I can’t seem to get away with gossip. What I mean is that I usually get caught red-handed, or maybe I should say foot-in-mouth. Here’s how it happens. I complain about someone—in confidence to another friend—only to turn around and discover that the person about whom I’m speaking is right behind me! Or within earshot. Now the person didn’t necessarily hear what I said about them. But I’m ashamed and convicted, nevertheless. Busted, as my kids used to say!
I remember once in junior high school that I casually pointed out to my friend that a rather awkward boy in our class “ran kinda funny” on the playground. I turned around and gasped as I noticed that same boy had changed seats and was sitting right behind me! Did he overhear my thoughtless comment? I was never quite sure, but I felt terrible. The thought still makes my face flush, all these years later.
This kind of thing has happened often enough that I’m now very watchful about my words. It’s as though the Lord just won’t let me get away with speaking badly about someone. Perhaps it’s because He knows that words can be so destructive. Not just to the hearer, but also to the speaker.
The Bible spells it out plainly: “Do not complain against one another, believers, so that you will not be judged [for it]. Look! The Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9 AMP).
The word translated as “complain” is stenazo. It means: “to groan, sigh, to give vent to critical or censorious feelings. To call attention to someone’s flaws.” Other versions use words like grumble, murmur, or groan. I especially like the way this rather antiquated translation puts it: “Grudge not, brethren, one against another, that you may not be judged. Behold the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:9 DRA).
My paraphrase? “Grudge not…so that you are not judged!” It’s not just our words that God is warning us about. It’s also the thoughts behind those words. As believers, we’re on the same side in a war against our enemy, the devil, and his minions. Grumbling about one another not only hurts feelings, but it breaks our unity.
In 21 Days of Strength, we learned the importance of “sticking together” if we want to be strong—especially in battle. Breaking faith with our fellow believers leaves us especially vulnerable to the enemy. Let’s remember, the word for devil is diabalos, “the divider.” His specialty is strife. As I heard the head of a large organization once say, “I have only one immediate firing offense—stirring up strife.”
Maybe I stepped on your toes today. I sure came down hard on my own. Let’s soberly reflect on the warning in God’s Word: “Grudge not…that you may not be judged.” Like I’ve learned the hard way: The judge might be standing at the door!