James 3: 2: We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
Putting my tongue in check has proved to be the greatest test of all, and it is no wonder that James says that the person who is never at fault in what they speak is perfect. Late last year, I had three dreams, all of which were speaking about the need to put my tongue in check. All these dreams happened in the span of one month.
In my first dream, someone jumped on my back and began to violently bite my back, and then, suddenly there was a blanket of darkness! I woke up feeling extremely traumatized, as the dream did not feel like a dream but a real-life encounter. It was a darkness I had never seen or experienced before, a supernatural darkness. As I went through the day, I could still re-live the trauma I felt when someone jumped on and started to bite my back. I wondered what it all meant. I have a book in my library that a friend gifted me that helps in decoding dreams. A quick glance at “someone biting your back” indicated that one ought to check their life for backbiting.
I was shocked, annoyed even, that the Lord was calling me a gossip. Notably, my first reaction was to defend myself. Eventually, though, I took the higher route and humbled myself before God. I honestly couldn’t have described myself as a gossip. Was I sharing other people’s stories? Yes, but to my defense, I was sharing facts only. It’s not like I was coming up with lies about people. Even though for a while I had been trying to live a complaint free life I was doing very badly at it because again, I was justifying what I said with the phrase, “but it’s a fact.” God obviously thought otherwise.
In the second dream, I was under attack, and when I tried to rebuke my attackers, my voice was muffled and nothing could come out. In the third dream, someone tried to steal from me and as I was sounding the alarm, my voice suddenly got choked and nothing came out.
James 1:26: Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
From the dreams I had, I knew for a fact that God was speaking to me and instructing me to bridle my tongue. I, just like every other believer, desires to walk in authority. It is however impossible to rebuke even just a common cold if our lives are full of complaining, criticizing and lying. We may not be aware of it, but we have unseen witnesses to the words that we speak. The words we speak determine which kingdom has legal authority over our voice.
I asked God for help because I didn’t know where to start, but I was willing. When we are used to a particular sin, it becomes a place of deception and a stronghold for the enemy. I have become more intentional with the words I speak even though, truth be told, I fail often.
Proverbs 6:16-19: There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
Of the seven things that the Lord utterly detests, two involve the tongue: lying and bearing false witness. I’ve always had a casual attitude towards this passage of scripture. First, because I never regarded “white lies” as “real lies,” and second, because I’ve never regarded myself as a false witness. This is of course deceptive.
We may not see ourselves as false witnesses, but when we gossip, we bear false witness. Sometimes we may feel that we are speaking the truth, but any time we engage in a discourse that slanders the other person, that is bearing false witness. In 1 Peter 4:8, God would rather that we cover other people and not expose them. Further, the devil is described in the Bible as a slanderer and an accuser, when we gossip we fail to carry the image of God, and instead, showcase the devil’s characteristics.
We have all been victims of gossiping, and we have all been perpetrators of gossip. Sometimes I have said “factual” things, but every time I thought that that piece of information would get to the other party, I cringed and prayed hard. Unfortunately, I have listened to other people’s descriptions about other people that left my image of them tainted even though I didn’t know those people. Because of this, even when I come across a piece of information that slanders someone I may or may not know, I want to be the last person that information gets to and not act as a conduit.
A prayer: Psalm 141: 3 Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.