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Scripture Reading:  James 3:1-12

The Murderous Tongue


1.     What has taken years to build up, can take only seconds to tear down.

2.     Tongue can murder the good name & life of another:  “it is full of deadly poison”  (Jas. 3:8).  The tongue can be an effective sword (Prov. 12:18).

3.     Consider the murderous uses of the tongue.



    A.    Gossip - 1 Tim. 5:13.  (tattlers, KJV)

        1.     phluaros - “Old word from phluo (to boil up, to throw up bubbles, like blowing soap bubbles).  Only here in N.T.  phluareo in #3Jo 1:10 only in N.T.”  Robertson’s Word Pictures   (3 Jno. 1:10prating, false accusations)

        2.     “uttering or doing silly things, garrulous, babbling, foolish, trifling, vain” (Thayer, 655).  “Since bubbles are hallow & useless things, ‘to indulge in empty & foolish talk’” (Ibid.).

        3.     Gossip is:

            a.     Empty, idle words about others.

            b.     Accusations &/or insinuations which discredit, not built up.

            c.     Idle talk intended to turn one’s opinion against that person or situation.

            d.     Gossip can be true or false.

            e.     Often encouraged by idleness (1 Tim. 5:13; 2 Ths. 3:11).

    B.    The Busybody1 Tim. 5:13; 2 Ths. 3:11(A busybody gossips!)

        1.     periergos (1 Tim. 5:13) - “busy about trifles and neglectful of important matters, esp. busy about other folks’ affairs, a busybody” (Thayer, 502).

        2.     periergazomai (2 Ths. 3:11) – “used apparently of a person officiously inquisitive about other’s affairs” (Thayer, 502).

        3.     Derived from ergos, business, employment, that with which any one is occupied; that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking.

        4.     So, it is to actively undertake to be involved in the matters of others.

        5.     Meddler in the lives of others – 1 Pet. 4:15 (mischief-maker, RSV).

    C.    Talebearer [“scandal-monger (as travelling about)]” - A trafficker in scandalous reports about others - Lev. 19:16(A talebearer gossips!)

        1.     The talebearer is:

            a.     Untrustworthy - Prov. 11:13; 20:19 (reveals confidences).

            b.     Stirs up strife - Prov. 26:20.  (hated by God, Prov. 6:19).

            c.     Hurtful - Prov. 18:8 (wounds, KJV); cf. Prov. 17:9.

    2.     A whisperer is a type of talebearer  – speaking evil of one who is absent & not being willing to accuse him to his face.

                1)    Rom. 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20 - A cowardly sin!  (Matt. 18:15)

                2)    Reveals the evil motive of hate – Psa. 41:7.

                3)    “Whispering” – the evil of detracting from others, or exciting suspicion against another by dropping hints that they are evil (secrecy - Rom. 1:29).

“Whisperers are cowardly sneaks who have not the courage to come out in the open and say damaging things about others, but secretly peddle their slanderous statements and insinuations against the object or objects of their campaign of spite.  They usually add:  ‘Be sure not to use my name in connection with the matter, for I do not want to get mixed up in the mess.’  Such characters have been aptly termed ‘snakes in the grass.’  They would destroy a good name, and then gloat over what they had been able to accomplish.  Only the Lord can properly award such characters.”  (R. L. Whiteside, Comm. on Romans, 43).

    D.    Slanderer2 Tim. 3:3 (accuse, defame, malign w/ falsehood).

        1.     diabolos –  “Those who are given to finding fault with the demeanor & conduct of others, and spreading their innuendos & criticisms in the church” (Vine, 580).

            a.     Foolish – Prov. 10:18.

            b.     Slander is driven by pride & envy – Psa. 101:5.

            c.     Overcome slander by overcoming envy & pride!

            d.     Or, be destroyed by God! – Psa. 101:5

        2.     Backbiting is a type of slander Rom. 1:30; 2 Cor. 12:20.

            a.     katalalos – “a defamer, evil speaker” (Thayer, 332).

            b.     More open & bold than the whisperer, although such a person does not face the accused with his slander.

            c.     Backbiting causes anger – Prov. 25:23.

            d.     Backbiter does not abide with God - Psa. 15:1, 3.



    A.    Refuse the Tasty Morsel! – Prov. 26:22

    B.    Guard Your Tongue – Prov. 13:3; 21:23.

    C.    Ask Yourself These Questions:

        1.     Is it trueEph. 4:25  (Are you sure?)

        2.     If so, why am I saying this about someone else?  (Motive:  Hurt?  Justify or deflect attention from my own sin?  Envy?  Pride?  Ambition?)

        3.     What is the likely outcome:  Harm or good for the person?  (Eph. 4:29)

        4.     Have I talked with the person about whom I am speaking?

    D.    Consider the Result of Such Sins:  Strife (Prov. 26:20), wounds (Prov. 18:8), trouble for the soul (Prov. 21:23), death (Prov. 18:21).



1.     Idle words bring condemnation - Matt. 12:36.

2.     What we say can send us to hell!

3.     Therefore, restrain the mouth! – Psa. 39:1