A few years ago I was standing on the fairway of hole 15 at The Lakes at Laura Walker in Waycross, GA when I could hear the roar and feel the heat. No, I wasn’t in a hot golf match, I was on the edge of a fire that was burning in the Okefenokee Swamp, just a few short miles away. Yes, I could hear the roar. And yes, I could feel the heat. It was coming from the fire in the swamp that had spread across US Highway 1 and was headed in our direction. As I was standing there I was amazed at the power and pace at which fire can produce. The fire that year (2007) burned more than 600,000 acres (935 square miles-an area greater than the State of Rhode Island) of the Okefenokee region from April to July 2007. Essentially all of the swamp burned, though the degrees of impact vary widely. Smoke from the fires was reported as far away as Atlanta and Orlando.
Four years later a lightning strike on Thursday, April 28, 2011 set off the Honey Prairie Fire in the southwest portion of the Okefenokee, which had been left much drier than usual by an extreme drought. The fire was declared out on April 17, 2012. In almost a year, the Honey Prairie fire had scorched more than 315,000 acres of the 438,000-acre Okefenokee, sending volumes of smoke across the southern Atlantic seaboard and with an unknown impact on wildlife.
It is fascinating to read the accounts about fires like the one in the Okefenokee or the wildfire burning right now out in Colorado Springs that was recently described near the end of June as “spreading viciously” and “a monster” and “not even remotely close to being contained.” As fascinating as fire may be, we must never allow our fascination of fire to paralyze us to its awesome danger.
Read the title of this post again, ‘Are You Fireproof?‘ Fireproof doesn’t mean a fire will never come, but if it does, you are able to withstand it. With that being said, the answer to the question of the title for this post is very important for me, my home, and my church… it is important for you, your home, and your church. It is a matter of life or death…
…See how great a forest a little fire kindles!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. (James 3:5b–6)
Death and life are in the power of the tongue… (Proverbs 18:21a)
Death can come through your tongue by the…
the slander of a spouse
the murder of a minister or ministry, or both
the protest against the pastor
the undermining dispute from a deacon
the cancer of discord sown in a church
… the slander, murder, protests, undermining disputes, and discord occurs in the office, on the phone, down the hall in a huddle off to the side, at the coffee shop, on Facebook, on Twitter, in an email, in text messages, in letters, at work, at church, the meeting before the meeting, at committee meetings, during choir practice, during the service, after the service, in a small group, at a prayer meeting…
A pastor once lamented, “I’ve often thought that if I ever fall into a trespass, I will pray that I don’t land into the hands of censorious, critical, self-righteous judges in the church. I’d rather fall into the hands of bar keepers, street walkers, or dope peddlers because such church people would tear me apart with their long wagging gossipy tongues, cutting me to shreds.”
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! It is a matter of life and death for you, your family, and your church! Light dispels darkness, only if the light is turned on. Truth overrules error, only if the truth is told. In this post I am turning on the light and telling the truth by listing twenty one-liners with some commentary on the power of our tongues. Today our tongues can spew so much, so fast. With the aid of the Internet, email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other channels of expressing ourselves the fire can spread faster and further than we ever imagined.
May God use this post to expose gossip, slander, idle words, lies, discord, backbiting, flattery, and a world of iniquity for His glory and our good!
Let’s put the fire out, if we do…
REVIVAL may break out!
1. Gossip is not always malicious; it is worse.
Gossip is based on curiosity. Because a gossip is curious, it makes them infinitely more dangerous. By spreading gossip, the Christian, even without malicious intent, can cause irreparable damage. A truly infected gossip is not even aware that he is gossiping. Gossip always discusses the victim in their absence. Most gossips would never dream about taking their concerns to the person about whom they are speaking.
2. Gossip is never isolated. Even if gossip begins in innocence, it becomes malicious.
3. Gossip divides.
4. Gossip builds up the perpetrator by tearing down the victim.
5. In the eyes of God, gossip is as bad as murder.
6. Murder attacks the body, gossip attacks the soul.
7. God hates gossip in the church, in all forms.
These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him:  A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,  A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil,  A false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16–19)
A worthless person, a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth;  He winks with his eyes, he shuffles his feet, he points with his fingers;  Perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord.  Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; suddenly he shall be broken without remedy. (Proverbs 6:12–15)
8. A gossip cannot keep a secret.
A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter. (Proverbs 11:13)
The danger of gossips is that they appear to be our trustworthy friends! No one would ever share a burden of their heart to one they are sure will spread it to others. The gossip comes beside the victim with feigned sympathy and stimulates compassion. The victim shares some deep pain or problem with the admonition of it not being spread. He might even feel relief after sharing the secret, feeling encouraged that God placed a person in his life to share burdens. The feeling of relief or comfort is quickly replaced with horror when he discovers that the gossip has spread the secret to others.
Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)
9. A gossip derives his worth from your pain.
The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body. (Proverbs 18:8)
Have you ever heard something from someone and it made you sick? This is what this verse teaches.
The tragic fact of a habitual gossip is that he develops a sense of superiority at burying others with their words. Their crises, their problems, and their worries seem to diminish in light of the horrible events they are recounting in the life of another. The sense of a gossip being on the “inside” makes a gossip feel important, and thus he garners a false sense of “worth.”
Read slowly… The lethal component is that, since we are assumed to be in God’s house, discussing God’s children, the gossip must add an additional dimension to the deception: he must fake compassion. He will lend a shoulder, and he might even shed a tear. However, the moment the victim is gone, he begins to search his mental files, listing those who would find the news interesting. Even if he had the best intentions to keep the confidence at first, the moment the opportunity arises, he shares your pain.
10. Gossip is an addict’s fix.
Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.  As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.  The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.  Fervent lips with a wicked heart are like earthenware covered with silver dross. (Proverbs 26:20–23)
Once the gossip “breaks” a big story, the rush he feels becomes an addiction.
Here’s a question for you… Do you know those Christians who have an abnormal interest in your personal affairs?
See if any of these symptoms resonate:
–They know the most intimate details about their neighbors.
–They share invasive prayer request that make you feel a bit uncomfortable listening to them.
–Malignant gossips have a drive and a need to know details… they thrive on them.
He does not see himself as a gossip, parallel to a druggy.
11. Gossip is a knife in a friendly hand.
He who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself;  When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart;  Though his hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.  Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.  A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:24–28)
It would be wise to remember this fundamental truth… No one can hurt you without your permission. The reason why gossip is so painful to its victims, it comes from a friend. The sharpest knives are always in the hands of those whom we thought were our friends. That is why gossip is so dangerous in the church.
Can you see why so many people avoid church?
Stopping the outbreak…
Gossip and murmuring… Everyday churches split, pastors are fired, and families are irreparably damaged by it. Few diseases are more lethal or more rampant in our churches. One of the most effective ways of combating slander is to view it as God sees it—a dangerous threat to hearts and lives, equal to murder.
A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
Gossip, murmuring, undermining, and slander threaten the fellowship we have all labored to build. What has taken years to develop can be destroyed in a moment of loose tongues and broken hearts.
Get the picture…
Without warning, your family and your members, will take sides, form allegiances, and counterattack. In a moment’s notice, a healthy family and a healthy church become a war zone, complete with human land minds… and you must act.
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips. (Proverbs 20:19)
12. A gossip is not mature. A gossip should never be a teacher. Give a gossip no power, no position, because he will abuse the privilege by sharing secrets entrusted to those in leadership.
13. In James, God places the responsibility of stopping the spread of gossip on those who hear it and hear about it.
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19–20)
14. If you do not confront the gossip with his sin in a loving but firm manner, God holds you responsible.
Maybe you have the question… How do we stop a gossip who is already a teacher, a pastor, or leader?
You must address them and confront the issue, because their responsibility and position means that they will face a stricter judgment.
To put out a fire, you may have to start another fire by confronting the one who started the other fire with their gossip.
15. Stop the gossip the moment you sense he is sharing something that does not involve you.
Gently say the information is none of your business. Yes, they will be insulted. Yes, they will become angry at you. Yes, it is even possible that they will begin to gossip about you. But it is worth rescuing them from their sin.
16. Gossip is a disease that affects the victim, infects the participant, and spreads malignantly through your church like a fire.
But it is a preventable disease. The tongue is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Confrontation is the only antidote.
17. The tongue is capable of disrupting everything.
18. The tongue can ignite all of our worst passions of lust, envy, hatred, malice, and murder and giving reign… to all kinds of resulting evils.
19. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29).
20. Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36–37)
Desiring to be, and help my family and church be fireproof,
–Firestorm: Preventing and Overcoming Church Conflicts by Ron Susek
–Why Churches Die: Diagnosing Lethal Poisons in the Body of Christ by Mac Brunson and Ergun Caner
–Well-Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church by Marshall Shelley
adapted from the original blog post at www.thisfamilytree.org
About Keith Boggs | Follow him on Twitter @KeithABoggs. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
Director. Revivalist. Conference Speaker. Prayer Summit Leader. Men’s Ministry Coach. Teacher. Author. Blogger.
He is the founder of REAL MOMENTUM Ministries, Inc., and is passionate about seeing a movement of men unleashed and unhindered for the glory of God at home, in the church, and around the world. Keith also serves as a staff revivalist with Life Action Ministries. He and his wife, Nichole, live in Georgia. They have been married for 15 years and have 8 children. They make a great team leading family conferences and retreats together. Contact him today about the possibility of having him come and speak. Learn more about what others have to say.