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Avoid Divisive Speech

He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.
–Proverbs 20:19

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon said we ought to avoid divisive speech. He mentioned two types of divisive speech we ought to run from.

The first kind of divisive speech is gossip. Solomon pointed out two problems with gossip–that is, secret communication meant to hurt another person. First of all, gossip robs you of valuable time. Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a whisperer [a gossip] are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.” Verse 9 says, “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” At first glance, those seem like different topics, but they are not. Gossip takes time away from other valuable pursuits in life. When we spend our time talking on the phone, texting, and checking Facebook to see what others are up to so we can gossip about them, we are taking time away from pursuing our goals that will lead to true satisfaction.

Second, gossip always backfires. People who love to gossip are happy to share with you private, secret communication, but they also expect you to share information you know about other people. Here is the problem with that: if a gossip is willing to break somebody else’s confidence and talk to you, then what makes you think they won’t break your confidence when they quote you to other people? Gossip always backfires. That is why Solomon said in Proverbs 20:19, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.” Unless you want your innermost life exposed, do not hang around with those who engage in gossip.

The second type of divisive speech Solomon warned against is slander. Slander is gossip’s first cousin. Slander means “to strike, to speak out against.” To slander somebody is to condemn another person openly. The slanderer is so convinced that the person he is talking about is wrong that he says, “I am going to be the judge, the jury, and the executioner of this person’s reputation.”

The problem with slander is that it causes us to make judgments about people that we are not equipped to make. Whenever we judge somebody’s character, we are performing a role that only God can perform. James 4:11-12 says, “Do not speak against one another, brethren. . . . There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” When you judge somebody, you are doing what only God can do. Only God knows what is in a person’s heart. One of the Ten Commandments is: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). That is talking about slander. Whether the information is true or not is irrelevant. We are never to destroy another person’s reputation.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “You Never Have To Explain What You Don’t Say” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2013.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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