Do you want to see them restored?
- Do you care that they will be restored spiritually, or do you just want to undo them; you just want to hurt them; you just want to punish them?
- If you’re a part of that person’s life, if you have a relationship there, you’re part of their network of relationships, what do you do?
According to Matthew 18:15, Galatians 6:1 you go to that person. Don’t go to somebody else. Go to that person who has sinned against you or wronged you. Talk to them about it. Seek to be reconciled.
Ask yourself this question: Will telling somebody else about this be redemptive? It may be redemptive, and this is a whole other series, but in certain settings or situations, it may be redemptive and necessary and biblical for you to talk to somebody else about the offense.
It may be right for you to talk to your pastor or elders about certain situations, or to call the police, or to tell your husband about something that is going on in the life of one of your teenagers. There are situations where it is appropriate—where the law is being broken, where lives are being jeopardized, or where there is a biblical mandate to bring somebody else into the situation—but the motive has to be, not their harm, but their restoration. You’re trying to build them up; you’re trying to salvage them. You want to see the wrong doer restored.
So ask yourself this question: Is the person you’re telling a part of the problem or a part of the solution? If they’re not a part of the problem, and they’re not a part of the solution, then probably it’s something you should not be saying.
I read on one discussion of this whole topic, somebody wrote out this rule or this policy, this guideline for this whole issue of slander or evil speaking. They said,
Do not pass on derogatory or uncomplimentary information about anyone unless the Word of God is giving you the specific authority and responsibility to do so, and the person you are informing likewise has responsibility in the situation and a need to know the information.1
That’s just a more eloquent way of saying, “If the person is not a part of the problem or part of the solution, don’t say it.”
By the way, it’s not just what we say verbally, but as I indicated in the last session, we need to be so careful about putting off slander and evil speaking and malice and gossip when it comes to use of the Internet—forwarding emails. I have just seen over and over again what huge damage can be done by these forward things—“Did you see this? Did you hear about this?” We have these mass email lists. I get forwarded more things. Why are we passing these things around on the Internet? And I’ll confess—I’ve done it. We need to search our hearts and say, “Is this right? Or am I doing something evil and divisive against God and against other believers by doing this?”
Not only do we need to put off all slander and evil speaking, but thirdly, we need to put on a heart and words of kindness and love and forgiveness and grace—not just put off the slander, but replace the slander with a heart of kindness and goodness and grace and love. "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). Be intentional about speaking words that edify, that build up, that put other people in a positive light.
Then number four: Bring your thought life under the control of the Spirit—those critical, fault-finding thoughts that ultimately come out in our words. We need to crucify those thoughts; bring them captive to the obedience of Christ. We need to be intentional about seeing other people—especially other believers, and anybody that’s God’s creation—we need to be intentional about seeing others with eyes of mercy and grace. Remember how much you need God’s mercy. Remember where you would be without God’s grace. We need to be careful about having this unholy curiosity, a desire to know things about other people. Bring those thoughts captive, rein them in.
Psalm 19, "let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart [not just what I say, but what I think, Lord] be acceptable in Your sight, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer" (verse 14). Bring your thought life under the control of the Spirit.
Then number five: Talk less. Very simple. Proverbs chapter 10,
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable [when there are many words—did you get that?—transgression is unavoidable. You will sin if you talk too much. I will sin, I do sin when I talk too much.] But he who restrains his lips is prudent (verse 19, NASB).
James 1, "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry" (verse 19, emphasis added).
Say less, and you have less chance of sinning. The more time you spend on the phone, the more time you spend in conversation with others, the more careful you have to be, especially if you tend to be a talkative person, or if the person you’re talking to tends to be a talkative person. Learn to restrain your lips, to keep confidences, not to repeat things that you don’t have the freedom to repeat, and if you’re not sure—don’t say it. Don’t ask unnecessary questions that probe and pry and lead to places a conversation doesn’t need to go.
Number six: Think before you speak. Ask yourself these kinds of questions:
- Is it true?
Do I know for a fact that it’s true? That’s especially important. When you’re hearing about a conflict and you’re only hearing one side, remember that you’re only hearing one side. "He who answers a matter before he hears it, it’s a folly and a shame to him" (Proverbs 18:13). You do not know all the facts if you’re only hearing one person describe the situation.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a husband describe what the frustration is about his marriage, and then I’ve heard the wife describe her frustrations about their marriage, and I think, “These are two different marriages—two totally different perspectives.” If you’re only listening to one side, you don’t know what you’re hearing is true, so don’t assume that it’s the whole picture.
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Will it build up, will it edify the person of whom I’m speaking?
- Is it necessary?
- Does the person I’m talking to need to know this?
- If this were about me, would I want it shared with someone else?
Here’s one that would just cut out a lot of what we say:
- Would I mind if the person I’m talking about were standing right here? Would I be willing to say it to their face?
Oh, that’s why the Psalmist prayed, "Set a guard, Oh Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (141:3). Think before you speak.
Then number seven: Refuse to listen to slander or gossip about others. Refuse to listen to it. Not only to spread it, but to listen to it.
First Samuel 24, verse 9, David said to Saul, who was out to destroy him, "Why do you listen to the words of men who say ‘Behold, David seeks your harm.’?” Why do you listen to that? Saul listened to people who said that. He believed what he heard, and as a result, he set out to destroy David. Don’t listen to it. Steer the conversation to another topic, or turn it to build up the person who’s being talked about.
Now we need to let God take this matter home to our hearts and convict us and change us where needed. We talked about the word for slander being diabolos. It’s a word that is a name for Satan—Satan who accuses us before the Father, condemns us, lies about us. He accuses us.
But on the other hand we have one who advocates for us. "We have an advocate with the Father if anyone sins, Jesus Christ the Righteous" (1 John 2:1). You see, Jesus, like Satan, knows that we have sinned, yet He defends us before the Throne of God. He pleads our case before God on the basis of His sacrificial death on the cross for our sins.
So as you speak about other believers, are you accusing them as the devil does? Or are you advocating for them as Jesus does for you? Are you being like Jesus? Or are you being like Satan?
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).
Now, the tendency when you hear something like this may be to say, “Well, then, I just won’t say anything. I won’t open my mouth.” That’s not a right response either. It’s true that words can be used to destroy and to tear down, but words can also be used to encourage, to strengthen, to build up others, so use your tongue for that purpose. Think about all the grace you have received from God and from others, and then use your tongue to minister grace to others as you have received it.
Leslie: Even if your tongue has been out of control, Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been giving you hope. Things can change. Not only can you learn to hold your tongue; you can actually learn to use it to bless others. It’s an important lesson in our current series God’s Beautiful Design for Women: Living Out Titus 2:1-5.
Nancy will pray with us in just a minute.
I appreciate Nancy’s influence on my life in so many ways, and I appreciate those who give and make Revive Our Hearts possible. To show our thanks for those who give a much-needed gift to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send the newly printed book Becoming God’s True Woman. The book was written by Nancy and her friends Mary Kassian, Susan Hunt, Bunny Wilson, and other great writers who show you how to demonstrate God’s glory in your home and relationships. Your friends, kids, and husband will see a picture of true womanhood when you apply the material in this helpful book. Look for it at ReviveOurHearts.com.
Titus 2 tells us wise women shouldn’t be addicted to much wine. How do you live that out today? Get some biblical counsel on addictions when Nancy returns tomorrow. Now she’s back to close in prayer.
Nancy: Oh Lord, guard our hearts; guard our tongues, and may we be advocates for even those who have failed as Jesus is for us, rather than accusers of the brethren as Satan does perpetually. Wash us. Cleanse us. Renew us. Change us. May our tongues minister grace to all to whom we speak and of we speak. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
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