[April 7]--Sticks And Stones, Part Three: Sweet Morsels and Spreading Nets

Prov. 16:28; 26:20; 18:8; 29:5; 28:23

I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and you might have as well. There are things that can wreck a church. Probably the worst thing that can happen to a church is immoral behavior on the part of a pastor or other leader, but that’s a body blow. The most insidious attack that the Enemy can use against a church is gossip. It’s like termites in a tree: It rots it from the inside-out, and you don’t even know what’s occurring until the tree falls. We’ve discussed gossip before, but here are some dangers from it that we haven’t mentioned yet.

It separates close friends. When a third party starts gossiping about person A to person B, then person A and B probably won’t be close anymore. And in this world, I need every close friend I can get: They’re more valuable than gold.

It stirs up old quarrels. Have you ever known someone like that? Somebody hurt them a long time ago, but it’s water under the bridge. It looks like they’re finally over it, and then some fool brings it up again! Why do they do that?! My guess is that some people just aren’t happy as long as peace is reigning. I do know one thing, however: They're not being led by the Holy Spirit when they do that. Probably another spiritual force is influencing them. . .

• Think about the image presented in 18:8 for a moment. What possible point is Solomon making here? Because when you listen to gossip, you’re swallowing sweet-tasting poison. And if you don’t shun it, it’ll infiltrate your heart and eventually change you, and not in a good way.

Finally, here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re about to share personal information about someone: 1) Are you sure that it’s true? 2) Is it useful? Does this person really need to hear this? 3) Does it build that person up according to their needs, that it may benefit them? If the answer to any of those questions is no (and again, just because it’s true does not justify it), then shut it.

Now what about flattery? We’ve said before that we need to encourage each other; in fact, that’s a command from God. So what’s the difference between flattery and encouragement? Here, truth seems to be the dividing line between good and bad. If what you’re about to say is true, then say it. If not, then ask yourself why you’re tempted to say it—is it to get something out of them? And here are some insights from Proverbs:

The flatterer? Not your friend. He’s spreading a trap for you. If he’s telling you something that you know isn’t true about yourself, then be on your guard against that person.

And please, grow up. If someone is rebuking you, then get over your feelings. I know that goes against everything you’re told in this culture, which places such an emphasis on emotions. If someone that you know cares about you, they’ll tell you like it is. I know that the first reaction is to lash out at him, but don’t. Ponder it as objectively as you can, maybe get a second opinion, and—most importantly--pray about it.

Remember, our Enemy’s most dangerous weapons in his arsenal are the subtle ones. No excuses—you’ve been warned.

Lord Jesus, anything that comes from the Enemy, no matter how sweet, I reject. Whatever you have for me, no matter how bitter it is at first, I want to embrace. Thank you for giving me what I need.

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