Devotional on gossiping -- Telling tales

Commentary on Psalm 15

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

14 1 The fool says in his heart,
   "There is no God."
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
   there is no one who does good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
   on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
   any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
   there is no one who does good,
   not even one.

15 1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
   Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
   who does what is righteous,
   who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
   who does no wrong to a neighbor,
   and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
   but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
   and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
   who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
   will never be shaken.

16 8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
   With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
   my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
   nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
   you will fill me with joy in your presence,
   with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Week 50 (December)

Which of the lifestyle guidelines of the Church of the Nazarene do you think is "broken" most often?

Tithing?

Active witnessing?

Not profaning the Lord's Day?

Avoiding God-dishonoring entertainment?

I'm guessing 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 someone argue for abolishing this particular guideline or rule in the way that 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.

More than a century ago, a preacher name "Buddy" Robinson had a lot to say about holiness people and their tongues. Uncle Bud was a colorful character with a real concern for the practical lived-out aspect of the sanctified life.

One of his sermon illustrations involved a man who came to Bud to say, "Brother Bud, my religious joy has all leaked out. What is my problem?"

"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 lifestyle rules -- deal only in generalities.

However, Bud Robinson was on solid biblical ground when he admonished listeners to "keep that rat hole in your noggin closed." (That was his Texas paraphrase of Psalm 15:3.)

Psalm 15 begins with two questions. The Message paraphrases them as God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?

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 the book Sunshine and Smiles (which, by the way, is still being sold on Amazon), Bud Robinson talks about the gossip issues 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 try to ensure we experience a thrill at passing on a juicy story about someone. 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 holy lifestyle, worthy of one who is walking in the path of life? [ Nine audio sermons on holiness ]

Discussion questions

  1. Why do you think gossiping and spreading rumors are common problems among believers? What steps can individuals take to overcome this issue?
  2. Do you agree we need an emphasis on the practical aspect of living out the sanctified life? How can believers better align their spiritual beliefs and their daily actions?
  3. How significant is it that one of Psalm 15's criteria for being in close communion with God, to "dwell in his sacred tent," is the refusal to tell tales against one's neighbor? What can be done to challenge believers to live by this principle?
  4. Do you think social media has fostered gossiping and spreading rumors among believers? Why or why not? Is it possible for believers to use social media in a positive way to promote holy living?
  5. Why do you think some believers seem to feel uncomfortable with a focus on the ethical side of the Spirit-filled life?

Afterword

Gossiping, slandering, and spreading injurious surmises are common problems among believers, hindering them from living a sanctified life. Decades ago, "Buddy" Robinson emphasized practical aspects of holiness and the importance of controlling one's tongue. Psalm 15 lists criteria for close communion with God, and one is refusing to tell tales against one's neighbor. Living a holy lifestyle involves abstaining from harmful speech, including online interactions. Emphasizing the ethical side of the Spirit-filled life may make some uncomfortable, but aligning spiritual beliefs with daily actions is vital for a transformative faith experience. By seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance and practicing self-control, believers can overcome gossip and pursue holiness with integrity.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

I wrote this devotional article while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy. It originally appeared in Standard, a weekly Faith Connections take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes published by The Foundry.

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