ETHICS: TONGUE (Part I)

John Locke has written, “God having designed men for a social creature … furnished him also with language … Man therefore had by nature his organs so fashioned, as to be fit to frame articulate sounds … It was further necessary, that he should be able to use these sounds, as signs of internal conceptions, and to make them stand as marks for ideas within his own mind, whereby they might be made known to others, and the thoughts of men’s minds be conveyed from one to another” (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book Three, Chapter One). Man has been speaking since the first day of his appearance on earth (Gen. 2:18-22). Man has been writing since before the time of Moses (Exodus 17:14; 24:4, etc.), even as early as the time of Job (Job 13:20; 19:23; 31:35). What a gift! God has given man the ability to communicate.

What do we communicate? How do we use the gift that God has provided? Do our words nourish (Proverbs 12:18b; 16:24), or harm Proverbs 12:18a; Psalm 64:3)? Do our words edify (Ephesians 4:29), or discourage (Deuteronomy 1:28; Col 3:21)?

CYBER BULLIES

October 2006 (Dardenne Prairie, Missouri): Megan Meire’s body is found by her mother. She committed suicide by hanging. She was only thirteen years old. The story illustrates the power of words. Lori Drew (the mother of one of Megan’s former friends), with the help of one of her teenage employees, created a bogus MySpace account, and passed as a sixteen year old boy named “Josh Evans”. “Josh” and Megan became friends on MySpace. Lori’s intentions seem to have been to spy on Megan, and find out what, if anything, Megan was saying about Lori’s daughter. In time, “Josh” became hurtful and cruel. This cruelty was enough to push Megan “over the edge.”

October 2003 (Essex Junction, Vermont): Ryan Halligan committed suicide. He was only thirteen. Ryan was very bright; this made him an early target for bullying. He had been bullied for years. During the summer of 2003, a popular girl pretended to be his girl friend on AOL IM. When his eighth grade year started that fall, Ryan approached her. She told him in front of all that it was a joke, and that he was a loser. His father wrote “I don’t blame Ryan’s suicide on one single person or one single event … Ryan was suffering from depression … We have no doubt that bullying and cyber bullying were environmental factors that triggered Ryan’s depression. In final analysis, we feel strongly that Ryan’s middle school was a toxic environment …” (ryanpatrickhallingan.org).

January 2010 (South Handley Massachusetts): Phoebe Prince committed suicide by hanging. Her twelve-year-old sister found her. Phoebe was a fifteen-year-old freshman. Her family had emigrated from Ireland, just a year before. She became the enemy of a group of nine girls due to their jealousy over her brief relationship with two boys. She was physically and verbally bullied. She was harassed on Facebook, and by text messages. After her suicide, one of the bullies posted on her Facebook wall “accomplished”.

March 2010 (West Islip, New York): Alexie (aka Lexi) Skye Pilkington committed suicide. She was seventeen years old. She was a star player on the high school’s soccer team. She had a scholarship to play for Dowling College. Why did she take her life? Cyber bullying is being investigated as a possible cause.

Meditate on this: (1) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29 ESV). (2) “Therefore, whatever you want man to do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). (3) Do not say “I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work” (Proverbs 24:29).

Discourage or Motivate

Some seem to always have a defeatist attitude. They say: “It can’t be done”; “It won’t work” and other such things. Those who so speak are usually right. Their words are self-fulfilling prophecies. Their negative attitude is contagious, and a killer of ambition. Moses wrote, “our brethren have discouraged our hearts” (Deuteronomy 1:28).

Let’s use our words to encourage. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Let us say things that prompt others to greatness, Thing like – “The suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed” (Romans 8:18) … “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). “Imitate me; just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1) … “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Gossip

The word “gossip” is not found in the King James Version. However, the idea is expressed by the term “whisperer” (Proverbs 16:28) and “talebearer” (Proverns 26:20).

Here are some things to remember: (1) Before speaking we should ask “is this true?” We need to verify what we speak. The children of Israel almost went to war over a misunderstanding (Joshua 22:10-12 cf 22:21-30). Eli had made a wrongful assumption about Hannah (1 Sam 1:12-15). Brother Goebel Music has suggested many problems are the results of seven “misses”: (a) mis-information; (b) mis-quotation; (c) mis-representation; (d) mis-interpretation; (e) mis-construction; (f) mis-conception; (g) mis-understanding (Music, Book of James Class Study Notes, chp. 3, p. 4). We need to be good listeners, listening before speaking (Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19). (2) Never accept rumors without adequate evidence [1 Timothy 5:19-22 (Note: evidence can serve as a ‘witness’ – John 5:31-36; 2 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 5:9)]. (3) Before speaking ask “Does this need to be said?” Not everything needs to be repeated {Proverbs 11:13; 12:23; 1 Corinthians 13:7a [Note: “bears” means “to cover to keep confidential” (BAG); “to cover, to protect by covering” (Thayer)]}. (4) Before speaking, ask, “Why am I saying this?” Some evidently think themselves important by tattling on others. We should remember that one does not become a saint by another’s sins (Galatians 6:4-5). Moreover, we should understand — There is a great difference between saying something in order to get help in dealing with a problem (cf 1 Corinthians 1:11), and saying something to harm another. Our words should nourish and edify (Proverbs 12:18; 16:24; Ephesians 4:29). (5) When speaking, be careful with the tone (Proverbs 15:1; Colossians 4:6). (6) It takes two to gossip. Refuse to listen to such.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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