If You Can’t Say Something Nice...

Three pastors met privately one day to share their major weaknesses and to pray for one another. The first pastor confessed he had a serious lust problem and many times found himself in compromising situations. 

The second pastor, encouraged by this display of candor, admitted that he had stolen money from the church and needed help in managing his finances. 

The third pastor then said, “My weakness is gossip…and I can hardly wait to get out of here!”

While the above story is meant to be humorous, it’s unfortunate some ministers don’t tame their tongues. Once I sought counsel from a pastor regarding a personal matter and assumed he would keep the details of our conversation confidential. A couple weeks later, a woman who attended this pastor’s church called me asking questions about my situation. The pastor had told his whole church about it! 

From that point on, I avoided contact with this pastor. Proverbs 20:19 says, “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.” A few weeks later as I was walking home, this pastor happened to see me while driving down the street. He immediately pulled over and offered to take me out for coffee. I went along hoping to receive an apology. Unfortunately most of our conversation consisted of him talking about other people's problems.

Another time I briefly stayed in a house owned by an elderly woman who went on missions trips and previously hosted other ministers. Realizing she was a chronic complainer, I kept my contact with this woman to a minimum. One day in her living room, she insisted on describing to me bad things another missionary had done while staying at her house. After repeated attempts to change the subject, I finally said, “I don’t want to hear any more gossip. It’s ungodly.” In response, this woman mockingly asked the Lord to forgive her for being ungodly. Sadly, she was starting to falsely accuse me of saying certain things to her. 

Whenever someone does us wrong, we should first pray for that person (Matthew 5:44). Then if possible, we should make an effort to reconcile with that person instead of blabbering about the problem to individuals who are not part of the solution. In Romans 1:29-30, gossips and slanderers are compared with God-haters and inventors of evil. Christians who repeatedly talk bad about others are treading on dangerous ground. Jesus said in Mark 11:26, “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

While I was growing up, my mother often told me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I later learned that phrase originated from Thumper in the old Disney cartoon “Bambi.” Whenever we encounter someone used by the devil who gets on our nerves, sometimes not saying anything is the best answer. Silence can never be misquoted.

Christian trash talkers need to repent. God wants our words to edify people, not tear them down. 

“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy.” - Psalm 101:5

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