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  • Writer's picturePastor Jeff Needleman

Toxic Tongues Part 1 - Text & Video

Toxic Tongues vs. Encouraging Affirmations


Who’s the smartest man in the Bible? Abraham! He knew a Lot! Being smart, we’d never hear him say: “Don't bother me with the facts, I've already made up my mind!” I wish we were all as smart! What we used to call half truths, misinformation and propaganda has now synergized into Fake News. We don’t know what’s up or down- and it’s easy to buy into anything that aligns with what we want to believe- whether it be on Face Book or Twitter, or from Social and News Media outlets or even politicians, etc.

and we do so without investigation because it agrees with whatever side we’re on! But in reality, it’s just discouraging toxic gossip! So… Cut it out. Don’t believe everything you hear! I once heard that I shouldn’t believe any of what I hear and only ½ of what I see. So investigate! Probe like the Barna Group does. The Barna Group is a well-respected research company that investigates the intersection of faith and culture.

During 1 investigation, they uncovered a wave of church terrorism infiltrating the entire Body of Christ. The uncovered leaders include Bin Sleepin’ and BLoafin’, BCritical, BComplainin’, BAbsent, and BStingy. But perhaps the 2 most dangerous of all were Bin Discouraging and his brother Bin Gossiping.

These bad habits infecting our churches are easy to develop but Scripture encourages us to replace them with the habit of following God more closely. So where am I going with this? At last Sunday’s Bible Study we chatted about the need for encouragement; what we call Atta-Boys, Atta-Gals, affirmations or a pat on the back!

God the Father twice gave Jesus commendations! 1st at His baptism in Lk 3:22 NIV And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." And then at His transfiguration in Lk 9:35 NIV A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him."

And in Mt 25:21 and 23 Jesus tells the story of The master commending his 2 workers with Well Done Good and Faithful Servant! Most people need a pat on the back and also thrive on words of affirmation! Everyone needs encouragement- but few people make their need known quite as clearly as the little boy who said to his father: "Let's play darts. I'll throw and you say 'You’re Wonderful!'

But encouragement’s mortal enemy is embedded in toxic gossip and critical complaining. These can disembowel even the most heartening of words! There’s been 10 of us meeting for Bible Study on Sunday mornings and we studied the damage our tongue causes in Jas 3:5-10 ESV: How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

It’s my job as a preacher to encourage right living and Godly obedience- and to dis-encourage our bad behavior, misconduct, worldliness, and sin. 1 has a reward, the other always has a cost. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is which! and so we come to The Toxic Tongue and Encouraging Affirmations!

In Part 1 we’ll spend some time gossiping and complaining about gossiping and complaining- well actually what these stuff is and Biblical ways to avoid them because it’s hurt more people, tarnished more reputations, broken more relationships and split more churches than perhaps all other sins combined, and gossip is a sin! In part 2, we’ll look at the Godly opposite!

Now Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, the author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal- lectures on the powerful impact of words; good and bad, positive & negative. He challenges his audience to go 24 hours without saying anything unkind. The “no’s!” always outweighs the willing to try it volunteers.

He says that if you can’t go 24 hours without a drink, you’re an alcoholic, you are addicted to alcohol. If you can’t go 24 hours without smoking, you’re addicted to nicotine. If you can’t go 24 hours without a drug you are a drug addict. And if you can’t go 24 hrs without saying unkind words then you’ve lost control of your tongue. and you have a serious problem.” So, What is Gossip?

Sadly it’s quickly told, quickly heard, quickly spread, and worst of all, quickly believed. While we all condemn it, few of us are aware that we’re guilty of our own gossiping. Maybe because it’s easy to talk about others or it’s fun. Or perhaps because it advances us into a better position - or perchance it offers us our own quiet pat on the back- by making ourselves better then others…

What is Gossip? It tells half truths and lies, devises wicked schemes that hurt others, and whether purposely or not, its voice sows dissension, strife, division, conflict and discord. Gossip not only ruins reputations, splits friendships, destroys relationships, and divides churches, it also drives us and others away from God.

What is Gossip? In the Bible, "gossip" is used to designate the spreading of secrets or rumors for the purpose of slander. Paul placed "gossip" in the midst of two separate lists of evil practices- in 2Co 12:20 and Ro 1:29. These are lists of sins that characterized the pagan world’s opposition to God.

What is Gossip? Gossip is sin, in so many ways and on so many levels! It’s a self-righteous pride that tries to point out or magnify the faults, flaws, blemishes, defects and inferiority of others! What is Gossip? It’s disobedience to God’s instructions that inevitably and eventually have some form of Spiritual, Emotional and even Phyiscal consequence; perhaps not immediately, because God has infinitely more patience and wisdom than we do.

But, as the Apostle Paul says in Gal 6:7 NLT Don't be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. and because many of us are guilty Paul also writes in 1 Co1:10-11 NIV I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord JC, that all of you agree with 1 another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. Gossip is a deadly sin that’s dangerous, troublesome and often incredibly destructive to both our own souls and to the well-being of others. and so the Book of Proverbs offers much advice on the improper use of our tongues. Solomon advises us that conniving and careless tongues should be avoided! Pr 16:28 A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. Solomon also counsels us to avoid gossip and to practice “Shhhhushing ourselves”: Proverbs 13:3 AMP He who guards his mouth keeps his life, but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin- and in: Proverbs 10:19 Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.

OK- ‘nuff complainin’! Let’s look at some fixin’! Needleman’s Proverbial Book of Proverbs suggests “disengaging your trap because it’s a trap! And if your trap is broken, call a plumber!” The plumber’s advice is: before opening the trap, check that your words are true, kind, necessary, and finally, beneficial! Now, since the only way to get rid of bad habits is by replacing them with good habits, here’s some Scriptural advice on how to avoid gossip!

1st- OVERLOOK OFFENSES. Proverbs 17:9 "He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends Turning the other cheek is overlooking an offense; it’s an act of love and friendship and a sign of Christian maturity. We Christians are far too thin-skinned, and often we needlessly perceive words as attacks when they aren’t. Ask me how I know! Both Alice and I pray to develop thicker hides without calloused hearts as we often struggle with being the victims of gossip. Churches are a family and families, without fail, will offend each other. It’s not a matter of if, but when! So try not to be quick to be overly offended. and even more so, don’t be quick to share it with others but go direct! Solomon’s solid and sage advice is “Shhh”!

But, you say, keeping quiet is hard when we’ve been wronged, hurt, mistreated, robbed or made angry! Instead of lashing out, commit to praying, reading scripture, and seeking God’s face. Surrender all that Pride and Ego stuff over to God who has a handle on it, and also has our backs! But if you fail- apologize and then cut it out!

2nd - DON’T LISTEN TO GOSSIPERS! Proverbs 20:19 "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much." 3rd- CONFRONT GOSSIPERS! Especially if it’s me, tell me to stop, but be mindful of what is written in Eph 4:15 "Speak the truth in love." 4th- CAREFULLY GUARD YOUR OWN MOUTH! Eph 4:29 says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." This is the down and dirty of loving each other! This is bringing it home, home on the range! This is following God’s instructions, where we build each other up instead of tearing down each other down! As Christians, it’s vital that we be thoughtful of our words.

It’s hard to grasp the profound effect our words have on ourselves and on others. Even words we think brutal but oh so beneficial can and will scar and damage our relationships if not delivered with selfless love, other-centered caring and affirming encouragement..

Gossip is a primary source of dis-encouragement! So, instead of gossip, let’s practice looking for and assuming the best in each other and our intentions. If we practice this we’ll find that we model Christ and build bridges, as vs. constructing fences, walls and laying mine fields.

Let’s eradicate gossip by replacing it with loving and affirming words- with self talk that goes something like this: “I resolve to replace toxic hurtful words with encouraging, wholesome, nourishing, and healthy words”. Our words have the power to hurt, but also have the power to heal and build up. Our words have the power to dishearten, yet to encourage as well!

So I pray that in the Battle of Toxic Tongues vs Encouraging Affirmations, you slay the giant mouth! Let’s close Pt 1 with some words of encouragement from Jesus in: Jn 16:33 NIV "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Be encouraged! See you in Part 2!

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