“‘You shall not go around as a tale-bearer among your people.Leviticus 19:16
Believers have come to trust in Yahweh because he has proved himself faithful. He has accomplished all with his people that he said he would. As his children, we should be exhibiting the same kind of faithfulness with others. If we cannot be considered faithful, why would anyone believe us when we tell them about the faithfulness of our God?
In the Bible, untrustworthy individuals were known as tale-bearers or slanderers. The root word for this type of person describes one who is a scandal-monger, one who would travel about spreading information with the intent of stirring up dissent. Believers were cautioned not only to not participate in such activity but to avoid these type of people altogether.
Proverbs 11:13 One who is a tale-bearer uncovers secrets, but one who is of a trustworthy spirit conceals a confidence.
Proverbs 20:19 He who goes about as a tale-bearer reveals secrets; therefore don’t keep company with him who opens wide his lips.
These tale-bearers and slanderers were a main target amidst Jeremiah’s denunciation of the wickedness of his own people, and one of the primary factors of Israel’s judgment in his day.
[God speaking to Jeremiah] “I have made you a tester of metals and a fortress among my people, that you may know and try their way. They are all grievous rebels, going around to slander. They are bronze and iron. All of them deal corruptly. The bellows blow fiercely. The lead is consumed in the fire. In vain they go on refining, for the wicked are not plucked away. Men will call them rejected silver, because Yahweh has rejected them.”Jeremiah 6:27-30
[Jeremiah laments over the wicked state of his people] Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a spring of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people and go from them! For they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. “They bend their tongue, as their bow, for falsehood. They have grown strong in the land, but not for truth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they don’t know me,” says Yahweh. “Everyone beware of his neighbor, and don’t trust in any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will go around like a slanderer. Friends deceive each other, and will not speak the truth. They have taught their tongue to speak lies. They weary themselves committing iniquity. Your habitation is in the middle of deceit. Through deceit, they refuse to know me,” says Yahweh. Therefore Yahweh of Armies says, “Behold, I will melt them and test them; for how should I deal with the daughter of my people? Their tongue is a deadly arrow. It speaks deceit. One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart, he waits to ambush him. Shouldn’t I punish them for these things?” says Yahweh. “Shouldn’t my soul be avenged on a nation such as this?Jeremiah 9:1-9
When individuals demonstrate this kind of betrayal among their own people, relatives and friends, who can trust in them?
The apostle James relates a similar understanding of the power of the tongue at the culmination of the wicked generation in his day.
James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
James 3:5-12 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. 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. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
James encourages believers to remain faithful in their speech and not to fall prey to the wickedness of the tongue, with which many in his day used to demean and curse others.
Peter also encourages believers to be faithful in speech and conduct, and he backs up his admonition with a quote from Psalm 34:
[Do not return] evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”1 Peter 3:9-12
Our code of conduct exceeds that of the world so that we can encourage instead of demean, bless instead of curse. By being trustworthy individuals in speech and manner of life, we honor the God who calls us to be the lights in a world of darkness and strife.
…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…Philippians 2:13-15
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