Telling tales

Week 50 (December)

Psalms 14:1-3; 15; 16:8-11

     Which of the lifestyle guidelines of the Church of the Nazarene do you think is "broken" most often?
     Tithing?
     Witnessing?
     Not profaning the Lord's day?
     Avoiding God-dishonoring entertainments?
     My guess is that the one most often broken is the admonition against "gossiping, slandering, spreading surmises injurious to the good names of others."
     I've never listened to anyone argue for the abolition of this particular guideline or rule, as I have for some of the others. However, I have heard a lot of people breaking it. Probably most of us have been victimized in some way by a loose tongue belonging to a fellow-believer.
     A preacher of nearly a century ago who had a lot to say about holiness people and their tongues was "Bud" Robinson. Uncle Bud was a colorful character with a real concern for the practical lived-out side of the sanctified life.
     One of his sermon illustrations involved a man who came to Bud confessing: "Brother Bud, my religious joy has all leaked out. What is my trouble?"
     "My!" replied Bud. "My friend, you keep your mouth open all the time."
     This kind of focus on the ethical side of the Spirit-filled life has made some folks uncomfortable, folks who would prefer that preachers -- and church rules -- deal only in theological generalities.
     However, Bud Robinson was on solid biblical ground when he was admonishing his listeners to "keep that rat hole in your noggin closed." That was his south Texas paraphrase of Psalm 15:3.
     This psalm begins with the questions: Who is worthy to be a member of God's family? Who will enter the New Jerusalem?
     To be sure, the answer which follows does include a general "moral purity." But there is also the very specific: He who "tells no tales against his neighbor" (v. 3c, NEB).
     In his book Sunshine and Smiles, Bud Robinson talks about the gossip problem this way:

     I have seen cows with tongues long enough to lick their calves through the crack of the fence.
     "Well," you say, "that is a mighty long tongue."
     Yes it is, but I have seen longer tongues than that. I have seen people that could sit in their own parlor and lick their neighbors all around the country. They would make you think of a wagon -- they need a breast yoke to hold their tongue up.

Without a doubt, satanic forces make sure we experience some kind of thrill at passing on the latest juicy story. However, Psalm 15 clearly reminds us that the man "whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous" is not a tale teller (v. 2, NIV).
     Just for a moment, review your conversations of the past few days with the Holy Spirit. What about the last time you talked about someone to a third person? Was it a tale? Or was it a conversation worthy of a holiness life-style, worthy of one who is walking in the path of life?

These devotional thoughts by Howard Culbertson appeared in the December 14, 1980 edition of Standard

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