The most unruly member of the body is the tongue, and the most harmful member of the church is the one who speaks evil of it. It is sad and strange how some are more kind to their co-wokers and the clerk at the store than they are to their brothers and sisters in Christ. Nothing displays our level of spiritual maturity better than our speech. The manner in which you speak to and of others tells more about you than it does about them. And it is a sad story that most folks tell. Considering how common this fault is it is amazing that God is able to bless the average church at all.
The following warning came from James Smith in 1840. He wrote to his congregation: “Speak of no man from an unholy motive, or with a design to injure him; this is decidedly wrong. We are commanded by our beloved Saviour, to love our enemies; to do good to them that hate us and despitefully use us; to pray for them and seek their salvation.
If we speak evil of them we dishonour God, bring guilt upon our consciences, grieve the Spirit, and spoil our peace of mind. If we can indulge in detraction without feeling guilty and distressed, our consciences must be blinded, and our hearts hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Our tongues are not our own, they are bought with a price, and should be employed in the service of their proper owner. Never indulge yourselves in thinking evil of another; or in feelings of jealousy, envy, revenge, bitterness, anger, or malice; for these are earthly, sensual, and devilish.
How unlovely it is to hear one professor speaking evil of another; the hearer speaking evil of the minister; the rich speaking contemptuously of the poor, the mistress of servants; much more ministers of ministers.
Speak not evil one of another, brethren.”
Whene’er the angry passions rise,
And tempt our thoughts and tongues to strife;
To Jesus let us turn our eyes,
Bright pattern of the Christian life!
How mild! How ready to forgive!
Be these the rules by which we live!