Have you ever received a hateful word from a hate-filled person under the allowance of freedom of speech?
The appalling Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris renewed the debate over freedom of speech. Should there be restrictions? Are there limits?
God had Solomon write in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Our words have the capacity to build a person up or to tear a person down. Since degrading words can make a person “guilty enough to go into the fiery hell,” according to Jesus in Matthew 5:22, it would behoove each of us to rein in the tongue’s death-dealing blows as soon as possible.
We can do better than the poem titled “The Tongue”:
Who, on the twenty-fourth of May,
Began to hold her tongue.”
During the late 1800s, The Boston Weekly Advertiser covered a court case addressing the conundrum, “Which is the mother of the chicks? The hen that lays the eggs, or the hen that hatches them?” Party No. 1 was the owner of a fancy breed that strayed onto a neighbor’s property and laid a nest full of eggs. The neighbor’s hen laid claim to the nest and hatched the eggs. The two neighbors got into a dispute over who owned the chicks when the second party sold them to a third party for a handsome sum of money. The court decided that the hen that hatched the eggs was the legal mother, dismissing party number one’s lawsuit.
It may be concluded that the person who repeats a slanderous tale is as much “parent” of it as the initiator. The hatcher is as guilty as the layer, if not worse.
If I did not manufacture a knife, but used it to stab and kill another person, am I not guilty of the murder? If I did not concoct the slander, but my tongue advanced it to the injury of another person’s reputation, am I not a partaker in the crime?
Whatever the public opinion on
freedom of speech, the safest course is to be extremely incredulous of all malicious and demeaning reports. Avoid walking in Satan’s footsteps, who is called “the accuser” of the Christians in Revelation 12:10, because he takes factual failures and fabricates them into a major emergency. Never, under any circumstances, become a loose-tongued tale-bearer.
Plautus, a second-century Roman writer of comic dramas, said that tale-bearers and tale-hearers should both be hung, the one by the tongue and the other by the ears. We’d run short of timber to construct gallows sufficient to carry out this witty sentence. But there is no need for any one of us to earn the right to swing with such company.
Jesus said that the use of our tongue reveals the condition of our heart. Matthew 12:34 reads, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Our tongue tattle-tales on us as to whether or not we are an unsaved religious Christian or a saved regenerate (spiritually born again) Christian.
James 3:11 says, “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” Obviously, the answer is “no.” Then, Jesus adds in Matthew 12:17, “Your words will be used to judge you, to declare you either innocent or guilty.”
If my tongue is telling on me and the condition of my heart, Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb provides a much-needed cure for the heart of my problem, which is the problem of my heart. By sincerely crying out to the God-man, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of my sins, he promises to implant a new heart from which to speak (Ezekiel 11:19).
This same spiritual conversion by faith alone and by God’s grace alone transformed a chronic, malicious Saul (I Timothy 1:13) into a consistently gracious Apostle Paul. His tongue told on him. Paul had a new heart from which to speak.
With a God-given new heart, the next time the black hen lays an egg, let her sit on it herself and hatch out her own chicks. Don’t become step-father to a lie by choosing to roast good men, though imperfect, in the fire of slander.