THE TONGUE.  (James 3:5,6).

Gossipers are those who delight in idle talk so as to reveal the private and confidential affairs of others.  It is written: "The one walking about as a slanderer (gossip. NEB) is uncovering confidential talk, but the one faithful in spirit… keeps his own counsel." (Prov 11:13 NWT & NEB). Being unfaithful in spirit and therefore unable to keep   their   own counsel, gossipers speak thoughtlessly and injuriously "as  with  the  stabs of a sword", and harp on the transgressions of others to break up friendships and separate those familiar with one another (even family members).  (Prov 12:18 & 17:9 NWT & NEB).

Malicious gossiping is often based on groundless rumour, and leads those that are enticed with their lips to slander others. Malicious misrepresentation of another's words or actions through a false report concerning that person with the intention of defaming, injuring or discrediting him in the eyes of others, is slander. An evildoer gives "a  ready  ear to mischievous talk" and liars listen to slander that is "causing adversities". (Prov 17:4 NWT.  See NEB). Those who speak falsely and maliciously to detract from another's character are not "holding God in accurate knowledge", and if found practicing such things risk being given up to a "disapproved mental state" by God because of a "malicious disposition, being whisperers, backbiters (scandal mongers), haters of God".  (Rom 1:28-32 NWT & NEB).

We must have no fellowship with those "enticed with his lips", for fear we may be constituted an evildoer and a liar by listening to them. "To delight in wickedness is to court condemnation (from God), but evil loses its hold on the man who hates gossip."  (Ecclesiasticus 19:5,6 NEB).

The apostle James admonished us to quit speaking against one another and disparaging one another, for "he who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against Law and judges Law" (the Law of God). (James 4:11 NWT & NEB). Consequently, "if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother" and have proved "faithful in spirit" by keeping your own counsel.  (Matt 18:15.  Prov 17:9 NEB).

"For we all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body." Therefore, "do not give your heart to all the (disparaging) words that people may speak… for you know very well how many times you yourself have disparaged others."  Rather, "Keep on speaking in such a way and keep on doing in such a way as those… who are to be judged under a Law of freedom."  (James 3:2.  Eccles 7:21 and James 2:12 NWT & NEB).

When the apostle James wrote, "Do not heave sighs against one another, brothers, so that you do not get judged", what did he mean? (James 5:9). That to heave sighs against a brother in the faith is the same as to blame your troubles upon him. James admonished that we must "take as a pattern of suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the Name of Jehovah." (James 5:9,10 NWT)  (See NEB).  He added: "Is there anyone suffering evil among you? Let him carry on prayer." (5:13). Indeed, "Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving Him."  (James 1:12).

To heave sighs against spiritual brothers in the faith, is the same as to hold them responsible for the evil that we are suffering, and for this sin we will most certainly receive Judgement from God. When under trial, "each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire" and not by the desires of his brothers. However, when we are judged "we are disciplined by Jehovah, that we may not become condemned with the world."  (1 Cor 11:32.  James 1:14).

In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote: "Neither be murmurers, just as some of them  (of  the sons of Israel) murmured, only to perish by the Destroyer" Almighty God.  (1 Cor 10:10).  "Some of them" refers to those Israelites who raised complaints against God's chosen servants Moses and Aaron after God destroyed rebellious Korah and 250 chieftains of the assembly and their families for having tried to "secure the priesthood" for themselves. The remaining assembly of the Israelites then taxed Moses and Aaron with "causing the death of some of the Lord's people". As a result of this murmuring, Almighty God destroyed 14,700 from among the sons of Israel who had congregated against Moses and Aaron (aside from those dead on account of Korah). (Num 16:1-50 NWT & NEB). These things befell them as examples, "and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived."  (1 Cor 10:11).

Therefore, do not murmur in low muttered tones, nor utter secret whispers of discontent against the Will of Almighty God as expressed through His servants, or you too will fall under the very Judgement of God already pronounced upon unGodly ones who have turned "the undeserved kindness of God into an excuse for loose conduct". Such "murmurers" and "complainers about their lot in life" are "proceeding according to their own desires" and are destined to perish "in the rebellious talk of Korah!" (Jude V.4, 11 & 16).  As brothers in the faith we must: "Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also."  (Col 3:13).

A vow is a solemn declaration made voluntarily to God of an undertaking to which one is bound. A baptismal vow to God to carry out His Will is one such example. We must not allow our hearts to be "hasty to bring forth a word before the true God", because to make a vow to God and then fail to pay it, is a sin. Indeed, it is better not to vow at all, than to vow and later realize you are unable to fulfil your promise, saying before the angel of God that it was a mistake. For "God will be angry at your words, and all your achievements will be brought to nothing. You must fear God." (See Eccles 5:1-6 NWT & NEB)  (See Prov 20:25).  Nor should you be slow about fulfilling your vows, for this too is a sin.  (See Deut 23:21  23).

To swear an oath is to make a solemn declaration with an appeal to God to confirm that what has been said is true. So why did the Son of God say: "Do not swear at all, neither by heaven, because it is God's throne; nor by earth, because it is the footstool of His feet; nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King"? (Matt 5:34,35). It is because our Lord Jesus is well aware that wicked men swear oaths in God's Name falsely as a device to deceive others. Indeed, a wicked one's mouth is "full of oaths and of deceptions and of oppression." (Psalms 10:7). It is for this reason that we should not use oaths at all, but let our Yes mean Yes, and our No, No     so that we do not fall under Judgement from God. Anything beyond plain "Yes" or "No" "comes from the devil". (Matt 5:37 NEB. James 5:12). Those swearing an oath in God's Name falsely are profaning His Name by seeking to give their lie(s) false credibility through the misuse of His Holy Name.  (Lev 19:12).

As to such liars, Jehovah has said, "And I will come near to you people for the Judgement, and I will become a speedy witness against... those swearing falsely." (Mal 3:5). He has sent the symbolic "flying scroll" over the surface of all the earth, which must enter "into the house of the one making a sworn oath in (God's) Name falsely; and it must lodge in the midst of his house and exterminate it and its timbers and its stones." (Zech 5:3,4). Those swearing false oaths to contrive evil against another by deception, and who carry on such lies to escape punishment, are among the "dogs outside" whose spirits will be "tormented day and night forever". (Zech 8:16 NEB.  Prov 19:5.  Rev  22:15.  21:8.  20:10).  But  as  for those who have not "taken an oath deceitfully", they "carry away blessing from Jehovah".  (Psalms 24:4,5).

To utter against a person words that consign them to evil is to invoke a curse upon them. The apostle James said it was not proper that we bless Jehovah God our Father, and utter curses against men being spiritually created "in the likeness of God". (James 3:8-12). For just as a fountain cannot produce both "the sweet and the bitter", how can one's words be good if one is being evil? "For the words that the mouth utters come from the overflowing of the heart." (Matt 12:34 NEB). We should be blessing and not cursing     even those who persecute us; that by "wholesome speech which cannot be condemned" we may "shame any opponent, when he finds not a word to say to our discredit." (Titus 2:8 NWT. NEB.  Rom 12:14). Those invoking curses of condemnation to summon evil spirits to punish another will themselves have adverse Judgement pronounced upon them by God, as it is written: "Stop judging, and you will by no means be judged; and stop condemning, and you will by no means be condemned."  (Luke 6:37).

In Colossians 3:5 we are told to "put to death those parts of you which belong to the earth." (NEB).  These "parts" are the desires and works of the flesh that belonged to our old personality     superfluous badness that must be removed, because "those who practice such things will not inherit Gods Kingdom." (Gal 5:19-21. Col 3:5-10). Among them are "abusive speech", "obscene talk" and "reviling"     practices evident among the unGodly. When they see you are no longer "running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you."  (1 Peter 4:3,4)  (See Eph 4:31.  1 Cor 6:9-11).

While on earth The Christ set us the perfect example to follow: "When he was being reviled (subjected to reproachful language and abuse), he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the One who judges righteously." (From 1 Peter 2:21-23). But as for those who speak abusively of you because of your faithful obedience to the Will of God, they will have to "render an account to the One ready to judge those living and those dead", and will "in the things of which they are ignorant and speak abusively, even suffer destruction in their own course of destruction."  (1 Peter 4:5.  2 Peter 2:12).

The apostle Peter also warned that false teachers would appear among servants of God and "quietly bring in destructive sects". He said that many would follow their "acts of loose conduct" and "the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively". (2 Peter 2:1,2). That is why true Christians must "quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a... reviler" and must "remove the wicked man from among yourselves."  (1 Cor 5:11,13).

To ridicule is to make a person the object of mockery or scorn. "In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule", pouring scorn on the way of the truth and "proceeding according to their own desires for unGodly things." (2 Peter 3:3. Jude V.18). But "Judgements have been firmly established for ridiculers" by God. (Prov 19:29). Do not attempt to reprove a ridiculer, for "he that is correcting the ridiculer is taking to himself dishonour". You will be "sneered at for your pains" because "the ridiculer does not love the one reproving him." Rather, "drive away the ridiculer" from among you "that contention may go out" and "dishonour may cease."  (Prov 15:12.  22:10.  19:29.  9:7 NWT & NEB).

All servants of God must be "like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly‑affection, tenderly compassionate, humble in mind, not paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling, but, to the contrary, bestowing a blessing, because you were called to this course, so that you might inherit a blessing."  (1 Peter 3:8,9).

The apostle Paul warned that "some will fall away from the faith" because of paying attention to "misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons". False teachers use "subversive doctrines" of demons to "seduce the minds of innocent people with smooth and specious words." (Rom 16:18 NEB)  (1 Tim 4:1,2 NWT & NEB). Those who have deserted the true faith and given their minds over to such "subversive doctrines" are apostates. "That is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged, because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness."  (2 Thess 2:11,12).

That we too may not be deceived, we must learn how to identify "misleading inspired utterances" that are used to ensnare the unwary. For example: "If anyone makes the statement: "I love God," and yet is hating his (spiritual) brother, he is a liar". We know this because we have received the commandment from God that "the one who loves God should be loving his brother also." (1 John 4:20,21). Similarly, he that says, "I  have come to know Him" but is not observing His commandments, is also a liar. For this is what love for God means, "that we go on walking according to His commandments"     coming to know Him through our obedience to His spiritual requirements administered through The Christ.  (1 John 2:4,5)  (2 John V.6).

We must "test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God", comparing them with His holy inspired Word. For "prophecy (of God) was at no time brought by man's will, but men spoke from God as they were born along by Holy Spirit."  (2 Peter 1:21.  1 John 4:1). And if the inspired expression does not bear up under scrutiny of the Word of God, then it is a "misleading inspired utterance" of demons. Demonically inspired utterances of false prophets proceed from the world, "and that is why... the world listens to them." (1 Tim 4:1.  1 John 4:5). "But we belong to God, and a man who knows God listens to us, while he who does not belong to God refuses us a hearing. That is how we distinguish the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error."  (1 John 4:6 NEB).

Some try to conceal their Godless disposition and hatred by taking refuge in lies. Indeed, with the lips "the hater makes himself unrecognizable, but inside of him he   puts deception… when his words are gracious, do not trust him", for "where  there  is one covering over hatred there are lips of falsehood."  (Prov 10:18.  26:24-26 NWT & NEB).

But Jehovah has promised that He will make "justice the measuring line and righteousness the levelling instrument" such that His Spirit "hail" of denunciations will "sweep away the refuge of a lie, and the waters themselves will flood out the very place of concealment." (Isaiah 28:17). So let us throw off falsehood and speak the truth to one another, putting on "the new nature of God's creating, which shows itself in the just and devout life called for by the truth."  (Eph 4:24,25 NEB).

While on earth, our Lord Jesus said: "There is not a thoughtless word that comes from men's lips but they will have to account for it on the day of Judgement. For out of your own mouth you will be acquitted; out of your own mouth you will be condemned."  (Matt 12:36,37 NEB). The words we speak come from the "overflowing of the heart". A good man "produces good from the store of good within himself", but an evil man "from evil within produces evil." (Matt 12:34,35 NEB). That we might not be condemned with the world, it is vitally important that we learn to distinguish between "wholesome speech which cannot be condemned" and abusive speech of Godless persons who are reserved "for the day of Judgement to be cut off".  (2 Peter 2:9-12.  Titus 2:8).

"For the Spirit of the Lord fills the whole earth, and... is well aware of what men say. Hence no man can utter injustice and not be found out, nor will justice overlook him when (passing) sentence. The devices of a Godless man will be brought to account, and  a report of his words will come before the Lord as proof of his iniquity; no muttered syllable escapes that vigilant ear. Beware, then, of futile grumbling, and avoid all bitter words; for even a secret whisper will not go unheeded, and a lying tongue is a man's destruction."  (Wisdom of Solomon 1:7-11 NEB).

C. B. Thomas.