Vol. 7, No. 8
~ Page 12 ~
Inspired James, half-brother to our Lord wrote, "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell" (3:6). The most dangerous member we have in the human body is not the trigger finger, the fist or the foot, but that little member we call the tongue. James, in the context just mentioned, went on to say, "Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God." The power of the human mind to use the tongue for both good and evil is almost beyond comprehension. For example, a preacher of the Gospel may use his mind and tongue to convince men that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and bring them weeping down the aisle to be baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of sin, and then turn right around and use that same mind and tongue to blaspheme or slander brethren, thus putting his own soul in jeopardy.
In the KJV of the Bible, there is a word that has for many years intrigued this writer. The word is "backbiters." It is found only once in that version of the Bible in Romans 1:30. In a context in which the inspired Paul listed the sins committed by those whom God had given over to reprobate minds, he used a word that is translated in the KJV as "backbiters." Incidentally, the list of sins in these verses is a horrendous one, and those who commit them Paul said, "are worthy of death" (Romans 1:32). Along with the covetous, malicious, those full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters and inventors of evil things, etc., Paul listed "backbiters." What is a backbiter? The word in the Textus Receptus is "katalalos" and according to Thayer's Lexicon it means, "a defamer, one who speaks evil of another." To that definition, Strong's Concordance adds, "a slanderer." Could anyone reasonably believe that one who commits the sins listed in Romans 1:18-32 has a reasonable expectation of going to heaven when he finishes his race here? To ask the question is to answer it! When one calls people names, against which Jesus warned when he said, "...but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire," he is guilty of the sin of slander, or what the KJV calls "backbiting."
Backbiting or slander is the natural result of jealousy. When good brethren are honestly trying to do a good work and a brother, who is not involved in that work, speaks evil against it, calling those involved in it names, reflecting on their intelligence, character and spirituality, then he is backbiting; he is a slanderer; he sins. Unless he apologizes to those thus slandered, he will surely lose his eternal and immortal soul due to the hatred and jealousy abiding in his heart and voiced through backbiting. Another problem often manifests itself in this regard. Those who are jealous and slanderous are very often so arrogant they think they will be able to do what they are doing with impunity. Such a one may never answer to man because brethren grit their teeth and remain silent, possibly due to Proverbs 26:4, but he will answer to the One who hears every word we say, and knows every thought we think!
A great deal is said in the Bible, especially in James Chapter Three, regarding the control of the tongue. However, James in the context previously mentioned says the problem is really in the heart; it is one of earthly wisdom rather than heavenly (James 3:11-18). Jesus said, "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34). An evil heart never has anything good to say about others, even if others are brethren. That was the case of the Pharisees to whom Jesus spoke the language just quoted.
While such slanderers need desperately to be reproved, rebuked and exhorted for their own salvation's sake (which is one of the designs of this article), they are also to be deeply pitied. It is a tragic thing for brethren to fall into this kind of sin. Those of us who preach should remember that brethren recognize what we are doing, and most of the time, why we are doing it. Let us resolve never to speak evil of brethren who are trying hard to do the work of Christ. Let us join hearts with brethren who are doing the work of Christ, whether we are directly involved or not. One who stands back and throws verbal stones is to be pitied indeed! We earnestly pray slanderers will repent of their sin, for we cannot forgive them until they repent and ask for forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4). It will be a terrible thing to stand in judgment never having asked brethren for forgiveness when we have trespassed against them.