Sticks and stones may break our bones…but words can kill our souls. That’s why James calls the tongue a restless evil, full of deadly poison. In an increasingly digital world, our words have more power now than perhaps ever before. Join us for a timely study of God’s wisdom for dealing with four kinds of toxic talk that are a dangerous trap for all of us.
Gossip is the divisive sharing of information that should have remained private or wasn’t yours to share. Join us as Craig walks us through recognizing and resisting this form of toxic talk.
Craig: Hey, Mission Hills, so good to have you with us, no matter where you are or how it is that you’re joining us. So glad that you are joining us for the beginning of a new series that I actually think may be one of those important series that we’re gonna deal with this year. God has some amazing plans in all of our lives through this series.
Now, before I get into the content of the series, though, I need to deliver some bad news. And here’s the bad news. Not everything that you were told as a kid is true, okay? Some of the things that we were told as children is simply just not true, okay? Now, I’m not talking about the stuff that adults sometimes tell kids to make their lives easier, that is the adult’s lives easier. So, if any of you were ever told that that song the ice cream trucks play, “Oh, they only play that when the ice cream truck is out of ice cream,” okay, if anybody was told that — by the way, not true. Some of you are like, “What?” Right. But that’s just to make adults lives easier. And there’s some things that sometimes get told for that reason. I’m not talking about that kind of stuff, okay?
I’m also not talking about the kind of stuff that we sometimes tell kids in order to just kind of mess with them, lovingly mess with them. Like when my kids were little, every time we get near an automatic door, I would say out loud, “Open, please.” And for years, my kids believed that those doors were voice-activated, okay? And I just loved that moment when one of them finally came home and went, “Dad,” right? I’m not talking about that kind of stuff either, okay?
I’m talking about stuff that the adults told us that they actually believed was true, at least I think they believed it was true. And the reason they told it to us was because they thought it was gonna make things better for us, okay? And there’s actually quite a few of those things that we were told that turn out not to be true. So, we’re actually gonna do a little kind of a countdown, okay, top five things that most of us were told as kids, it turns out not to be true. And so if you’re watching with somebody and I hope you are, why don’t you just tell them if you were told this truth.
Here’s number five. Number five is if you swallow gum, it stays in your stomach for seven years. How many of us were told that? It’s just not true. It just absolutely isn’t true. In fact, this is a little bit gross, okay? But if you’re a parent and you’ve had small children in your life, then you know that when they swallow gum, it passes quite easily and quickly and fully intact, okay? That is enough said on that. Sorry. Sorry. I don’t even know why I went down that particular road. Okay.
Number four, you have to wait 30 minutes after you eat, before you go in swimming. How many of us were told that, right? Now, that one might be one of those self-serving ones. I think my mom told me that just because she didn’t wanna go in swimming yet, okay? But I actually found out, as I was researching this, that the 1908 Boy Scout Manual actually says that you have to wait 90 minutes before you go back in after eating or you’ll cramp up and die, and it literally says, and it will be your fault, okay? Well, turns out that’s just not true. You don’t have to wait 90 minutes. You don’t even have to wait 30 minutes.
Okay, number three, if you swallow watermelon seeds, a watermelon plant will grow in your stomach. How many of you were told that? Okay. I definitely heard that one growing up. I guess apparently like stomach acid is nowhere near as strong as watermelon seeds, some kind of like titanium-encased seed going on there. Okay. Not true. It’s just not true. It doesn’t happen.
Number two, sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyes. I definitely heard that one. How many of you did, right? Here’s the interesting thing is like, we never were sitting closer to the TV than we are today to our screens, right? I mean, I might be five or six feet away from a screen and, you know, and my parents were like, ”Oh, you’re ruining your eyes.” Well, now I spend all day, every day with my screen right there, like typing, you now. Boy, if that would ruin our eyes, that our eyes are all in massive trouble. And it turns out, in fact that it’s just not true.
And then the number one thing, the number one thing that we were told as kids, it turns out just to not be true, drum roll, please, is sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you. And most of us know that’s just a lie, right? We know that it’s just not true. And I know we were usually told that by a well-meaning adult, who’s trying to make us feel better after somebody made us feel bad by something they said about us or something that they said to us. But the truth of the matter is while sticks and stones do break your bones, words can kill your soul. Words are incredibly painful things, incredibly dangerous things. And the reality is that we live in a world that’s based on words. It’s more true now than it has ever been before that our words have power and our words have the power to wound. And our words have the power to do some tremendous damage.
If you’ve ever doubted that human beings have a sinful nature, you don’t have to look any further than the comment section in YouTube or Instagram or Facebook, because it’s not just that we put out words in so many platforms like that, but other people can come back at us with words. And if you look at the comments section on any of those social media platforms, you will see, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we use words in ways that they were clearly never intended and they’re powerful and words wound. In fact, I came across this really powerful video. It’s by a woman named Lindsey Stirling. She’s a violinist. I love her work. And also, it’s a collaboration with Switchfoot, which is a very popular Christian band back in the ’90s. And they recorded the song. And in the song, I’m gonna play a clip of it for you, you’re gonna see some words appearing. And those were all words that were actually said to them in comments about their work online.
Words are powerful. Words wound. And they don’t make clean cuts, right? They’re infectious wounds. They’re wounds that they get infected. They’re wounds that actually start with toxin in them and that toxin just sinks in deep and it continues to do damage long after the words themselves have been spoken and long after the speaker has even forgotten that they’ve said them.
The Book of James written by an early follower of Jesus, in fact, the half brother of Jesus himself said this all the way almost 2,000 years ago, what the power of words, he said this, this is James chapter 3, verse 5, ”The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 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. All kinds of animals, birds and reptiles, and sea creatures are being tamed, and it has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Words wound and our words inject poison that ultimately doesn’t just break bones. It kills souls. And so, what we’re gonna do in this series is we’re gonna tackle four kinds of what I call “toxic talk,” that I believe we’re all tempted by, okay? We’re all tempted by each of these and these aren’t specific to a gender. They are not specific to an age group. They’re not specific to any particular kind of grouping or category of people. These are things I think that always…all of us struggle with, that all of us always struggle with, okay? And what we’re gonna do in this series is we’re gonna do two things. Number one, we’re gonna learn to recognize, and number two, we’re gonna learn to resist these kinds of toxic talk. We’re gonna learn to recognize and to resist these kinds of toxic talk.
And the first talk that we’re gonna tackle, first toxic talk that we’re gonna tackle, a lot of Ts there, is, I’m gonna be honest, it’s one I struggle with. And it’s one I struggle with more than I am comfortable with you knowing how much I struggle with it. And the funny thing is it’s actually not a kind of toxic talk that I ever thought that I did struggle with. In fact, if you’d asked me a few weeks ago before I began preparing for this message, I probably would have told you, “Well, that one is one that I don’t really struggle with because in my head, this is something that particular groups of people, and I’m gonna be perfectly honest with you here, that I tended to think that this was something that women struggled with.” And I know that’s totally sexist. Women, I apologize. It was wrong, but I tended to think that women did it. And sometimes, I thought that older people had a tendency to do it, especially older women. So that’s ageist, right? And so, I just confessed those sins of assumption before you right now. But I didn’t think that I struggled with it and yet, as I began to understand God’s heart towards this particular kind of toxic talk and to understand how God defines it, I began to realize I do struggle with that. That is actually something that’s a part of my life that I need to recognize, and I need to resist. And the talk that I’m talking about is gossip. It’s gossip.
Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible and turn with me to the Book of Proverbs, Chapter 16. We’re gonna be in verse 28 to start off today. And while you’re making your way to Proverbs 16:28, let me just say this, a little bit of a different series for us for the next few weeks. Typically, at Mission Hills, what we do is we unpack a passage of Scripture and we take it apart, make sure we understand all the pieces, then we put it back together and make sure we understand what it looks like to apply it in our lives. But the Book of Proverbs doesn’t really have passages. It has pearls, okay? It has pearls of wisdom. And so, we’re gonna have to jump around a little bit in the Book of Proverbs to get all of God’s wisdom regarding these particular kinds of toxic talk, especially our beginning with this one called gossip, okay?
So, Proverbs 16:28 says this about gossip. It says, ”A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Perverse person stirs up conflict and a gossip separates close friends. Now, let me give you a little kind of Bible hack here, actually, and that is that the Book of Proverbs is written in poetic form. And what that means is that it’s kind of stylized language and it’s not prose, meaning it’s not like, you know, the kind of written speech that you would do if you would kind of like trying to capture how you would talk out loud, okay? It’s a little bit fancier. It’s a little bit more sort of formal. It’s a little bit more stylized. And in Hebrew, poetry isn’t defined by rhyming. It’s not even actually defined by rhythm.
In Hebrew, poetry is defined by something called parallelism. And what that means is that if you look at a piece of Hebrew poetry, you’ll typically see two or more lines where one line kind of begins and it has some elements, and then the second, maybe even the third or the fourth line, then kind of repeat very similar ideas. Each of the ideas in the first line are paralleled by similar elements in the second or the third or the fourth. And often, it’s the case that you just have two, okay? And the most common way that you have that parallelism work out is what we call synonymous parallelism, which means that the second element that connects to the first one is very similar. It’s synonymous with the first one, but a lot of times, it expands it a little bit.
And when we recognize that form of writing, we look at this Proverb and it tells us immediately, whereas we recognize these parallel elements, it tells us two things about gossip that I think we got to grab a hold of right off the bat. And here’s what it tells us. It tells us that gossip is twisted talk that creates division. It’s twisted talk that creates division. In fact, can we just go back real quick and I’ll show you why it does that. It says a perverse person, and that’s paralleled by the word gossip, okay? So, gossip is…a gossip is a perverse person, and it says stirs up conflict and that’s paralleled by separates close friends. So again, gossip is twisted talk that creates division.
Why do I say it’s twisted talk? Well, because that’s what perversion means, right? It says that a gossip is a perverse person, and you need to set aside whatever it is that you’re picturing right now, because sometimes we hear the word perverse or perverted, and we have certain images that come to mind, but really, perverse or perverted literally just means that it’s bent, that it’s twisted, that it deviates from true, okay? Well, one of the ways to think about this is an arrow. See, for an arrow to work right, for an arrow does fly true and hit the target it was intended to, the shaft has to be perfectly straight. And in fact, if the shaft is bent, if it is twisted, if it is literally perverted, if it deviates from straight, then the arrow isn’t gonna fly straight. It’s not gonna fly through and it’s gonna end up doing something it was never intended to do. It’s gonna hit something it was never intended to do, and it’s gonna cause damage, where it’s never intended to cause damage.
And so what it’s interesting, the Proverb says is that a gossip is a kind of twisted talk. And what twisted thing does it do? Well, what does it say? It says that it separates close friends. It creates division and that’s not what talk is supposed to do. In fact, God gave us the tongue. God gave us our words so that we could do some really great things. He gave us our word so that we can praise him, okay? There’s power in that. He gave us words so we can encourage one another and there’s tremendous power in that. He gave us words so that we can communicate ideas and collaborate and figure out how to move forward together on mission with Jesus, extending God’s influence in the world. All of our words have the ability to do that. And ultimately, one of the biggest and highest goals of our talk of our tongues is to create unity, okay? So our tongues can bring unity to our community, if they’re flying true. But if our words are not being used the way they’re intended, if they’re twisted, if they deviate, if they’re perverse, instead of bringing unity to the community, they bring division. That’s what he says, right? He says they separate close friends.
Now, why? Why does gossip separates close friends? Well, basically it’s because gossip destroys trust. And you know this. You’ve experienced it, I’m quite certain. At some point in your life, either somebody has gossiped about you in which case, you stopped trusting them, or you have gossiped about somebody, in which case, they’ve stopped trusting you, okay? Gossip destroys trust.
But why? Why exactly does gossip destroy trust? Well, check this out. This is Proverbs chapter 20, verse 19. It says this, ”A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid anyone who talks too much.” A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid anyone who talks too much. That’s what a gossip does. We’re beginning to zero in here on exactly what gossip is. And I wanna just acknowledge for a moment that if you’re at all like me, before I began studying this, I really kinda tended to think about gossip in a way that wasn’t biblical. It wasn’t defined the way God does it. When I pictured somebody gossiping, I tended to picture somebody kind of, you know, going behind somebody’s back and then speaking something probably that was a lie, something that wasn’t true to, and that was designed to damage their reputation, was designed to hurt them or embarrass them in some way. That’s what I tended to think about gossip as being. But as I began to study it, I realized that that’s not quite true.
The reality is that gossip often involves true information that shouldn’t be shared. It just shouldn’t be shared. In fact, I think what this begins to tell us right here, when it says that a gossip betrays of a confidence, is that the best way to think about gossip is just this: gossip is making public which should have been kept private. That’s all it is. It’s making public what should have been kept private. It’s not necessarily a lie. In fact, I think typically, in the Bible, gossip isn’t a lie. Typically, it is true, and it’s not even always intended to bring harm to another person. Sometimes the harm comes inadvertently. It comes accidentally. But it comes because what should have been kept private ends up going public. It ends up going wide. That’s what gossip is.
And for me, at least, when I began to realize that, that’s when I had that light bulb moment where I realized I struggled with this kind of toxic talk. I absolutely do. Gossip is any time that we take something that should have been private and we go public with it. And when I say public, I don’t even necessarily mean like, you know, we splash it all over the internet, okay? I’m not talking about getting on YouTube and recording something that all your subscribers listened to or are posting it in a forum where you know lots of people read it. I’m not even talking about it really going far and wide. Really, when I talk about public, I just mean that you’re making it more public than it should have been. You’re in possession of some information that some people around you are not and you make it more public by giving it to them and you shouldn’t have done that. That’s all the gossip is.
And we do it for a lot of different reasons. It’s interesting to me that there’s actually three different Hebrew words that are translated as gossip, as a gossiping person. And if we look at those three Hebrew words, we find out some interesting insights into why it is I think that we gossip, okay? The first word is rakil and it really kind of translates to the informer. That’s the first kind of gossip, the informer. Hebrew word again, it’s rakil. And another way to translate it would be a teller of tales, a storyteller. This is a person who just has a deep-seated need to inform other people about something, okay? And then the reality is that sometimes we’re informing people about something that we’ve got no business informing them. We might do that for a lot of different reasons.
Sometimes we inform people because we like being the center of attention, right? And the reality is the gossip sells, right? You know that. When we start telling a story that we thought was interesting and people start kind of checking out, you know, you drop a little bit of gossip into that, a little bit of information that we have that they don’t have, and suddenly the attention perks up, right? I heard a comedian talking about this recently. I don’t even know who it was. I was listening on Pandora and it just popped through, but he’s…he was saying, ”Hey, little kids learn this real early on because, you know, when they’re telling stories, they’re all over the place and they’re starting and backing up and throwing in all these details. And adults are like, ”Oh my gosh, when are we gonna get to the point?” ”And then the kid drops in something like, “And I was at the playground,” blah blah blah, “and then I saw uncle Tommy and he was there with a woman that wasn’t his wife, but she was sitting on his lap.” And suddenly, as adults, we’re like, ”Whoa, what was that?” Right. And I think early on, we learn that people like that kind of stuff. And so sometimes we inform simply because we like to be the center of attention. Okay.
Sometimes we become the informers and we gossip because honestly it makes us feel good to be in the know. It makes us feel special to have information that not everybody else has. The problem with having information that npt everybody else has is they don’t know that we have it. So we kind of let them know that we have it. And then they know we’re special too, right? I struggle with that one.
I’ve got some friends that are mentoring me from really large churches. And sometimes because of that relationship, I find out, you know, there’s a new book coming out or something like that. And sometimes I find myself really tempted to drop that information. “Well, you know, this church is gonna do this.” Or, “Oh, you know, so-and-so’s got this book coming out.” And I’m not damaging their reputation, but the reality is I’m informing people about things that it really wasn’t my place to inform them about. And the reason I’m doing this because I kinda like them knowing that I’m in the know, right? So that’s another reason that we sometimes inform people about stuff.
But the reality is just because you have information doesn’t mean that it’s your job to inform other people about that information. I’ve gotta be really careful about that here.
Here’s a question that I find that is important for me to ask myself. It’s this: Is it my place to share this information? Is it my place to share this info? Again, it doesn’t have to be bad information. It might actually be really good information. In fact, I’ll tell you a time that I succeeded, but I really, really struggled. I came that close to not succeed. And my youngest daughter, Lynae, she wanted a husky for the longest time. She was just like so obsessed with having a husky. She was so excited about it. And we said no for a long time. And then, by the Lord’s blessing, we were able to actually move into another house that had a little bit more room. And we thought, you know what, we’re gonna bless her. We’re going to say yes to her getting a husky and my wife and I decided to get her. Coletta and I decided together we were going to do that. And we talked about how to inform her together. And we decided we’re going to do it as a Christmas present. But we made that decision like two weeks before Christmas came. And I got to tell you, for like…for two weeks solid, like every time I saw her, and I was by myself, meaning my wife wasn’t there, I had like this deep seated need to inform my daughter. I was gonna tell her, “Oh, I just wanna let you know, this is gonna happen. Now, you got to keep it a secret.” And the only reason I wanted to do that was I wanted to be the hero. I wanted to be the one to get, to see her face light up because of information that I gave her, right?
So, you see, sometimes I… By the way, I didn’t, okay. And it made for an awesome moment that we were able to reveal that information together on Christmas morning, okay? But see, sometimes we become the informer, but just because we wanna be the hero, right. Maybe that’s something that you struggle with. So that’s that question, is it my place to reveal this information? That’s one kind.
Second kind of gossip is what I call the backroom whisperer, the backroom whisper. And then the Hebrew word for that is ragan, okay? And the idea here is this is typically…this is negative information about someone. And it’s usually shared for the purpose of damaging their reputation, either it’s to make them look worse or it’s to make you look better. And again, I’m not talking about false information, okay? False information technically is something called slander. We’ll actually pick that up a little bit later in this series. Gossip is no, it’s absolutely true, but by sharing it, you’re causing damage to the other person’s reputation or you’re making yourself look better. And I’ll be honest, I struggle with this motivation.
Not lot long ago, I actually found out that there’s a pretty well-known large church pastor in America that built just a massive multimillion-dollar home. I found that out and I shared it with some people. And I realized, as I was kind of preparing for this series, the reason I shared it was because I wanted them to have some questions about him. And the thing is, I don’t even know the guy. I’ve listened to his preaching; I think he’s an amazing communicator. I’ve actually learned from some of his messages, but there’s a part of me, I’ll just be honest with you, it’s insecure and it’s jealous. And that was an opportunity to maybe take him down a notch and maybe explain, you know, I would do it differently. That’s not how I would ever do it. So that puts me up a notch, right?
But the thing about a backroom whisper is that it’s whispered. In other words, it’s communication that you’re giving to people and you wouldn’t really wanna be identified as the source of that information. You’d be embarrassed if it came out that you’re the one who shared that, okay? And honestly, even if you could find it in a public forum, but you’re with people that didn’t know it, would you be okay if the person who is about found out that you’re the one who told those people, right? That’s a really important question. Would I be comfortable being identified as the source of this info? Would I be comfortable being identified as the source of this information? And if the answer is no, don’t share it. That’s gossip.
Third reason I think that we find ourselves leaning towards gossip or the third kind of gossip that you might struggle with is what I call the blabbermouth. And the Hebrew word for that is pathah. Okay. Now, it literally means one who just talks too much. They’re literally, actually, it’s a wide open one. Like there’s just no barriers. There’s no filters. It’s just out there, right? Okay. That’s the blabbermouth. And typically, people who gossip because they’re not being careful about their words, they’re not out to hurt somebody. They’re not even aware necessarily that the information they’re sharing could cause damage or a loss of trust or whatever it is. They’re not really thinking about it at all. The reality is they’re just speaking too quickly. They’re just speaking. And it’s just out there before they even know it. Or maybe they’re not even aware that they’ve said anything that’s a little bit questionable because they’re moving on to something else really quick, right? That’s the blabbermouth, that’s pathah.
Check this out. If you just look back up, we were joking about Proverbs 20:19. Look at it again. It says ”A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid anyone who talks too much.” Talks too much. The reality is sometimes we gossip having no idea that we’re doing it just because we’re not careful with our words. Another Proverb says this. This is Proverbs chapter 10, verse19, ”When words are many, sin don’t stop. But the wise man shuts his mouth.” By the way, if you’re wondering what is the CT translation, that is Craig’s translation? But it’s actually almost a very literal rendering of the original Hebrew. When words are many, sin don’t stop. Okay, sin doesn’t stop. Moving forward, sin doesn’t stop getting out there and spreading. Toxic talk doesn’t come to an end when words are many. Okay. But the wise man just shuts his mouth.
I actually love this, as a number of Proverbs, to speak about this principle, Proverbs 17:28 says, ”Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Man, I love that. Love it. You can apparently raise your IQ or at least your perceived IQ if you just talk less, if you just listen more. I think there’s probably a reason why James, we talked about back at the very beginning of this message, speaking about the power of the tongue also says this, he says, “Be slow to speak,” okay? So, the blabbermouth doesn’t necessarily have bad intentions. They’re just not careful. Because of that, they’re making public what should have been kept private.
So, here’s a key question. Does this need to be said or do I just need to say something? Because one of the main reasons that I struggle with this one, again, it’s not necessarily because I’m trying to hurt anybody or I’m trying to make myself look good. Sometimes I find myself tempted to do this kind of gossip simply because I’m in a situation where I just…I feel like I need to contribute. Maybe I’m hanging out with some guys. And sometimes, unfortunately, what happens is guys start talking about their wives, not necessarily really bad stuff. Just, “Oh, it’s so hilarious. She does this.” Or, “Do you guys have this issue going on?” You know, sometimes just light stuff. And sometimes I feel like, you know, gosh, if I don’t say something, I’m not one of the guys. And so like, “Oh yeah, you know, Coletta does this or that. Oh, how about this?” You know, and I…honestly, it’s not that I need to say it. It’s not that it helps the conversation. I just wanna be part of the conversation. And so I look for an opportunity to jump in and so I end up saying something, not because it needs to be said, but just because I needed something to say. That’s a really powerful question. Is this something that needs to be said or do I just need to say something? In which case, maybe say something different or maybe just don’t. Right?
Three kinds of gossips, right? Three kinds of gossips. Which one are you? Maybe take a moment right now. Even the person you’re watching this with, or maybe you’re watching at the same time as somebody around you that you can text with, maybe you text them and just say, “Hey, I think this one’s probably the big struggle for me.” Which one is it? Is it the informer? Is it the backroom whisperer or it’s the blabbermouth? I think most of us struggle with one or more of each of those three, but the reality is, whichever one it is, okay, it always has the same impact. Gossip destroys trust, okay? Gossip destroys trust and it builds a wall out of the rubble. That’s what gossip does. It creates division because it destroys trust and then it uses all the broken pieces of that trust to build a wall, a barrier between us and the other person. Okay. That’s why it’s so dangerous. It’s awful and yet, it’s addictive, right?
Gossip is hard to get away from. And as I said already today, sometimes we engage them without even thinking about it because it’s just almost automatic. Why is that? And I think, it’s because of what Proverbs 18:8 says, it says, ”The words of a gossip are like choice morsels.” They’re like the best bits of food. “And they go down to the inmost parts.” But there’s something about gossip that just triggers our reflex for give me more of that. And so we give people attention when they’re doing it. We get their focus when we’re doing it. And they want more. And that makes us feel good. And so it goes down like a choice morsel, like the best bits of food. It’s automatic, it’s easy, it’s addictive, but it’s awful.
In fact, the Apostle Paul, one of the early followers of Jesus, writing about a group of people, these are far from God, he said this. He said, ”These people have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, of murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invent ways of doing wrong.” These people who are far from God, and as he describes his people, one of the things he says about them is they’re gossips. It’s a pretty scary list of things for gossip to be found among, isn’t it? It’s a sobering reality for me.
The Apostle Paul also wrote this, talking to a church that he was hoping to come and visit soon because he heard they were having some real problems, and he wrote this, this is a 2 Corinthians 12:20. ”I am afraid that when I come, I may not find you as I want you to be and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord and jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.” Again, that’s a very serious list of sins, of poisons, of toxins, to find gossip among, but it belongs there. And many of us can speak to the reality of that. Either we’ve experienced its poison operating on us, or we have spread that poison and seeing the impact that it’s had on others. It’s poison. It is toxic talk.
So, what do we do? Well, at the risk of being a little bit cheesy, but in the interest of memorability, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna tell the toxic talk of gossip to scram, S.C.R.A.M. And we’re gonna tell the toxic talk of gossip to scram. And let me tell you this before we talk to you about what each of those letters means. Gossip is…it’s rooted in our sin nature, okay? And then that means that you don’t have the ability to just stop gossiping. You can’t just stop gossiping anymore than you can just stop sinning on your own. You can try and you might make some progress here and there, but this isn’t something you can accomplish on your own. This is only something that God can do.
In fact, you might remember back at the beginning, we read a verse from the Book of James that said that no human being can tame the tongue. You cannot remove gossip from your life. Only God can remove gossip from your life. Only God can remove the temptations from your heart that lead to gossip, okay? But one of the things the Bible teaches us as followers of Jesus is that we’re supposed to cooperate with the work of God in our lives. God’s given us the Holy Spirit, as followers of Jesus, he’s transforming us from the inside out, but we’re supposed to cooperate with his work in our lives. And when we cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit, we often see faster progress, okay? Only God can do this work, but we’re called to cooperate.
And so what we’re gonna do is we’re going to tell gossip to scram. What does the S mean? S means slow down. Slow down. As we saw, sometimes we gossip not because we’re being malicious, not because we’re trying to do damage, not because we’re trying to build ourselves up or anything like that, but just because we’re just not careful in our speech. So, we’re gonna slow down. Again, the Book of James says that we’re supposed to be slow to speak, slow to speak. So, we’re gonna slow down.
You might go, “Man, that’s tough. How do I do that?” Well, here’s a little life hack. Here’s a little life hack. Good habits leak. Good habits leak. And what I mean by that is if you establish a good habit in one area of your life where it’s easier to build a good habit, you’re gonna find that that good habit leaks out of that area and begins to affect other areas of your life where it might be a bit harder to establish, okay? So, it might be really difficult to figure out how to slow down when you’re just in the midst of talking to somebody. But all of us are constantly spewing language out there where we have a real easy built-in system for slowing down. That is that we text, right? And we write Facebook posts, or we write emails or Instagram comments, whatever it is. So, here’s the thing. The next time that you type out some statement, whatever it is, no matter how long or short, the next time you type something out, don’t hit send. Just step away from it for two minutes, for five minutes, and then come back and read it again before you post it or before you hit send. Read it again and maybe ask some of these questions that we asked earlier on. Is there anything in here that I shouldn’t be sharing? In other words, is it my place to share this information? Is there anything in here that I’d be uncomfortable if somebody found out? In other words, would I be comfortable being identified as the source of this information? Or am I just saying this because I’m desperate to be heard? In other words, does this need to be said or do I just need something to say, okay? So, we’re gonna slow down. It’s the first thing we’re going to do.
Second thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna check our motives. We’re gonna ask ourselves, when I’m tempted to gossip, what exactly is it that motivates it, right? Am I the informer? I just wanna be listened to. I wanna feel good because I have inside information. What is it? Is it because I wanna tear somebody down? Do I gossip because I want to actually bring them down and not so I can bring myself up? Am I a backroom whisperer? Or am I just not careful? I’m just one of those blabbermouths, that my words just get out there and before I even realize it, they’ve done more damage than I ever would have thought that those words could possibly do because I didn’t think about them? Okay, what’s your motivation for gossip?
I think it’s what we identify that so that we can begin repenting of it, telling God, “God, I’m sorry. I find this in me. And I’m so sorry. Please work it out of me. Please do.” And then we can begin sort of recognizing it and working to resist as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to resist that particular temptation to gossip in our lives, okay?
R is to remember who we represent. We wanna kind of get in the habit of remembering that when I speak, it’s not just Craig. Okay. When I speak, it’s not just Craig and it’s not even Craig, the pastor of Mission Hills or Craig, the husband of Coletta. I’m a representative of Jesus Christ himself. I was made as God’s image, which means I was made to represent him in creation, extend his influence. I was redeemed by the blood of Jesus on the cross. And I’ve been privileged with the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with others, which means that they’re gonna see me and they’re gonna form an opinion of who Jesus is based on what they see and hear from me. And that’s true of you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, that is true of you. So, you need to remember who you represent. That becomes a powerful sort of resistant to the temptation to gossip. Okay.
A, avoid tempting situations. As you begin to identify what motivates you to gossip, the next thing to do is to identify those situations where you’re most likely to do it. Is it when you’re in the comments on Facebook? Is it when you’re texting with somebody late at night? Is it when you’re in a small group of people that you feel a little bit insecure around? Okay, identify that situation where you’re most likely to give into the temptation. And then, as much as possible, avoid that temptation, at least until you’ve gotten a handle on this gossip thing. Avoid that situation that’s most tempting, until maybe you’re in a better place or maybe never go back into that situation. Sometimes that’s what you have to do to avoid spreading this kind of toxic talk.
And then finally M, make it a team effort. Make it a team effort. We’re not called to do anything by ourselves. We’re herd animals. God made us that way. So one of the most powerful things you can do, if you wanna get a handle on the toxic talk of gossip, is actually to enlist some people that are close to you, that hear, you may be in a variety of settings and say, ”Hey, I’ve realized I have a tendency to do this. I have a tendency to go public with what should have been kept private. And I don’t wanna do that anymore. So would you help me?” Maybe you come up with a safe word and every time you think maybe you’re heading down or they think you’re heading down that road, they’re gonna give you that safe word, or they’re gonna pinch you from behind, or they’re gonna just suddenly burst in and, like, get it in the way of anything that you were saying. You know, I don’t know, I’m kinda joking there, but the point is get some people around you that can help you do this. And if you have somebody you’re tempted to gossip to on a regular basis, talk to that person and say, ”I need to get a handle on this. So, when I start doing this, please, please call me on it.”
Why is this so important? Well, not only is gossip toxic, but the reality is that when we begin to get a handle on it, we actually begin to foster something much, much, much better. And that’s this. Listen, when we keep private what should not be made public, we foster peace. When we keep private what should not be made public, we foster peace. We foster peace between us and others, and we foster peace between others and others. And that’s a powerful thing that we need to be pursuing, okay? So we’re gonna get a handle on this.
Some questions for you. Question number one. How can I slow my speech? Give some thought to that. What can you do to make your speech a little bit slower? Number two, what motivates me to gossip? Get a handle on that, okay? What motivates you to gossip? Number three, how can I remind myself of who I represent? What can you do? Maybe some of you put on your mirror on your phone or reminder but remind yourself on a regular basis that as a follower of Jesus, you represent Jesus and your speech does too. So how can you remind yourself of who you represent? Four, when am I most tempted to gossip? You’re gonna identify those things. And then number five, who can I ask to help me cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in my life on this issue?
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, who can do in us what we could never do on our own, including remove the toxic talk of gossip from our lives and our relationships. Let’s ask them to do exactly that. Would you join me in prayer?
Holy Spirit, we thank you. You are a gift to us from God, our Father. And we know that you were aware of our temptations and our tendencies to gossip, as well as aware of all the damage that it causes. Lord, we cannot accomplish on our own the necessary work of removing this toxic talk from ourselves. So Holy Spirit, we invite you to have your way with us, do your work in us to remove this toxic talk. We’ll cooperate as best as we can. We ask for forgiveness for all the ways that we’ve been public with what should have remained private, we’ve broken trust and created barriers and caused division. We ask for your forgiveness. We invite you to transform our language, our words, so that gossip is no longer part of our vocabulary.
If you wanna use your words for something really powerful right now, would you just begin speaking to God? Would you just begin praying to God? You’re gonna pray and you’re gonna ask him to do this. You’re gonna ask him to speak to the hearts of those who are listening right now, all over the world, who don’t have a relationship with this God that we’re talking about. They don’t have the Holy Spirit in them because they don’t have a relationship with God, the Father. Would you just begin praying for them right now? And if that’s you, let me just speak to you for a moment.
Gossip is going public with what should have been kept private. I’m not gonna gossip. I’m gonna do the exact opposite right now. I’m gonna make sure that you know publicly news that cannot be kept private and it’s this: God loves you. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you. That’s who Jesus is. He’s the Son of God. He came, he lived the perfect life, and he willingly went to the cross and he died as a sacrifice for our sins, to pay for all the wrong we’ve ever done, for all the harm that we’ve ever done with our words, with our deeds, with all of it. He died on the cross and he paid for all of it. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And having risen from the dead, he offers us forgiveness, salvation. Instead of being far from God, we can be drawn near to God, have a relationship with God. And as I said, the Holy Spirit who comes inside us and begins to transform us in ways we could never do on our own.
If you’ve never begun a relationship with God through trust in what Jesus did on the cross for you, you can have that right here, right now. Here’s what you’re going to say. The most powerful thing you’ll ever do with your words, right now, wherever you are, you’re gonna say this to God. Would you just say this after me? God, I have done wrong. I admit it. I have sinned and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place. Thank you for loving me enough to do that for me. I believe you rose from the dead and I trust that you’re offering me forgiveness now. I’m ready to accept your forgiveness. Jesus, I’m gonna follow you. I commit my life to following you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
If you made that decision for the first time today, I’m so excited. Love for you to do something for me and click the button that’s going to appear, the host will put it in front of you, just to let us know that you committed your life to following Jesus. If you don’t see that button in whatever format you’re watching right now or listening, would you just do this, would you text the word, Jesus, J-E-S-U-S, to 888111. Whichever way you do it, whether you click the button or you text Jesus to 888111, you’re gonna get back a link and it’s gonna tell you some things that are true about you now that you have committed your life to following Jesus, that you have said yes to following Jesus. We wanna put that into your hands and enable you to begin living life with him and experiencing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit that he’s put into your life in this moment.
Cannot wait to see what God has to do with the rest of the series. This has been a convicting one for me, hopefully it has been for you as well, because our words are powerful and we wanna use them for good, not for evil, certainly not to be poisoning people. So please make sure you join us again next week. If you’re in the Colorado area, cannot wait to see you in person on August 29th and 30th at Littleton Campus. But until next week, God bless.
Join us for a look at how slander spreads misinformation to hurt someone’s reputation and how it reflects on our character as a Christian.
Craig: Well, hey, Mission Hills, so good to have you with us today. If, you’re just joining us, we’re in the midst of a series called Toxic, obviously where we’re tackling some of the kinds of toxic talk that we all struggle with. And I planned for this series. God laid this series on my heart almost, well, it’s been over a year actually. And at the time that he laid it on my heart and I put it on the schedule, I had no idea that this subject would be so significant in this particular season, but we’re in a season where toxic talk is super, super easy to engage in, sometimes even without realizing what it is exactly that we’re doing, what kind of poison we’re actually spreading. It’s kind of a perfect storm right now, right? It’s a perfect breeding ground for toxic talk because there’s so many things going on.
And honestly, there’s so many people that we can direct toxic talk at. It’s like, it’s almost not even fair. It’s so easy to be like, we could talk about those jerks who will not wear masks, right? We could talk about those. Or we could talk about those fascists who are making us wear masks and destroying our freedom as Americans, right? We could do that. Or we could talk about those churches that are filled with fear of man, rather than faith in God and so they haven’t reopened yet. Or we can talk about the churches that have reopened, but then they’ve been asked to cease and desist because the way they’re doing the services didn’t use the common sense that God gave him, right? We can do that.
Or don’t even get me started on politicians, right? I mean, you do know it’s election season here in America, right? So, we have all kinds of opportunities to deal with politicians. And I’m really glad that it is political season because here’s the thing, you know, in America, at least, I don’t know where you are in the world, but in America, when people are trying to get elected to public office, they have a long, long, and consistent history of talking about other people they’re running against in such godly, in such positive, in such glowing terms that all we have to do is look to politicians to know exactly how we should be looking to speak to each other, right? And just in case any of you are sarcasm-impaired, everything I just said was sarcastic, okay? The reality is the world teaches us a kind of ways of using our tongues that really has nothing to do with what God intended.
I was talking to somebody the other day and he said, ”Hey, hey, Pastor, don’t you think with everything going on, right, don’t you think with everything going on, the pandemic and political unrest and racism and all that stuff, don’t you think the devil’s working overtime?” And I said, ”No, I think the devil’s on a beach somewhere with a margarita.” Because here’s the thing, I think the devil’s looking at the way that we’re handling what’s going on. He’s looking at the pandemic, he’s looking at the political conflicts. He’s looking at the racism. He’s looking at all this stuff and he’s going, “Holy cow, they’re doing more damage to each other by the way they’re talking to and about each other than I could have ever pulled off so I’m gonna take vacation, okay?”
Now, listen to me, church. As the followers of Jesus, we, you and I, we got an obligation to cut the devil’s vacation short, okay? We got an obligation to get him up off of his butt, off the beach and back into the battle because he’s gonna look at the way that we’re changing the tide of how we talk to each other. And he’s like, “I gotta come up with a new tactic. I come up with a new strategy because they’re not doing my work for me anymore.” We don’t wanna do the devil’s work. We wanna do God’s work, okay? So, here’s what we’re gonna do as Christians, okay?
Number one, we’ve got to recognize and resist this kind of toxic talk in ourselves. That’s the first thing we got to do. All the kinds of toxic talk we’re dealing with in this series, we gotta recognize our tendency to do it. Sometimes that requires that we understand what it is because sometimes we engage in kinds of toxic talk without even realizing exactly what it is that it is. We gotta to recognize it and then we gotta resist it in our own lives, okay? That’s how we kind of stop being part of the problem, but we also wanna be part of the solution, okay?
And second thing we’re gonna do is we’ve got to model for the world how God intended us to use our tongues, okay? That’s being part of the solution. We’re gonna start modeling for the world the way that God intended for us to use our tongues.
Now, last week we tackled the toxic talk of gossip, okay? This week, we’re gonna build on that. And we’re gonna go a little bit further actually and we’re gonna talk about what I kind of sometimes think of as sort of gossip on steroids. And I’m talking here about the toxic talk of slander, slander, okay?
Here, by the way, is the big difference between slander and gossip. See, gossip doesn’t have to always be untrue. As we saw last week, you can actually gossip by speaking entirely true things. They were just private things that should never have been made public, but that’s not true when it comes to slander. Slander is always untrue. And in fact, let’s just go ahead and define slander real clearly at the outset here. This is what slander is. Slander is spreading misinformation to hurt someone’s reputation. That’s what it is. It’s spreading misinformation to hurt someone’s reputation.
Why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to the book of Proverbs. We’re going to be in Proverbs, chapter 30, starting in verse 10 today. And that is again, I said last week, this is a little bit of a different series for us. We usually unpack a passage of the Bible, but the book of Proverbs, where we’re in for this series doesn’t really have passages. It just has pearls, okay? Little nuggets of wisdom, soundbites almost. And so we’re gonna bounce around a little bit more in this series than is typical of us, but we wanna make sure that we understand what the book of wisdom from the Bible has to say to us about the way that we use our tongues and it has a lot to say about this thing that we call slander.
Now, Proverbs chapter 30, verse 10 says this. It says, ”Do not slander a servant to their master, or they will curse you, and you will pay for it.” I love that. ”Do not slander a servant to their master, or they will curse you, and you will pay for it.” And that tells us three important things about slander. Number one, it tells us a slander comes from a heart that hopes to hurt, okay? Slander comes from a heart that hopes to hurt. It hopes to do damage, right. There’s no point in talking to a master about their servant, unless you’re plan on cutting that servant down, right? This is designed to cause damage to them, right? It’s not slander, by the way, if you go to your boss and you say, ”Hey, that new girl we hired, she’s amazing. She’s so good at her job. And by the way, I also found out that she’s an incredible mom and she’s an incredible wife.” That’s not slander, okay?
Slander, it’s untrue things that are really…that are designed to do damage. And that’s why it’s going to somebody else, right? It’s because it’s coming from a heart that desires to hurt the person that the slander’s about. But maybe for whatever reason, you don’t feel like you can cause the damage directly, okay? I don’t know why you wanna cause the damage. Maybe you’re jealous. Maybe people do it because they’ve been hurt. Maybe you’ve heard the old phrase, “Hurt people hurt people, right? It’s a good, important truth. Maybe that person has hurt you and so you’re kind of reacting against that. You’re trying to hurt them back, okay? Maybe you see them as competition, right? But for whatever reason, okay, there’s something in your heart that wants to hurt. There’s something in your heart that actually hopes to cause hurt to that person, okay? That’s the first thing to understand about slander.
The second thing understand from this verse here is that slander is a coward’s weapon, okay? Right. That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? It’s not an accusation. An accusation can be made directly to that person and you can kind of go back and forth and figure out whether or not it’s true. But this isn’t an accusation made to the person. This was an accusation made about the person to somebody else in a setting when they don’t have the opportunity to correct you. And the reality is that often, even if what you say is completely false, the damage gets done before that person becomes aware of it and can head it off, okay? So, it’s a coward’s weapon because it’s a sneaky weapon. It’s done behind the person’s back.
And then the third thing we wanna understand about slander from this verse is this, slander has a boomerang effect. Slander has a boomerang effect. It ends up coming back and hurting us as much, maybe even more, than it hurts the person that we are slandering. I think it’s interesting. He says, ”Don’t slander a servant to their master’ or they,” meaning the servant, ‘will curse you,” and that’s kind of a declaration that you’re a liar, okay? And maybe even a little bit beyond that, it’s a public declaration and a call for God to bring punishment against the one that has lied against you, okay? So, it’s a public declaration about the character of the slanderer and it says then, “You will pay for it.” In other words, people will start to think worse about you than they ever did about the person that you slandered, okay? It has this boomerang effect. It comes back at you.
I watch a lot of YouTube, okay? I like to do woodturning. So I’m always watching woodturning videos. I have this broken part of me that really kind of likes seeing people totally biff when they’re skiing or skateboarding or whatever. So I love to watch FailArmy in places like that. But it seems like every time that I watch YouTube these days, every video I watch is preceeded by a political message that is just attacking this one particular… He’s a candidate for a seat on the senate here in the United States and here in Colorado, okay? And here’s the thing about this person. I’m not for this person, I’m not against this person, but it’s interesting that these commercials, these ads, as I listen to them, they’re basically going, “He’s the devil, like he’s the worst person imaginable.” And I was talking to a young woman, who’s gonna be able to vote for the first time ever this election year, so first time ever casting votes, right? And out of curiosity, I said, ”Hey, have you seen his commercials?” ”Yes, I’ve seen his commercial.” I said, ”What do you think?” And she said, ”Honestly, I’m about ready to vote for the guy because I hate the people who are responsible for those ads.”
Yeah. That’s the boomerang effect. And I can’t entirely fault her. That’s not a good way to make voting decisions, okay? And I don’t think that’s how she’s gonna make her voting decisions. But the temptation’s there because the thing is that what they’re saying about this guy is actually telling us more about them maybe than it is even about that guy. It is telling us about their character, right? And it’s an important truth I think we all need to recognize. How we talk about other people tells other people a lot about us. Let me say that again. So important. How we talk about other people tells other people a lot about us. It tells us about our character. It tells us about the kind of people that we are.
Here’s the thing. You know, I have to do a lot of interviews as we hire people. With a church our size, there’s a fair amount of people moving away and trying to find new positions for new ministry opportunities. And one of the questions that I ask a lot of you who’ve been involved in management decisions for hiring, or maybe you’ve been hired, you’ve heard this question, I ask question, “Well, why did you leave your last place?” And the truth of the matter is I’m not all that interested in exactly the reasons they left that last place, especially if it’s a church, but I’m very, very, very interested in how they will talk about the people that they worked for. And if a candidate tells me, “Oh, the senior pastor was a jerk and, you know, the people that I worked for, they did this and that. There was a terrible church and like that,” I’ve never hired one of those people. And I probably never will. Because the thing is anybody who talks smack about somebody else to me will probably talk smack about me to somebody else, and I don’t need that in our culture. That’s a toxic person. And I don’t want that kind of poison in our church culture. How we talk about other people tells other people a lot about us.
And here’s the thing, as followers of Jesus, it’s a bigger deal than that, okay? Listen to me, church, so important. For Christians, how we talk about other people tells other people a lot about Jesus. You with me? How we talk about other people tells other people a lot about Jesus, the one that we claim to follow. And if the way that we talk about other people is inconsistent with who Jesus is, we’re giving people the false picture of Jesus. We’re Christians. The word Christian literally means little Christ. It means people trying to imitate Jesus, okay? One of the things we say here at Mission Hills is that we’re all about helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission. And if the way we talk about other people is inconsistent with who Jesus is, we are not becoming like Jesus, and we’re not giving people a very good picture of who Jesus is. And so as Christians, we’ve got to get a handle on this temptation to slander.
Now, a lot of Christians at this point will go, “Yeah, I get it. Slander’s a big deal, right? You’re spreading misinformation designed to hurt someone’s reputation. That doesn’t reflect well on Jesus. As a Christian, I’m really, really glad that I don’t do that.” Yeah, that’s what I used to think. Kind of the same experience I had last weekend, I had, again, this weekend. As I really began to understand what God was saying about slander, I realized I’m not free of guilt when it comes to this and the chances are, I love you, but the chances are you’re not free of guilt either. We’re all probably guilty of this, okay?
Here’s the deal. Sometimes we think we’re not guilty of slander because we go, “Yeah, it’s misinformation. It’s lies, right? And I’ve never made up a lie designed to tear somebody down.” Fair enough. I think I can probably say the same thing for me. I’ve never made up a lie to tear, sit down somebody, okay? I’ve never made up misinformation to harm somebody, his reputation. But let’s go back to that definition of slander again, okay? Slander is spreading misinformation to hurt someone’s reputation, okay? What that means is that for it to be slander, two things have to be true. Number one, we engage in slander when what we say is unkind; and number two, it’s untrue, okay? We engage the slander whenever what we say is unkind and untrue.
Let’s talk about unkind first, okay? I love this. This is Proverbs chapter 10, verse 18. I don’t actually love it. I just like the fact that it’s speaking to my heart and the Spirit is using this to convict me of some things that I don’t want to be a part of my life. Proverbs 10:18 says this, ”Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.” Whoever conceals hatred.
See, as Christians, as followers of Jesus, we know we’re not supposed to hate anybody, right? But sometimes, the misinformation that we spread about them actually hides the hatred and maybe even hides it from us, okay? Sometimes we can trick ourselves into thinking that our motivation for sharing that information, that misinformation, is actually coming from a good place. And so we’re concealing hatred even from ourselves. And so here’s a really important question. Every time we find ourselves tempted to share something that’s damaging to somebody, here’s what we need to ask. What’s motivating me to spread this? What’s motivating me to spread this? And if the answer is, if we’re really honest, jealousy or anger or frustration, or even dare we say it hatred, what we gotta recognize is that if the thing that’s motivating us to share this information is anything negative towards that person, we are halfway to being slanderers, okay? We’re halfway there. We’re being unkind.
And listen, as I said, we’re surprisingly good at masking our motives, right? You know how we’re all wearing masks right now? And you have to kind of exaggerate, like when I see people that I’m passing by and I want them…let them know that I’m smiling, I have to exaggerate a lot, right, because they can’t see my face because masks hide what’s really going on, right? And they’re easy to hide behind. And sometimes we have some things that we hide behind. We have some masks that we hide behind so that we conceal that negative stuff that we feel towards other people. And we conceal it sometimes even from ourselves, right? But we know we’re not allowed to hate somebody. And so we, as Christians, go, “I don’t hate that person. I just hate what they stand for. I don’t hate that person. I just have no respect for them. I don’t hate that person. I’m just concerned about what’s going to happen to all the people that they have influence over, right?” And maybe those are legitimate motives in there, but sometimes as the Proverb says, the information that we’re spreading, especially the misinformation that we spread, it’s really designed to conceal what is, in fact, hatred, which, as followers of Jesus, is not something we can allow to fester in our hearts, okay?
So, if we’re unkind, if our reason for sharing is unkind, we’re halfway to being slanderers. But the other half, of course, is that it’s gotta be untrue. You gotta have both things together for it to be slander. It’s important, right? If it’s unkind, but true, that’s not slander, okay? And now, it might be gossip, as we talked about last week. It might be judgementalism. It might be a critical spirit. Those aren’t good things. We’re gonna tackle those in a couple of weeks, okay? But if it’s true, but unkind, it’s not slander. And if it’s untrue, but kind, that’s not slander. That’s called flattery, by the way, which is another kind of toxic talk. Reza is gonna bring us a teaching on that next weekend. It’s gonna be awesome. I cannot wait to hear it. That’s one of those that we can easily kind of find ourselves slipping into, but it’s toxic in the way that all these others are, okay?
To be slander though it’s gotta be untrue and unkind, okay? Let’s talk about untrue. Now, I’m gonna ask you to go back for a moment in your heads and remember how we defined slander, okay? We defined slander as spreading misinformation to hurt someone’s reputation. And I want you to notice that I was very deliberate about the word that I chose there. I use the word misinformation. I did not use the word lie. I didn’t use the word fabrication, that would have worked too, spreading fabrication to ruin someone’s reputation. That’s got a nice rhythm to it, but I didn’t use that word. And you know why? Because the word lie is too black and white. The word lie gets us feeling like we’re off the hook because we didn’t make up something. We didn’t fabricate something, but here’s the important truth, okay? And this is an unfortunate reality, but we’re going to have to come to grips with it, church, okay? We can spread malicious misinformation without actually telling a lie. You know that? We can. We can spread malicious information without actually telling a lie.
How on earth could we do that? Well, let me give you two ways. Number one, we can slander by spreading information that we didn’t verify. Ooh, anybody feeling uncomfortable yet? I am. Because you know what happens is somebody tells us something about somebody and maybe it’s an individual, maybe it’s an organization. Maybe it’s a church. Maybe it’s a political movement, whatever it is, somebody tells us something. And honestly, we like it. We’re like, ”Yeah, that man, absolutely. That’s exactly what I already thought about those people. Perfect. This proves what I already believed.” And so we don’t want to verify it, right?
But here’s the thing. When we spread information without verifying that it’s true, we’re actually spreading misinformation. And why are we spreading it about those people that we already felt kind of negatively about? So that other people will feel negatively about them, right? So, what are we doing? We’re ending up spreading misinformation designed to hurt their reputation. That’s slander, all because we didn’t bother to verify. Man, this happens all the time right now. There’s crazy stuff going on out there. Like I don’t know if you spend any time online, but there’s an insane number of bizarre rumors going out around the world. It’s crazy stuff.
I was interacting with someone very recently that was interacting with somebody that was kind of buying into this theory that, you know, different political figures. And it’s interesting, you know, it varies from source to source. Maybe it’s President Trump, maybe it’s the Democrats, maybe it’s the Republicans, maybe it’s the Illuminati or one of these other kind of shadow organizations. But basically, you know, they’re saying that the COVID thing was a creation… Well, actually some of them are saying it’s not even a real thing, which is crazy because how on earth do you get the entire planet to cooperate in this? And I’ve got friends all over the world who have had the coronavirus or who are administering in churches where many of their members have it. This is a real thing. You just can’t perpetrate a deception like that on the entire world. So it’s a real thing. And some people go, ”Okay, yeah, it’s a real thing. But it was either made up or invented in the lab or whatever by certain people so that we would all take the vaccine, which is gonna carry this microchip, which Bill Gates designed or whoever, whatever, so that they can track us. It’s the mark of the beast.”
So, I was interacting with somebody who was sharing that, and as I was talking to him, they were saying, yeah, this person believes that COVID itself stands for, check this out, certificate of vaccine identification. So, they even baked it into the name of the thing, right? Now, by the way, that’s not what it. It does not stand for certificate of vaccine identification. COVID stands for coronavirus disease, but there’s this rumor going out, out there from people and there’s videos. I’ve seen them. They’re videos that are explaining how it got made in the lab so that they could do these microchips into people and it’s the one world order. It’s the Illuminati, you know, it’s the end times and all that stuff.
And the thing is that the Christians, and sometimes well-meaning Christians that I know, they’re forwarding that stuff on. They’re like, “I can’t believe this. This video came in, this is craziness,” send it out. And I’m like, ”Hey, did you bother to check out anything before you sent it out?” I was talking to someone just this past week who shared a video from a guy who was in a church service. And he was claiming to have created the chip that was gonna go in the vaccine for COVID. And they were sending this video around. And I watched about 20 seconds of the video, and then I spent about 5 seconds on Google, found out that that guy recorded that video about 30 years ago, which by the way, way before COVID, okay, and was obvious because everybody in the video was wearing clothes from like the ’80s, ’90s. I spent about five seconds and I found out that the video had been recorded 30 years ago. Clearly, that couldn’t have anything to do with COVID. And that the guy who recorded the video later admitted and repented of having lied about the whole thing. But Christians were forwarding this thing. And when it was attached to, you know, whether it’s the WHO or the CDC or the Republicans or the Democrats or this politician, when it’s attached to those people, it’s out there designed to hurt their reputation, but it is misinformation. And listen, if you forward information without verification, you’re guilty of slander. You’re guilty of slander, okay?
Here’s an important truth. Investigate before you propagate. Okay, Church, can we do that? Investigate before you propagate because you can be guilty of slander for spreading information you didn’t verify.
By the way, if you wanna jump back with me to Proverbs 10:18, again, it says, ”Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.” Doesn’t say invents slander, doesn’t say makes up slander. It says, spreads it. The Hebrew word there, “yatsa.” Some of you are gonna love that. You’re gonna love this. Yatsa in Hebrew, you know what that means? It means to spread. It just means to, you know, spread it around.
I got a question, it’s gonna be gross. And I’m kind of sorry for even asking it, but I’m gonna do it anyway. If somebody smears poop on you and you’re like, ”What the heck are you doing? Why are you smearing that stuff on me?” And they go, ”It’s okay. It’s not mine.” Do you feel better? No? Yeah. Where it came from is not the important thing. The fact that it didn’t come from you, that’s not the most important thing. Investigate before you propagate, okay?
Now there’s another reason why we can actually spread malicious information without actually telling a lie, and it’s this, is that we can slander by using truth to lead someone to a false conclusion, okay? We can tell true things, but we can take them out of context, or we can exaggerate them a little bit or just not give enough other information so that it leads somebody to a conclusion about the person we’re talking about that’s not true. But we can go, “But what I said was true. So I can’t be guilty of slander, right?” Wrong.
There’s an old story. It’s a story, it’s probably back in the 1800s or maybe even before that. There is a story of a first mate in a shipping company, in a trading company, he was kind of rising fast through the ranks. He’d been assigned to one of the, you know, the main flagships for this merchant company. And the captain didn’t really like him because the captain was a little nervous about how fast he was rising through the ranks. And one night, the first mate made a huge mistake. The first mate got drunk, okay? Drank a little too much, got drunk, woke up the next morning, immediately realized that he’d done wrong. He went to the captain and he said he was sorry. He said, ”That should never have happened. It’s unexcusable. I promise you it will not happen again.” And the captain asked him a question. The captain said, ”Has it ever happened before?” And the young man, wanting to be completely honest, said, ”Yes, sir. It has. One time, seven years ago, I drank too much. Hasn’t been since then, but yes, one time, seven years ago.” And the captain dismissed him, and he wrote in the log book, “Captain’s note.” And usually, the first mate was filling out the log book. But the captain made a special captain’s note that day. He said, ”First mate was drunk again last night.” The first mate, the next night, was filling out the log book, and he came across the captain’s entry and he went to the captain and he said, ”You gotta get rid of that. That’s going to ruin my career. It’s not fair.” The captain said, ”There’s nothing in there that’s not true. You were drunk again.” The first mate took the book and he wrote, “Praise God, today, the captain was sober.”
You know, you can slander somebody. You can spread misinformation. You can spread malicious misinformation without telling a lie. Just because what you tell is carefully parceled out truth so that you lead somebody to a wrong conclusion. It happens all the time in those ads that I was mentioning earlier, that politician and the commercials are telling me he’s the devil. One of the things that gets said in those is that he’s an ethics violator and then they list a long list of ethics violations. I think there’s about six of them. I did a little bit of research and I found that he was investigated for those six ethical violations, and two of them he was found guilty of. He was. He is, in fact, an ethics violator. The other four, the ethics committee determined he had not actually violated any ethics, but they’re listed in that commercial, at least they were in an earlier version of it. I don’t know about now. They’ve probably been called on it. But the point is, he’s an ethics violate. Here’s the six things he’s done. Well, four of those things he did, but they determined they weren’t ethics violations. But because they said he’s an ethics violator, and then they got those two and then these other four, they’re all together, you know, like it’s just this massive thing, like this is all this guy does. And again, please hear me. I’m not for this guy. I’m not against him, but I’m very, very against that kind of talk. And I’m deeply, deeply concerned that Christians recognize this and resist it in ourselves.
But the fact of the matter is that we often engage in that for the reasons we’ve talked about. And sometimes, we even excuse ourselves for it. I’ve done it. I’m gonna be perfectly honest with you. I have done it. I’ve slandered people. I’ve done it recently.
Confession time. There’s a church kind of in the news these days, because honestly, they’ve got some kind of interesting beliefs and some interesting practices, and I’m not in agreement with their theology. I’m not in agreement with a number of their practices. And I heard a story about them. I heard that with all this racism stuff that was going on, that they used a wizard staff in a church service to cast out the demon of racism from America. And I went, ”Oh my gosh, it’s exactly the kind of thing I expect from those people.” And I told that story to a couple other people, not a lot, a couple of other people. And I’m gonna confess to you, I didn’t bother to verify it. I did not bother to verify it. I shared that with other people, which is really designed to hurt their reputation as a church, and I did it without verification.
I finally did go back and verify it, and it’s true actually. It did actually happen. But when I saw the context for it, I realized that I was misrepresenting it, which again, partly was because I didn’t bother investigating in the first place. They were kind of like making a little bit of a spoof of, you know, ”The Lord of the Rings” and Gandalf, you know, casting up the Balrog, you know, “You shall not pass,” that kind of a thing. And they were kind of making out like racism was this horrible thing. And like, listen, I wouldn’t have done it that way. I’m not gonna say that it was the best way. I’m not gonna say that it was necessarily a wrong way. When I understood the context is like, yeah, well, I presented this in a way that led people to a conclusion about them that really was much worse than the actual events themselves.
And I want you to hear me. I recognize that for what it was, that was slander. And I’ve gone on my knees. I’ve repented of it. I’ve asked for forgiveness of it and I’m correcting it. But the reality is if I can do it, you can do it, okay? But we can’t afford to do it because listen, how we talk about other people tells other people a lot about us and as followers of Jesus, how we talk about other people tells other people a lot about Jesus. But there’s a positive side to removing a slander from our hearts, much more powerful motivation I think for dealing with this toxic talk in ourselves.
This is Psalm 15, Psalm of David, King David. He writes this, ”Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” In other words, God who can be with you? Who could have your presence moment by moment, day in and day out? It says, ”The one whose walk is blameless. The one who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart, whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor and casts no slur on others,” which is another way of talking about slander.
Why do I wanna get rid of slander from my heart? Because apparently, our refusal the practice slander invites the presence of God in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I need the presence of God in my life a whole lot more than I need to be tearing down other people because I don’t agree with what they stand for or what they teach or what they believe. I need the presence of God more than I need anything else. And apparently, our refusal to participate in slander invites God’s presence into our lives. Don’t you want that?
Well, apparently, the way that we use our tongue has an impact on that. So, let me just ask you some questions to wrestle with. Number one, have I been guilty of spreading misinformation? Ask yourself that question honestly. When I asked it, I had to recognize I’ve done it. Maybe you did it intentionally. Maybe you did it mis-intentionally, okay? But if it’s misinformation and especially are uttered with an unkind motivation, that’s slander. Have you been guilty of spreading misinformation? If you recognize it, first thing you wanna do is you wanna acknowledge it to God, call it what it is. Call it sin, ask for forgiveness.
Another question you may wanna wrestle with is this, is this a regular temptation for me? Is this something you struggle with regularly? And if, through the help of the Holy Spirit kind of unveiling those realities of our lives that we sometimes don’t like to look at it, if you realize that this is actually something I struggle with on a regular basis, you’re gonna wanna ask the question why is that? What is it in me that causes me to slander others? And ask for strength through the power of the Holy Spirit, not just to identify those things, but to begin rooting them up out of your life. Which leads me to the third question, what am I gonna do about it? If slander is a regular temptation for you or even if it’s an irregular one, what are you going to do about it?
The truth of the matter is like every other kind of toxic talk we’re dealing with in this series, you can’t actually fix the problem. You can’t change the way that your tongue naturally tends to do its business. Only the Holy Spirit in you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is in you. He’s transforming you from the inside out, including your tongue. Only he can do that, but we are called to cooperate with him. And so that’s what this question is about. What am I gonna do about it? Maybe I’m gonna confess it to somebody else. I’m gonna ask somebody to come alongside me and then call me out when they see me doing it on Facebook or on Twitter or whatever. Maybe I’m just gonna spend a considerable amount of time praying. Maybe I’m gonna make it a new policy that I just don’t say negative things until I can get a handle on what the motivation is, right? Because you gotta have both of those things for slander. It’s gotta be untrue, but it’s also gotta be unkind. So maybe you just don’t say anything negative until you get a handle on this motivation issue. But whatever it is that God might be calling you to do, I encourage you to do it. Because how we talk about others, how we speak about others has the potential either to push away the presence of God or, as Psalm 15 tells us, to actually invite the presence of God moment by moment, day by day. And we need that. We need it now more than ever.
Would you pray with me? God, on behalf of all the followers of Jesus, we just confess to you that we have not always used our tongues the way they were intended. We confess that, we ask for your forgiveness. And specifically, we confess the sin of slander. We ask that you not just forgive it, Lord, but you’d root it out by the power of your Holy Spirit so that what comes out of our mouths, its only truth driven by kindness. We say that so that we might extend your influence around the world, so that we might not present a bad picture of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Lord, also selfishly, so that we can invite your presence moment by moment and day by day. We don’t wanna drive you away by the way we talk about those other human beings that have been made as your image.
Lord, as we come into election season, so many opportunities to slander, and maybe we turn that around Lord and we ask that you would allow us to see all of the opportunities for slander in this season, whether it’s election or pandemic or school’s opening and frustration about all those things and racism or whatever it is, instead of seeing those as opportunities to slander, Lord, would you teach us to see them as opportunities to speak about and to other human beings in a way that glorifies you and draws people to you.
Speaking about drawing people to you, if you’re a follower of Jesus right now, would you just begin praying for all the people around the world who are watching this right now, listening to this right now, in whatever setting they’re in, who don’t have a relationship with God. And maybe that’s you. And honestly, I know for some of you, the reason you don’t have a relationship with God, maybe the reason that Jesus has not been a part of your life is because you’ve watched the way that Christians have talked about other people. And you said, “Well, that’s no different than the rest of the world,” and you long to see something different. Let me speak to you something different.
Jesus himself was slandered. People said horrible things about Jesus. They even said he was from the devil himself. They said that he frequented prostitutes just because he loved prostitutes and didn’t cast them away and think of them unworthy of being a part of his ministry. But they spoke the truth, yeah, he spent some time with prostitutes, and they twisted it and leading people to a false conclusion. They did horrible things like that to him. And yet, after he’d been arrested and beaten and nailed to the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they’re doing.” That’s Jesus. He’s been slandered, but he continues to love and to forgive. And you need to understand that the reason that he allowed that to happen, the reason he allowed himself to go to the cross was because of his love for you. Jesus went to the cross so that he could pay for our sins. His death could buy us life by his forgiveness for sin. Whatever that sin is, whatever form it’s taken in your life, we’ve all sinned. We’ve all fallen short, but Jesus died so that we might be forgiven of our sin because of his love for us. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that he had done it, that he had salvation, that he had forgiveness, that he had freedom and that he had a relationship with God himself to give to those of us who had put our trust in him. And if you’ve never done that, if you’ve never put your trust in Jesus, I’m gonna ask you right now to set aside every reason that you might have hesitated to commit yourself to following Jesus and just speak from the heart right now to Jesus if you’re ready, if you’re ready to follow him.
Here’s what you’re gonna say wherever you are. This is what matters. Just have this conversation with Jesus. Say, “Jesus, I’ve definitely done wrong, and I’m sorry. Thank you for dying for my sins. Thank you for enduring slander for my sake. I believe that you rose from the dead and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, freedom from sin and death and darkness and eternal life with God. So, Lord, right now, I’m just setting aside all the things that have kept me from committing my life to you, and I’m saying yes to you. Jesus, I give my life to you. I’m gonna follow you and you alone for now and forever. Amen.”
If you made that decision for the first time today, I am so excited. I’d love to know about it. Your host is gonna let you know how you can let us know. There’s gonna be a button that’ll show up where you can say, “I committed my life to Jesus. I said yes to following Jesus.” If you don’t see that, in whatever form you’re in, any time that you hear this, you can text the word Jesus to 888111. You’re gonna get back a link and it’s just gonna tell you some things that are true about you now so that we can help you begin following Jesus. God bless.
False praise is not the same as an honest compliment. In continuation of our series on toxic talk, Reza addresses flattery and the impact that its excessive praise can have on our relationships with others.
Reza: Toxicity, you know, it can follow us utilizing the words that we use. You know, the last couple of weeks we’ve been diving in and Pastor Craig has walked us through the series on the words that we talk about, you know, the words actually, that we say actually shape and form other people. And actually, the words that we allow other people to speak into our lives, they shape and form us. And so that’s why we’ve been walking through the Proverbs, taking a look at different ways in which that we speak to one another, and how it shapes and forms us. And unfortunately, a lot of what we say and a lot of what we allow to come into us can be toxic. And as we begin today, I wanna walk us through… I remember…I was thinking about this story, this children’s book that I remember reading when I was young. My family came to the United States when I was young. I didn’t know how to speak English. And so I spent my first couple of years in elementary school in English as second language classes. And the very first chapter book I ever read was this book called “The Chocolate Touch.” And it’s a book that was written in the ’50s but it kind of became really popular in the ’80s. And I remember opening this book and it was, like I said, the first book that I’d read, and here’s what the story is about. It’s about this young boy by the name of John Midas. And the story mimics the story of King Midas. So he had the golden touch. Everything he touched turned to gold. But yet John Midas, this little boy, he loved chocolate. He craved chocolate. Some of you might be able to relate with this little boy.
And he loved chocolate so much that he would eat chocolate and he would refuse to eat his dinner, and he’d go to his room, and he’d eat as much chocolate as he could. And the doctors told him and his parents told him, “Hey, you better not eat all that chocolate. It’s not gonna be very good for you.” He didn’t care. He wanted to eat all the chocolate he could. One day, he stumbles across this candy store in his neighborhood. He never even realized that candy store was there. And he walks into the store and he meets the shopkeeper, this candy store owner, and he hands him a little piece of chocolate. And this boy takes this chocolate and he takes it home, and he’s going to bed without any dinner because he refused to eat it. He just wanted to eat dessert. And he goes and he eats this little piece of chocolate that this man had given him. And then that night, something miraculous happens for little John Midas, that he goes to brush his teeth and he realizes that the toothpaste tastes like chocolate. And he looks at the toothpaste and he realizes it’s pink toothpaste when it goes into his mouth but yet it comes out of his mouth, it actually looks like chocolate. You see that little magic chocolate that shopkeeper gave him made everything that went into his mouth become chocolate and everything that touched his lips became chocolate as well. Little John Midas loved this because every vegetable that he ate, and every fruit that he ate, and every piece of food that he ate, it would automatically turn to chocolate.
And his mom the next morning was amazed that he had gobbled up all of his food, but to John Midas, it tastes like chocolate. You see, this was a fabulous thing until he started to get thirsty and he just desperately wanted a cold glass of milk to quench his thirst after eating all of this chocolate and even the milk turned to chocolate inside of his mouth. And so this one thing that he craved, this thing that he wanted, this thing that tasted so good to him, he found out actually became something that was damaging to him. But he goes to school and his trumpet turns to chocolate when he puts it up against his lips, and the kids start laughing at him. He goes to a friend’s birthday party, and they’re bobbing for apples, and when he starts bobbing for apples, it turns into a chocolate mess and all the kids get messy. And so this thing that he loves so much, chocolate, actually became something that wasn’t good for him. You see, realizing this story, we read and we understand that sometimes the things that we crave are not always the things that are best for us. And, you know, that’s where we’ve been going these last couple of weeks, and this is where I wanna go today. We’ve been talking about toxic talk. And Craig has launched us talking about the reality, that the words that we use are pretty important. And yet, unfortunately, they can lean into the toxic zone. And we’ve talked specifically about truth and kindness. And if something is true, but it’s unkind, that’s been defined…that is gossip. If it’s true and unkind, then that’s just gossip.
If it’s untrue and it’s unkind, then that becomes slander. And we’ve talked about those two. We’ve talked about gossip and slander. But what if, what if something is untrue but it’s actually pretty kind? What if I communicate something to somebody that you know what? It’s not really true, but you know what? I’ll say it in a very kind way. You know what? The Bible has a word for that. And we have a word for that, and that word is called flattery. So I wanna talk about this reality of flattery, that the definition of flattery that we’re gonna use today as we talk about this and expose what God has to say about this, through the Proverbs and through the person of Jesus is flattery is excessive praise tied to insincere motives. Excessive praise going above and beyond, over the top compliments, attention. And typically, the over the top compliments and the attention are tied to making somebody feel a certain way. But yet it’s not just excessive praise, but it’s actually excessive praise tied to insincere motives. And those insincere motives, they can be a whole variety of things, that maybe your motive is to be accepted by somebody. You’re desperately looking for somebody’s approval, and so you’re gonna say these things to them. Maybe there’s money or a position or a job opportunity. Maybe this person has influence that you want and you think, “If I say things to make them feel better, whether they’re true or not, maybe I can get something out of this relationship.” And you might be saying yourself, “But what’s wrong with…? What if it’s just a little white lie? What’s so wrong with flattery? Is it really that big of a deal?” The truth is having these ulterior motives… Yes, it’s true. People like to feel good about themselves and what’s harm in us telling people good things about them? But here’s a problem with flattery.
That false praise is not the same as an honest compliment or even a thoughtful rebuke. You see, because flattery is actually one of the most selfish things that we can do because flattery never has the other person’s good in mind. Flattery is all about me and how can I have control in this relationship? How can I make this person feel a certain way so that maybe I can get something out of them or maybe they can help me in a way that will benefit me? That flattery is ultimately selfishness. You see, the reality is people oftentimes see through flimsy flattery. You know, a few years ago as I work in campus ministry at Colorado State University, I was working with a group of faculty members. And there was a faculty Bible study fellowship that we would do together, and I was speaking with one of the faculty members who ran one of the prestigious graduate programs at Colorado State University that’s ranked nationally. And I remember talking to them just about just how they accepted their students. And there was a lot of students that came to Colorado State as undergrads, and they really wanted to get into this graduate program. And this professor told me that…she told me said that, you know, “Here’s one of the issues with having a school that has a graduate program and an undergraduate program that a lot of kids come through, that there’s a certain undergraduate professor,” and she wouldn’t tell me his name, “There was a certain undergraduate professor that every time he wrote a recommendation for a student, he would say in that recommendation, ‘This is the best student I’ve ever worked with,'” but the reality is, if everybody is the best, the recommendation really doesn’t mean as much. You know, if every performance gets a standing ovation, it really doesn’t reflect the quality of the show.
You know, years ago, when I was in college, I went to Colorado State. And so I lived in Fort Collins. I grew up in Southern California. I had basically memorized the drive from Fort Collins to Orange County where I grew up. And so I had a system… I probably made that drive throughout my college years, probably about 11 or 12 times by myself driving back and forth. And I had a system down. That when I would leave school, when I’d leave Fort Collins and head to California, I would leave at about 10:00 p.m., I don’t recommend this, this is just what I did, but I was young and I wasn’t walking with Jesus, but I remember I would leave at about 10:00 pm. And the reason I did that because I leave at 10:00 p.m. and I would think, I could drive for about 7 or 8 hours. And then just when I start to get really tired, the sun will start coming up once I hit about Utah. And when the sun comes up, that’ll wake me up a little bit more and then I’ll get into Vegas about lunchtime, have lunch at In-N-Out, and I love that, have lunch at my In-N-Out Burger at lunch, and I’d get into South Orange County before rush hour traffic in Southern California. I had this down pat. If you’ve ever made that stretch of I-70 between Colorado and through Utah before it hits I-15 headed south, that there’s a stretch between 2 towns, Green River and Salina, that there’s 110 miles of no services. And you come into the town, you see this big sign that says, “No services for 110 miles.” And I pull into this town, there’s a big truck stop there so I go in and I put gas in my car. At this point, it’s probably 7:30-8 in the morning. I’ve been driving. So I was a little groggy, a little tired.
And I remember I pull up my Jeep Cherokee, and I pull it up, and I start pumping gas in the car. What I didn’t realize is my car takes unleaded and I was putting diesel gas into my vehicle. And just as I’m about probably 15 minutes into this 110-mile stretch, with no services and barely any cell phone service, my car starts to sputter. You see when you put diesel gas in an unleaded tank, it’s toxic, and that car didn’t work, so I had to call a tow truck, get towed back to town. I had to go to a mechanic, and the mechanic had to drain my gas tank, refill it with gas, and then I could be on my way. You see, just like a car needs specific gas, words are like gas, that the words that we allow into us and the words that we use, we need the right type of words. See, we’ve gotta surround ourselves with people that don’t just offer flattering words because the flattering words won’t shape us or form us is probably a better term. Flattering words won’t form us into the people that we ultimately want to become. That we desperately need people in our lives who will fuel us with the right words, that will fuel us with the right perspectives. There’s a couple of stories I wanna share from the Old Testament that will really expose some of these realities, that there was a young man by the name of Rehoboam. Rehoboam was Solomon’s son. Solomon had been king of Israel. And Solomon was the most successful king. He was the wisest king. He was the wealthiest king.
So Rehoboam grew up in the palace. And could you imagine being the son and the heir to the throne after Solomon? That Rehoboam growing up, he must have had people… Could you imagine the teenagers coming and knocking on the palace doors, just wanting to get close to this young prince was eventually gonna become king? Could you imagine the insincere praises, or could you imagine the insincere motives or the excessiveness of how people wanted to get close to Rehoboam as he was growing up. And in 1 Kings chapter 12, we read the story because Rehoboam is about to become king. Solomon had passed away, so the keys of the kingdom were gonna be passed down to his son, Rehoboam. But Rehoboam, he had a decision to make. You see, the people of Israel were tired. Solomon had been a good king for them, but yet he taxed them heavily. And they just got done with this massive building campaign, building the temple. And so the elders who served with Solomon, Rehoboam’s father, they came to Rehoboam. And they pleaded with him. And they said, “Before you become king, there’s some things that you should probably know.” They wanted to tell him the truth because they had walked with his father, Solomon. And they had said, “Your people are tired. The people of God are tired. If you would rule them gently, if you would come alongside of them, and could you kick back those taxes a little bit? Maybe let’s not build anything right now. But why don’t you rule them with relationship?” And so Rehoboam thought about it a little bit. And he said, “I need a couple of days to think about this.”
And so the elders that served with his father had gone away. And then Rehoboam goes… And the Scripture tells us in 1 Kings chapter 12, that he turns around, and he goes, and he consults with his friends that he grew up with. And he goes and he asked his friends, he said, “You know, this is what the elders have told me. They told me to take it easy on the people. What say you? You all know me.” And they turned to him and they said, “Don’t listen to those elders.” They told him what he wanted to hear. You see Rehoboam didn’t want to lead gently. He wanted to prove that he was actually a better leader than his father and he wanted to take Israel places that his father didn’t. Living under the shadow of Solomon must have been something that he wrestles with. And so his friends tell him what they want to hear and how much stronger really he was than his father. This is actually the words that they used. It’s recorded for us in 1 King, and they say, “Look, these people who complain your father was too hard on us, ‘Hey, lighten up on us,’ hey, why don’t you tell them this?'” And they said, “Rehoboam, you should tell the people this, tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. If you think life under my father was hard, you haven’t seen the half of it. My father trashed you with whips, I’m gonna beat you with bloody chains.'” You see, Rehoboam, he arrogantly rejects the elders, and he takes in the voice of those that told him what he wanted to hear. And it was a grave mistake in the history of God’s people. This one decision led to the split of the Kingdom of Israel. The Kingdom of the North and the Kingdom of the South ended up splitting because Rehoboam went and he listened to those who flattered him with praises, rather than the elders who spoke truth to him.
You see, that is huge. The voices that he listened to actually shapes him. Young people, if you’re listening right now, if you’re a student in any age, I want you to listen to this. I don’t want you to know this. Adults, we need to understand this as well. The moral of Rehoboam’s story is this, that people around you will shape you because the voices and the words they will say will start to form you and develop you. When people are truthful, it can hurt. And the reality is we’re paying avoidance. So we avoid the words of those that might tell us the truth because it might be too much for us to bear. Rehoboam’s decision splits the kingdom into a Northern and Southern Kingdom. Now I want you to contrast this to Rehoboam’s grandfather, King David. King David himself, he came into a place where he had somebody say some specific words to him. You know, the story of David and Bathsheba is one that many of us understand. If you’ve grown up in any sort of a church environment, you’ve heard of David, David and Bathsheba. Well, David ends up falling in love with this woman and this woman she’s already married, but yet he takes her in because he wants her to be his wife. And she ends up becoming pregnant. And out of his shame and out of his guilt, he actually takes Bathsheba’s husband, and he actually has him murdered. And so he leads him to the frontlines of battle. And so, Bathsheba’s husband is murdered, and then he takes Bathsheba in as his wife.
You see, David did a really horrible thing in the sight of the Lord. And it took a man named Nathan, a prophet named Nathan, who actually comes to him one night. And he actually tells him a story. And he tells him a story of a rich man, and a poor man, and a rich man who had a whole bunch of sheep, and this poor man who had one little sheep, and a traveler coming through the town wanting a sheep. And so the rich man took the poor man’s sheep and gave it to the one that was traveling along. And David gets angry, and he says, “Who is this man? He should be put to death. Let’s find out who this is.” Nathan looks him in the eyes, and he said, “David, you are that man.” See, Nathan told him the truth. The Lord had sent Nathan to tell David, “What you did wasn’t right.” And this is what it took. It took Nathan, a man who spoke the words of the Lord, to come to David from a place of conviction, a place of relationship because he had a relationship with David. David trusted Nathan enough to receive this kind of truth. But you know what David did, David actually turns, and he repents. And he confesses, and he writes Psalm 53. And many of the songs, and the poems, and the Psalms that we read, are birthed out of this brokenness in this heart, where David cries out that, “I’m sinful. Lord, would you make my sin and my heart clean?” You see, David took this rebuke, not as an attack on him, but an opportunity to turn back to his Heavenly Father.
The moral of this story is this. Everyone needs a Nathan. And if you don’t have a Nathan in your life, can I encourage you to find a Nathan that will speak truth into your life, that will lead you, and guide you, and with conviction say the right things, even when we don’t feel like it. We need someone that will be courageous enough to expose our blind spots. You see, Nathan was tough, but yet tender with David. About four months ago, I was asked, I served in a mission’s organization called Athletes in Action, and I was asked by my supervisor to walk through this thing called a 360 review. Some of you may be familiar with the 360 review. And here’s basically what it is. A 360 review is I would find my supervisor, people that I serve with, people that I oversee and support, and then people in my ministry that I have influence over. So a 360-degree view of who I am as a leader. And this 360-degree view, this 360 review, exposed a lot of my leadership…things that I just don’t do well in my leadership. It exposed ways that sometimes I step over people, that sometimes I actually might step on people to get us to a vision and get to a place that might leave awake behind me. And I remember I was terrified, and I was nervous when I was going over the results with our ministry HR director. And I remember thinking to myself, this is gonna be hard because I feel pretty exposed. There’s a lot of things I’m gonna hear that might be hard because there are things and ways in which I don’t do things very good.
But he did something really wise. He led me to a proverb. And this is actually the central verse that I wanna talk about. Today as we talk about flattery, I wanna bring us back to the Word of God. And I wanna remind us what does God say. Because before I walked through this review, that exposed some hard things that I needed to understand, blindspots in my life, he shared with me Proverbs 27, verse 5 and 6. Proverbs 27:5 and 6 very plainly states, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love. Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” Let me say that again. “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” You see, I was reminded before I walked into this review that those that I had chosen to review me were people that loved me, people that cared for me, people that wanted to see me win. And they wanted to see me win so bad that they were willing to confront me with some truth. See, these are sincere friends of mine. See, so as we walk through this and as we understand this, we understand we’ve gotta be surrounded by people that will tell us the truth, not just tell us what we wanna hear. See, I think one of the problems in our culture today, one of the issues that we have, specifically, online on social media, is it seems like everyone that we follow and everyone that follows us thinks like us, votes like us, acts like us, listen to the same radio stations, that basically we are surrounded with clones of ourselves.
And I’m not sure that is a great thing to always be around people that only agree or affirm what I believe. That I have to have people in my life that vote differently from me because we can learn from one another. I have to have people in my life that think differently than me. I have to have people in my life that aren’t Jesus followers, so I can understand a little bit of how people are thinking. You see, it’s valuable to have voices speaking into our lives because if not, then just like “The Chocolate Touch,” what we crave isn’t always best for us. It actually becomes toxic. See, we not only wanna surround ourselves with people that say good things about us because it might feel good, we might engage in flattery and we might give excessive praise and use impure motives. See, sometimes we might be saying things because we want something from others. And can I encourage us, that’s not friendship. That’s manipulation. That flattery and friendship don’t often go hand in hand because a true friend would not engage in flattery. But a true friend also would never want to manipulate others. Sometimes we say certain things to certain people, even if we don’t believe them so that we can get something from them. And so that is true of our relationships with each other. But I wonder, I wonder if the danger for us is sometimes we take this philosophy of flattery, engaging somebody because we might have some impure motives, I wonder if we might leak this into our relationship with Jesus and our worship of God?
See, sometimes our worship of Jesus leans in the flattery zone. Maybe it’s not so much insincere praise, but maybe it’s simply our worship is tied to impure motives. Look, if our worship of Jesus is initiated because we wanna get something from following him, in this case, Jesus isn’t our Lord in our minds. He’s not even our Savior. In our minds, it’s almost as if we try to cheat Jesus, like he’s a puppet or just a genie in a bottle. I’m gonna pray so I can get something from him. See, we’re not to come to God with flattering lips or with a lifestyle that doesn’t match what we say. Over and over throughout the Old Testament, it was the prophets who warned the people that, “Don’t come to God with these flattering words. Don’t come to him with these continual worship services and these continual gatherings if your life doesn’t match what you believe. Don’t use empty words. Stand for something.” And then the New Testament exposes us to this man, Jesus, who comes. The Gospel of John, John, the beloved disciple starts out his Gospel in a very unique way. And it’s almost as if he is likening the beginning of his Gospel to Genesis, the Genesis account. This is how John starts, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” You see, it’s very specific that John calls Jesus the Word of God because words are used to communicate with one another. Very specifically, what John is saying is the way in which the Father, the Creator, the Almighty wants to communicate and align himself with his people is through the Word, is through Jesus himself.
And in John chapter 1, verse 14 as John is introducing us to this character, Jesus, who always was, who’s an exact representation of the Father, he tells us that Jesus came in a very specific way. In John chapter 1:14 he says, “Jesus came full of both grace and truth.” You see, not 50%…it’s not the Jesus is 50% grace and 50% truth, that Jesus is 100% grace, that Jesus came to give us grace. Grace is getting something we don’t deserve. So Jesus comes to give us 100% grace, while at the exact same time, representing 100% truth. I’ve heard it said that Jesus, it’s almost like Jesus is this velvet-covered brick, that you have this velvet that covers this brick, that the velvet is the grace of Jesus. It’s the relational parts of Jesus. It’s the love of Jesus, but yet the brick is solid. You see, the brick is so solid that it walks us and it shows us exactly what it means that Jesus gives us these principles and these realities about the Father that we’re to truly understand. See, principles that are unwavering when circumstances get difficult. And so Jesus came in full of grace and full of truth, this velvet-covered brick, if you would. You see, Jesus embodies this thing called the…called the Law of Moses. When he starts his ministry in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew captures this for us, Jesus makes it very clear. Jesus says, “I didn’t come to abolish the law. I didn’t come to get rid of everything in the Old Testament. I actually came to fulfill the law.” And so the Ten Commandments, the 600 plus laws, Jesus says, “All of those are fulfilled in me, the person of Jesus, the Word of God.” And then Jesus actually takes those 600 plus commandments.
They were kind of outlined in the Ten Commandments. And Jesus when asked, which is the greatest commandment? Jesus actually whittles everything down to two. And he’s asked, what is the greatest commandment? In Matthew chapter 22, Jesus responds, “The greatest commandment is this. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second one, actually, it’s just like it. It’s actually as you do the first one, you’re doing the second one. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments, love. Jesus said that all of the law, all of the commandments, everything that God was communicating to his people in the Old Testament is wrapped up, the Word of God, the way that God wanna communicate, wraps everything up into this word, love. Love God and love people. And then actually, he actually takes that, and he says, “If you love God, the second one is just like it, you love people.” And then in John chapter 13, Jesus says, “I’m actually giving you a brand new command. All of those commandments in the Old Testament, we’re not wiping those away. They’re fulfilled to me, but I Jesus, your Savior, your Lord, the one who’s gonna go to the cross on your behalf, I’m giving you a brand new command. The command is this, love one another. As I have loved, you must, you must love one another.” You know, true love never uses excessive praise tied to insincere motives. You see, the Apostle Paul, as he spoke, and as he taught on Jesus and this principle of Jesus, he had a new word for it. And the word that he had was the Law of Christ.
So Law of Christ is never toxic. Listen to what Paul says about this. Paul says that Jesus gave us a new commandment, this new commandment to love one another. Paul calls it the love of Christ. Listen to how Paul communicates it to the Galatians. “Carry each other’s burdens. And in this way, if you carry each other’s burdens, you will fulfill the Law of Christ. So we’re to carry each other’s burdens, but how can we carry each other’s burdens if we give excessive praise with insincere motives? We can’t carry each other’s burdens. You see, the problem is I think sometimes we think love is just velvet, that we think love is all about making people feel a certain way, that love is all about being soft, that love is all about just allowing people to be how they are and never really telling them the truth because I love you, I want you to feel a certain way. And yet, for some of us, we think love is actually just a brick. Some of our Facebook responses or our tweets or our comments online show us we think love is just hitting people over the head with truth. Because it’s true and I love you, and I love you so much, I’m gonna hit you over the head with this brick of truth. But yet, if we’re to love, true love mimics the Word of God. True love mimics the Law of Christ. And if we’re to carry one another’s burdens, then we are to wrap truth with grace. That’s exactly what Jesus did, that when we came to this world, he came because he knew that love is always expressed best in the context of truth and grace. Love is both sensitive and strong. See, this is why the God of the universe, stepped into humanity to be with us.
Not so that the law didn’t matter anymore and there was no weight in what God was wanting to communicate. But he gave us Jesus, to embrace us and to love us. This is exactly why Jesus came in human form. Friends, what would it look like, instead of us engaging in flattery, maybe we don’t wanna rock the boat, what if we actually saw ourselves as velvet-covered bricks? What if we actually saw our words and the way that we communicate as velvet-covered bricks? See, I’ve been through so many different accountability groups, men’s groups. I remember in college when I was in my 20s, we were so desperately wanting to walk with God. And so we would do what everybody did 15 years ago or so. We had a men’s accountability groups, and we had a men’s accountability group. You know what those turned into? Those just simply turned into men’s confessions groups, that we get together, “Yeah, I messed up this week. Yeah, I sinned here. I said, this to this person, I did this. I looked at this online.” That we would sit around, and then we kind of go back, and then we came back, and we would say the same things over and over again. What if…What if instead of trying to figure out how we can be accountable to each other, what if we choose a few men or ladies, what if we get a few ladies around or students, what if we get a few high school students around us and we just simply say this? “Let’s be velvet-covered bricks for one another. Let’s just hold people close to us.” And the closer I’m held to somebody, and the closer I allow someone to be in my life and I expose my life to them, I’m actually giving them permission to see me, to say things to me.
And then I realize, actually they still like me even though they know every part of me. See being seen, and being known, and being accepted is what leads to transformation. When you don’t allow people in your life that will tell you the truth, here’s what you do. You rob yourself of the opportunity to experience deepening relationships that lead us to transformation. Look, truth can hurt, but truth can transform you. And we’ve gotta have people in our lives that will tell us the truth. You know, when Jesus came, the kindest thing that Jesus could have done for us is expose our sin. One of the kindest things that Jesus did was flip over the tables of the money changers. It wasn’t necessarily the nicest thing he could have done. But it was kind because he was making a point, that he was saying, “Hey, I love my people too much to allow you to sit in sin. But yet at the same time, I’m gonna give you a way out through relationship. I’m gonna give you a way out through the cross.” The cross is Jesus’s way of covering that brick with velvet, saying, “Anybody who wants to come can come to me.” The thieves hanging on either side of Jesus, Jesus to his very dying moment, before he gave his life up, he was being a velvet-covered brick for the thief on the cross that asked for forgiveness. You see, the truth hurts, but it can transform you. So here’s a couple of thoughts for us as we wrap up. Can I encourage us to hold people close to us that are gonna be truth-tellers?
Would you find some people…? Would you invite some people to say, “Hey, you know what? I need a little bit of truth in my life. Will you be that? But actually, hey, it would actually work really well if you don’t mind wrapping that truth? Would you please wrap it in some velvet for me because I still want our relationship. And I need to be handled delicately because of my emotions.” Secondly, don’t be afraid of truth. Truth leads to transformation. Without truth, there is no transformation. And how about this? What if lastly, we realize this very thing? That I have the opportunity to shape others and others have an opportunity to shape me. See the reason this series on toxic talk, it wasn’t a clever way to dive into the Proverbs in a sneaky way, but it’s a reality that you and I sometimes we not only engage in toxic talk, we allow toxic talk to come into our lives. One of the most important parts of our discipleship and walking with God is how we are formed, is what we allow to shape us and to form us. And if the one thing we allow to shape us and form us is our news feeds on Facebook, or articles, or what’s happening politically, if that’s forming and shaping us more than the Word of God, then we’re gonna find ourselves in a place that’s toxic. May we be truth-tellers, may we be truth-seekers, and may our hearts be open to receive the transforming grace and truth of our Lord Jesus. Let’s pray.
Father, thank you so much for who you are. I thank you, Lord, that you have sent your Son Jesus to come, full of grace and truth. And yet, Lord, as we consider ourselves, as we consider the words that we have allowed to shape and to form us, or for some of us here right now, we’re just confessing. I confess God, I have said things to people that may or may not be true because I’ve wanted to get something out of it. I have not offended people, but I’m actually manipulating them. And I’ve actually allowed myself to eat too much chocolate in the words of other people. And what I thought was gonna taste really good and I wanted to eat every moment of my life, I wanted to hear every moment of my life actually has become toxic for me. So, Lord, here we are, we confess, and we repent, and we turn away from those things. We acknowledge that we need to turn away. We acknowledge the fact that we need to align ourselves with truth and grace. Now, truth and grace is found in you. So Jesus, hear our hearts, and hear our prayers, and hear our words. Or if we wanna give you praise, honor, and glory, but we don’t do it with impure motives, we do it for the motive so that you would be glorified and receive the glory, honor, and praise that you are due. In your name we pray. Amen.
Mockery is talk that makes fun of someone that you disagree with, blowing a particular aspect out of proportion and highlighting it. This week Craig brings us a message about how to instead change your focus and work to remove mockery as a form of toxic talk.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills on this very historic weekend. For the first time ever, we are gathered as a church in three different ways. First off, this is the first weekend in about six months that both the En Español and the Littleton campuses are open for in-person services. There we go, yeah. We’re a little light. We can’t allow everybody in that we’d like to, which means that those of you who managed to get a seat, you’ve got to be, like extra, extra, extra loud, okay? Okay?
Craig: That’s not going to work. Here we go. That’s what you’re going to have to do, okay. That’s one way we’re gathered. By the way, if you were able to grab a seat, that’s awesome. We’re so glad that you’re with us today. You know, we are capped at 175 per service right now. We had our four regular services, those filled up immediately Monday morning, really early. We opened two additional services. We’re doing six per weekend. Those filled up all by lunchtime.
So here’s the thing. There’s a whole lot of people who weren’t able to get a seat for this weekend and we would love for them to have a chance. So I’m going to ask you guys to do me a favor. If you were able to get a seat this weekend, maybe this next week, maybe don’t be at your computer at 10:00 a.m. when the reservations open for next week. Maybe wait till the evening or the next day to give people a chance, who didn’t…
We had this great email from a woman who said that she and her family found Mission Hills during the pandemic. They’ve never set foot in any of our buildings. They weren’t able to get a seat for this weekend but she’s so excited to come to her church for the first time ever. And, like, we would love for that woman to have a space. So, I’m not saying don’t reserve a seat. I’m just saying, maybe wait until Monday night or Tuesday to see if there are seats. That way, so maybe some people can get in that wouldn’t otherwise. So that’s one way we’re gathering.
We’re also gathering, of course, online. Probably thousands and thousands of you are joining us online. Most weekends, we actually see people join us from all 50 of the states. The number one state outside of Colorado where people join us from is Texas. It’s like 100 households in Texas that join us every weekend. So just a special shout out, if you’re joining us from Texas, we’re so glad that you’re with us. We usually have about 20-plus countries that join us. The number one country outside the United States for joining us every weekend is the Netherlands.
I don’t know what’s going on in the Netherlands, but if you’re joining us from the Netherlands, that is awesome. We’re so happy to have you. And, hey, we would love it if you’d identify yourself to your online host, or maybe shoot us an email, let us know. We’d love to be praying for you by name. So we have people joining us online. And then we have, maybe, people joining us through Mission Hills watch parties. Maybe they’re with their life group, or they’re with their Bible study, or they just grabbed some people from the neighborhood and they’re doing, like, church in their homes. And that’s awesome. We’re so excited to have you with us.
No matter how it is that you’re joining us, we’re just really glad to have you with us. If this is your first time, we were actually finishing up a series called Toxic where we have been taking a look at what the Book of Proverbs has to say about four kinds of toxic talk that we’re all pretty tempted to engage in. And now I’m just going to be honest with you, the most frustrating thing for me during the pandemic has not been the masks. I don’t like them but that’s not the most frustrating thing. The most frustrating thing has not been the quarantine. It has not been the lack of toilet paper.
I will say it’s close as, actually, the lack of caffeine-free Coke. I don’t understand why the coronavirus has affected my caffeine-free Coke. If you’re from Coke out there, if you could just do something about that, that’d be awesome. But that’s not my biggest frustration, okay. That’s a minor one. Honestly, my biggest frustration throughout this whole thing has been, it’s been the way that the followers of Jesus have so often chosen to talk to and about other people. That’s not only been frustrating, in some ways it’s been really discouraging, and it’s actually caused some anger on me because, you know, we’re called to go with grace. And that has not always been the case during this and that bothers me quite a bit.
I think it’s appropriate, as we close out this series on toxic talk, that we look again at the words of James, the half-brother of Jesus. James chapter 3, verse 5, he wrote this. He said, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 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.”
Do you think this is a guy who heard some toxic talk in his life? Maybe? “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures are being tamed, and they have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison. With the tongue, we praise our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse human beings who’ve been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” Can I get an amen?
Craig: It shouldn’t be, but it is. And this pandemic has made it clear that the followers of Jesus are not exempt from using the tongue not only to praise God but also to curse other human beings. Now, so far in this series, we’ve taken a look at gossip. We’ve taken a look at slander. And we’ve talked about flattery. Today we’re going to dig into the toxic talk of mockery. And some of you are going to be really upset that you came, right, because you’re like, “Wait a second, but I have the gift of mockery. Like, I’m really, really good at it. Is it really a problem?”
Now, first off, let me just be really clear. I’m not talking about, you know, taking potshots at people that you love, okay? I don’t know why, but for some reason, guys in particular, seem…like mockery is our love language. It’s how we express how much we love each other, right? We just, like, rip each other apart. I’m not sure that’s a great idea because I think it might prime the pump for this other kind of mockery I’m talking about. But I’m not talking about that kind of thing. I’m not talking about how we deal with people we love.
Here’s the kind of mockery I’m talking about. Mockery is, it’s making fun of someone that you disagree with, okay? It’s making fun of someone that you disagree with. And God has some pretty, honestly, alarming things to say about mockery. In fact, let’s start in the Book of Psalms. In fact, the very beginning of the Book of Psalms, you’re going to turn there with me, Psalms 1:1 begins this way. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers.”
That’s an intimidating statement. You have three lines there. All three lines are parallel to each other. They’re saying a very similar thing in three slightly different ways. And when you put that together, what it means is that God is calling mockery a wicked sin, right? God calls mockery a wicked sin. And that’s, kind of, an alarming thing for those of us who realize that we might have a little bit of a problem with mockery, and I know that I do. I know. I know I do. But God calls it a wicked sin. No, not just a sin, right, but a wicked sin. Which is like double intimidating, isn’t it? Like, I don’t want to be sinning, but I definitely don’t want to be involved in wicked sinning, yet that’s what he calls mockery.
Now, why is that? I think one of the reasons that God calls mockery such a wicked sin is because mockery spreads disrespect. Mockery spreads disrespect. It doesn’t just spread disagreement. Okay, it’s okay to disagree with people. We can and we should disagree with people. We’re called to recognize truth, and call out falsehood, and convey truth. Okay, that’s going to require some disagreement. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone. The problem is that mockery doesn’t just spread disagreement, mockery spreads disrespect.
It spreads a way of thinking about another human being that’s not consistent with what the Bible teaches us, that every human being is made as God’s image. They’re made in God’s likeness. And when we disrespect them, we’re disrespecting their Creator. But mockery not only treats other people with disrespect, it spreads that because we’re getting other people to think as little of that person as we do. We’re getting other people to laugh with us. In other words, we’re cutting down that person. We’re disrespecting them. Not only ourselves, we’re getting other people to disrespect them as well, and that’s a problem.
Proverbs, which is where we’re going to spend most of our time today, Proverbs chapter 19, verse 29 says this. “Penalties are prepared for mockers and beatings for the backs of fools.” Penalties are prepared for mockers. God has penalties in mind for those who make mockery a regular part of their speech. Not only does that reinforce the reality of how God feels about mockery, but it also makes an interesting comparison. It says, “Penalties are prepared for mockers and beatings for the backs of fools,” which means that God is, kind of, associating mockery with foolishness. He’s associating mockers with fools which is, kind of, an interesting thing.
Now, why is that? Well, first off, I think it’s because fools prefer mockery over the much harder work of intellectual debate. Fools prefer mockery. It’s the weapon of choice for foolish people because, honestly, disagreeing with somebody and coming up with good arguments, and bringing evidence to bear, and working through things logically, that’s way harder than just making fun of them. It’s way harder than just finding something that you can laugh at about them and get other people to laugh at them, too, and therefore dismiss them without having done the hard work of actually dealing with the intellectual disagreements that are going on.
It’s much easier to ridicule somebody than it is to refute them, right? So that’s the reason, I think, that God associates mockery with foolishness, because it’s the number one choice of fools. But, second, I think this is so important for us to understand, is that permitting mockery actually prevents wisdom. Permitting mockery, whether it’s in our home, in our church, in our country, it actually prevents wisdom. And the same thing is true in our individual lives as well. Permitting mockery prevents wisdom from growing. It keeps it from happening.
We’re going to explain why in just a moment but let me say this because this is the good news. If you flip that around, here’s the great news, is that when we remove mockery from our lives, what we’ll find is that wisdom grows in its place. Anybody here feel like you’d like to be just a little bit more wise than you are right now? Can I get an amen real loud?
Craig: Yeah, here’s the great news. If you want wisdom, I’m going to tell you a little bit today about how to get it. Because when we remove mockery from our lives, wisdom is actually what takes its place. Check this out, this is Proverbs chapter 1, verse 22. “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways, and how long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” It’s very interesting there, okay?
First off, there’s a clear association, again, between mockery and fools, but he also calls them simple here. And simple, the Greek word or the Hebrew word there, “pethi,” is often translated as fool, but it literally means something like a person with a limited view. A fool, a simple one is a one that has a limited view. Like, I’m seeing real things. Everything in front of me is real. It’s not that I’m seeing things falsely, but I’ve got a very limited view of what’s in front of me. I can’t see things off to the side. I’m not getting the whole picture. And that is the biblical concept of a fool. It’s one who sees with a limited vision, okay?
They’re not aware of the whole scope of things. They’re not aware of the complexity of various situations. And, honestly, they’re not really interested in that, right, because what does it say? It doesn’t just say that they are simple, that they lack knowledge. It also says that they hate knowledge, right? It’s not just that they don’t have knowledge because they have a limited perspective. It says that they hate knowledge. They’re not actually interested in knowledge. They don’t listen to people to find out things. They don’t listen to people to learn things. They don’t listen to people to be challenged in their thinking, and grow, and mature. They listen to people… Well, why do mockers listen to people? To find things to mock, right?
Here’s a way to think about it. The reality is that mockers aren’t looking for information, okay? They hate information. They’re looking for things to mock. They don’t want to acknowledge that there’s complex situations going on. And the reason is this, is that complexity challenges certainty. Complexity challenges certainty. As soon as we acknowledge that things are complex, we can no longer be so certain in our opinions and our beliefs that we can be free to dismiss everybody as just being a stupid idiot. Complexity challenges certainty.
And where is the fun in that? It’s way more fun to just look at those stupid idiots out there. What a bunch of morons. How dumb do you have to be to believe that, right? That’s way more fun. It’s no fun to acknowledge that the situation that our church is facing in our culture right now is complex. And how do we navigate that in a way that gives glory to God and expresses faith, but also builds bridges and allows us to move forward if we continue to pursue spreading the Gospel around the world? To acknowledge that that’s complex isn’t nearly as much fun. It’s not any fun to acknowledge that, you know, the social injustice situations are complex.
It’s not any fun to acknowledge that the school situation, as parents are trying to figure out, “What do I do? Am I gonna send my kids back to school or not? And they’re going to do half days. They’re going to do online only and that’s like…” It’s no fun to acknowledge that that’s complex. It’s much more fun to be certain, and therefore to condemn everybody who doesn’t share our particular view, right? That’s so much more fun. And that’s why I think mockers hate knowledge.
Here is an important truth. The wise acknowledge complexity and talk carefully. You hear me, church? The wise acknowledge complexity and they talk carefully, but mockers ignore complexity and talk carelessly. Now, understand. I’m not saying that you can’t have confidence. I’m not saying that you can’t be fairly certain about things. I think we’re called to understand truth. I think we’re called to be confident and bold in proclaiming that truth. I’m not saying you can’t have that, but I’m saying that mockers don’t acknowledge that there is complexity, and therefore they speak carelessly, and they do damage with their words, whereas wise people acknowledge complexity and speak carefully. They might still have opinions. They might have very well-formed opinions. They might have very strong opinions. But they’re still careful in the way that they speak because they’re acknowledging complexity.
Proverbs 14:6 says this. It says, “The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.” I love that. “The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none.” By the way, if you want to, you can add quotation marks around the words “seeks wisdom,” because God’s actually being sarcastic there. Did you know that God is sarcastic? He is the best at it, actually. And there’s a sarcasm going on there. He says, “Mockers seek wisdom.” Because the point is, they don’t actually seek wisdom. They claim that they’re seeking wisdom, but as we said earlier, they’re not listening to gain wisdom. They’re listening to find something that they can mock.
Here’s a way I tend to think about it. Mockers look for ammo rather than info. Mockers listen to people, especially people they disagree with, trying to find ammo that they can use against those people, ammo that they can use to mock those people rather than information. Rather than looking to be challenged, or to grow, or to understand, mockers seek ammo, not info. But look at the other side of that Proverb. It says, “The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.” Knowledge comes easily to the discerning, and I love that. So the mockers out there claim, “Oh, I’m just looking for wisdom.” No, you’re not. You’re looking for ammunition. But then there’s this wise person who just, they just keep getting information. They just keep getting knowledge. They just keep getting wisdom, and it’s happening easily because they’re discerning.
Now, I don’t know what you think when you hear the word discerning. I have this idea because I’ve encountered it over and over again, that for an awful lot of Christians, the word discernment means the ability to detect what’s false. That if you’re discerning, you have the ability to recognize what’s false. And that is an element of it, but it’s interesting, that’s really not the biblical definition of discernment. It’s not the ability to detect what’s false.
Several years ago, I was talking to a guy, he was critiquing a sermon that he had heard. And he was just telling me everything that was wrong about it and then he, kind of, stopped and he said, “Yeah, I’m sorry. I just have a very well-developed BS detector.” BS, by the way, is bull spit, okay? He said, “I’m just really good at detecting all that garbage.” And I was like, “Oh, okay.” And then afterwards, I thought about it and I was like, “You know what happens if you have a really, really well-developed, a super sensitive BS detector? You know what you end up with? You’ve identified a whole lot of BS. How helpful is that?”
I mean, think about this. There’s two miners, right? Two guys go into the mine and they’re looking for gold, and one guy is really good at detecting pyrite, fool’s gold, right? So he’s like, “Hey, look, pyrite. Found some right here. False gold, no value there. Oh, here’s another one, more pyrite, more false gold. Oh, here’s a bunch of more. Look, look, there’s pyrite there and false gold there. It’s everywhere.” And the other guy is like, “Yeah, pyrite. Gold.” Which one of those guys do you want to be? The guy who walks out having identified a whole bunch of stuff that’s not gold or the guy who is walking out with a big old gold nugget? I don’t know about you but I want gold. I want wisdom.
And it says, “Knowledge comes easily to the discerning because,” check this out, this is Proverbs 18:15, “the heart of the discerning acquires knowledge for the ears of the wise seek it out.” You see, it’s a focus thing. It’s a focus thing. The reason that knowledge comes easily to the discerning is because the discerning are looking for what is right. They’re looking to seize whatever is right even when they’re listening to people that they ultimately disagree with on many, many issues. But their focus is, “What can I seize that’s right rather than what’s wrong?”
In other words, biblical discernment, listen to me, biblical discernment is more about seizing what’s right than about spotting what’s wrong. Now, of course, there’s an element of being able to spot what’s wrong, of course. You don’t want to be taken in by what’s false, so there is an element of it. But as you go through the Bible and you look up this word discernment, over and over again you’re going to see that it’s really more about, “I’m focusing on what it is that I can learn, what it is that I can grow from, what it is that I can be challenged by, what it is that’s going to help me to understand the circumstance.” And that you need to think that way even when you’re listening to people that you disagree with in very significant ways, right?
Mockers look for ammo, not info, but the discerning look for info, not ammo. So listen to me. If you want to be wise, stop looking for ammo and start looking for info. You’ll be stunned at how much you can grow and mature even as you’re listening to people that you disagree with in very, very significant ways.
The problem is, that requires humility. Listening to someone that you disagree with in fundamental ways in order to maybe understand, maybe even learn, maybe possibly, even grow in some way, that requires humility. And humility and mockery, they’re like oil and water. This is Proverbs 21:24. “The proud and arrogant person, mocker is his name, behaves with insolent fury.” God has a nickname for prideful, arrogant people. Mocker. Mockery is actually evidence of arrogance. And the reality is, if like me, it’s really easy to mock people you disagree with, if you’re really good at it, the reality is, we have to wake up and realize that our mockery is actually evidence of arrogance. That’s what God says.
And he says this, this is 22:10. It says, “Drive out the mocker and out goes strife. Quarrels and insults are ended.” Drive out the mocker. Get rid of mockery and strife goes away. Insults and injury cease to be. Now, I don’t know about you, but as I look at our country, I really feel like, you know, strife is nonexistent, right? Don’t you? I mean, as I look at the state of our culture or state of the world, I just feel like… I mean, honestly, there’s about as much peace as we can handle. Am I the only one who feels that way? Yeah? Do you think it’s any wonder that in a culture that is filled with strife, because that’s the truth, right, in a culture that is filled with strife, that is filled with quarrels and with evil, we also find an incredible propensity towards mocking people that we disagree with? Do you think it’s a coincidence? I don’t. What does he say? Drive out the mocker, get rid of mockery and out goes strife. Quarrels and insults are ended.
Listen, here’s the thing. It’s election season, which means that if ever there is a season where mockery is on full display, it’s right now. If ever there’s a season when it is easy to engage in mockery without even realizing you’re doing it, it is right now. And it’s interesting, some of you right now, you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “I’m so glad he’s addressing this because the Democrats really, really need to hear this. All the way they’re mocking the President. They’re mocking the… It’s got to stop. I really wish all the Democrats could hear this.” And some of you are thinking, “I really, really wish all the Republicans could hear this.”
Listen to me. I’m not speaking to the Republicans. I’m not speaking to the Democrats. I don’t care about the conservatives, and I don’t care about the liberals, and I don’t care about the… I’m not speaking into those people. I’m speaking to the followers of Jesus. And if that’s not the first thing that defines you, that’s the first thing you need to deal with. I’m speaking to the followers of Jesus, and what I’m doing is I’m calling all of us to a higher standard on the way that we talk about and to other people, and especially other people that we disagree with.
And please don’t misunderstand me I am not saying there’s no room for disagreement. A healthy democracy, any healthy government is based upon healthy debate. We’ve got to work hard to get to the best ideas. We have to. But as the followers of Jesus, we have to demonstrate a higher standard when it comes to the ways that we talk about and to other people, and especially those that we disagree with.
And, honestly, what better way to practice spreading peace instead of poison than to refuse to mock those that we disagree with. How do we do it? Three things. Number one, just recognize it. That’s the first step. Just recognize it. Hopefully this message has helped you, kind of, zoom in a little bit on what mockery is. If this might help, this is, sometimes, the way that I think about it, mockery talks about a parody like it’s a portrait. Mockery talks about a parody like it’s a portrait. It takes some features, something they’ve said, something they’ve done, something they believe that we think is silly or we think is absurd, and maybe it honestly is, and then we fixate on that. We focus on that. We spread that until it becomes the defining characteristic of that person in the way that we talk about them or in the way that other people hear us talking about them.
And that’s a parody, right? All parody is based on truth. There’s some element of it, right? Like, I don’t know, if you go into, like, those fun-house places where they’ve got those really big curvy mirrors. And, like, you go in there and your stomach is, like… Like, quarantine has made my stomach feel like…right? But the thing is, like, the mirror didn’t invent the stomach. It just blew it out of proportion, right? And it makes it look like that’s how I look but it’s not really. That’s a parody, okay? But the problem is that in mockery, we take a parody or we create a parody of somebody, and then we talk about them as though that parody was a portrait, a real accurate presentation of the whole person or the complex person made as the image of God, made in the likeness of God.
But we talk about them as though the parody we’re a portrait. So here’s a really important question I think you need to ask. If what I’m saying about a person is all that somebody else has to go on, so this person doesn’t know the person you’re talking about, what you’re saying about this person is all that they have to go on, if what I’m saying about a person is all someone else has to go on, would they be getting a parody or would they be getting a portrait? That’s a really important question.
Number two, we just refuse to participate. That’s step two. We just refuse to participate. We don’t do it. We drive it out of ourselves and we refuse to play along when others do it, right? And that means that we don’t laugh when other people do it. Because mockery, it depends upon buy-in. It depends upon people laughing at the person that we’re mocking. And if you just don’t laugh, they’re going to be much more reluctant to mock. And, by the way, when I say laugh, I’m not just talking about the, “Ha, ha, ha.” I’m also talking about the smiley face, thumbs up, share.
If you encounter people mocking others online, and by the way, has anybody ever encountered mockery on Facebook? Don’t hit the like button. Don’t hit the share button. Don’t play along. Don’t participate in it. You really want to do something challenging this week? Do a mockery review of your social media activity for the past month. You know, like, “Oh, no.” Like, look at your posts. Not just your posts, look at the things you’ve liked. Look at the things that you’ve forwarded. Look at the things that you’ve promoted or that you’ve commented on and joined in and see how much mockery is there.
Number three, reset your search. Reset your search. Because, remember, mockery prevents wisdom. Permitting mockery prevents wisdom, but the flip side of it is that when we remove mockery from our lives, we find that wisdom grows in its place because we’ve changed our search. We’ve changed what it is that we’re looking for. Because, let me tell you, the number one thing, the most important thing that ever happened in my life to develop me as a communicator, probably the most pivotal moment in my development as a preacher, it wasn’t a seminary class. It wasn’t a Bible class that I took. It wasn’t a book that I studied. It wasn’t a coach that I had speaking into my life. It wasn’t just a whole bunch of experienced preaching.
All those things helped, but the number one, hands down, the number one thing that I credit my development as a preacher, too, was a conversation that I had with God several years ago. Because I had a bad habit of mockery. I would listen to other preachers, and especially, and I’m ashamed to admit it but it’s absolutely true and I’m just going to be honest with you, I would listen to preachers that I had significant disagreements with, like, theologically, we were on a different page. There’s just stuff about them. Like, were not on the same page but they were always popular. They always had a big following. They always had large churches. They always had a lot of influence. And I would listen to those people and I would just shred their messages.
Like, “That Biblical interpretation, that’s not what that passage is saying. That…no that’s a terrible application. That’s not the best way to…you should have said that…” I would just shred them apart. And then one day, this doesn’t happen to me very often, but one day God came and he spoke to me in the midst of that. And he, kind of, slapped me upside the head and he said, “Hey, how about instead of listening for everything they get wrong, how about if you started listening to figure out why it is that they connect with people so well? How about if you started listening to figure out why it is that they have so much influence? Because then,” God said, “maybe, just maybe, if you learn how to communicate better, you’ll be able to take your perfect theology, and your perfect biblical interpretation…”
Did I tell you God can be sarcastic? He is the best at it. “And maybe you’ll be able to communicate that better.” That was pivotal. I mean, in shame I confessed the sin of mockery, and I began to try to reset my search, and I began to listen to messages. And I still do it today, actually. Some of the most important things that I’ve learned about communicating effectively have come from people that, theologically, I just flat don’t agree with most of what they have to say. But I’m not focusing so much on all the things that I don’t agree with. I’m looking for that… Oh, that’s interesting. I hadn’t actually thought that about that verse, but I do think that’s right, and that’s challenging to me. And, oh, wow, it’s interesting the way you connected that to your audience. Boy, I need to learn how to do that a little bit better.
Understand, I’m not saying you just take it all in. That’s not discernment. But I reset my search and I started listening, maybe even especially when I really disagree with somebody, I started listening for gold. I started listening for wisdom. I started listening for growth. I started listening for learning. And I’m not going to tell you that I do it perfectly. I find myself slipping back into the sin of mockery far more often than I’d like to admit. But I have discovered the truth that when we remove mockery from our lives, wisdom begins to grow in its place. And so here is the question I want to ask you. Are you willing to start looking for info rather than ammo, especially for the people you disagree with? That’s your question for yourself. “Am I willing to start looking for info rather than ammo, especially in the people that I disagree with?”
Would you pray with me? God, on behalf of your people, I just want to confess. I know in my own life, mockery has been far too evident and I ask for your forgiveness. We all ask for your forgiveness, Lord. And we ask, Holy Spirit, that you’d come and you’d root out the pride and the arrogance that gives rise to it. You’d root out the unwillingness to confront the complexity of situations that might challenge our certainty and that would cause us to speak more carefully. Lord, where we have mocked people made in your image and in your likeness, when we’ve treated a parody of them like a portrait, we ask for your forgiveness. And we’re grateful that when we confess our sins, you’re faithful and you’re just to forgive us, and we are wiped clean.
And so we start with a new slate today as we go back out into the world where there is strife, and there is envy, and there is quarreling, and there is division. And, Lord, let us go out of here with a new lease on the way that our speech can either promote division or spread peace.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying right now for all those people listening to this who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. And if that’s you, I would just like to speak to you for a moment. If you would say you’re not a follower of Jesus, I’m so glad that you’re hearing this. And, by the way, if one of the reasons that you’ve never said yes to following Jesus is because you’ve heard Christians mocking people, and maybe in our speech you have heard what really feels like a lack of love from people who proclaim that we know the greatest love, if that’s ever contributed to your hesitation to say yes to Jesus, I’m so sorry. And I would ask for your forgiveness for us as well.
We’re not perfect, but we are forgiven. Our sins are not held against us eternally, and every wrong thing you’ve done doesn’t have to be held against you either because God loves you. In spite of the fact that we have not always loved so well, the God that we preach, he loves you deeply, passionately. He loves you so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus. And, Jesus died on the cross. He died listening to people mock him. But what he said was, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
As they mocked him, he loved them. He loved you. He died on the cross willingly to pay for your sins. With his blood, he purchased forgiveness. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And having risen from the dead, he is offering you, right now, forgiveness of every wrong you’ve ever done, of every sin you’ve ever committed. He is offering you freedom from darkness and from death. He is offering you eternal life in God’s presence. And you can take hold of all of that simply by receiving the gift that he gives. And if you’ve never done that but there’s something stirring in your heart right now that says that it’s time, here’s how you do it. Just repeat after me. Just have this conversation with God in your heart.
You’re just going to say this. You’re going to say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place. I believe that you rose from the dead, and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, new life, eternal life, just for following you, Jesus, for giving my life to you. Jesus, I’m ready. I’m saying yes to you. I’m going to follow you from now and forever. Amen.”
Hey, can we just welcome those who made that decision today for the first time? That’s awesome. And, hey, if you did make that decision for the first time, then we would so, so, so love to know about it and get some truth into your hands. Here’s how you can do it. If you’re watching online, there may be a button that appears in the chat room or in one of the forums around you that just says “I Committed My Life to Jesus” and “I Said Yes to Jesus.” We’d love for you to click that button, let us know. If you don’t see one of those, the other thing you can do is you can text the word “Jesus” to 888111. And what’s going to happen is we’re going to send you a link to some truth, some things we want you to know about what it looks like to follow Jesus every single day. We’d love to get those things into your hands and be able to celebrate with you so please let us know that you said yes to Jesus today. God bless.