Ex. 20:16 HOW TO HANDLE YOUR NEIGHBOR'S REPUTATION
Intro: This 9th Commandment has to do with controlling One's
tongue. A very important, but extremely difficult task. James tells us the tongue can be
tamed by no man, James 3:1-8. However, Jesus reminds us that we can do all things through
him, Phil. 4:13. Therefore, there is absolutely no excuse for a big mouth! We have an
altar that is about 24 feet across. This should be sufficient space for just about anyone
to lay their tongue on it and get it under control.
Few people realize the awesome, destructive power of the human tongue.
Because of a miss-spoken word, homes have been splintered, reputations shattered and lives
literally destroyed and even ended. That little piece of muscle that lies in your mouth
behind your lips and your teeth bless or bruise, heal or hurt, love or lambast. It all
depends upon how you use it.
This verse deals primarily with one's testimony in a trial setting. God
says that we must never be guilty of lying on our neighbor thereby causing him to suffer.
We are exhorted to always be truthful and absolutely honest when dealing with another
person. As we consider some of what God has said about the tongue, may He help us to
understand that every time we speak of another, we literally hold that person's reputation
in our hands. Tonight, I would like to speak for a few minutes on this thought, How To
Handle Your Neighbors Reputation.
I. A REPUTATION IS A VALUABLE
A. According to the Bible, one's "good name", or reputation,
is far more valuable than riches or expensive ointments, Pro. 22:1; Eccl. 7:1.
B. Your Reputation Determines The Level Of Respect You
Receive - No one puts much confidence in a person who is dishonest,
deceptive, or otherwise living his life in a sinful, shameful manner. I really respect
people about whom I never hear a negative remark. Jesus was such a man - Luke 2:52. We
should do all that is in our power to see that we never allow our names to be associated
with that which is disrespectful and shameful. It will undermine your good name and cause
people to lose respect for you. Your life ought to be a beacon of integrity and decency.
C. Your Reputation Determines The Level Of The Response You
Receive - Every Christian wants to be respected as a Christian and have
his/her testimony be respected and responded too in a positive manner. The type of
response that we can expect will always be determined by the kind of life others see us
living! It has been said, "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you
are saying." In other words, the world will never believe what say until they can see
what we believe!
D. Your reputation is important, because what people perceive you to be
is usually a fair indicator of what you really are. You see, your reputation is what
others think you are and character is what you really are. However, people can misread us
and misunderstand us and cause us to be something less than we actually are. However, as a
general rule, your reputation is a direct result of your character. In other words, men
think the way they do about you because of the way they see you act and live before them.
E. Your own reputation is valuable. Therefore, guard it with your very
ife. And, pray that others will do the same. Now, you cannot be responsible for what
others do with your reputation, but you are responsible for what you do with theirs. Keep
this in mind as we go forward with this message.
II. A REPUTATION CAN BE VANDALIZED
A. It Is A Serious Thing - When we undermine the
reputation of another by the words we speak, we are guilty of destroying that persons
respectability and credibility before others. We are guilty of doing unspeakable damage to
a person's life and ministry by the words we say about them.
(Ill. I remember reading of a woman who was guilty of gossiping about
her pastor. She was convicted and went to him to apologize to him and to try and make
restitution for her wrongdoing. The pastor graciously accepted her apology and then told
her that if she wanted to make it all right again, that she should take a chicken, kill
it, pluck it, carry its feathers to the top of the highest building in town and cast its
feathers to the four winds. When this was done she was to return to the Pastor. She
carried out his directive and returned to him. He looked at her and said, "Now go and
collect every one of those feathers." She replied, in horror, "That is
impossible!" He said, "So, it is impossible or you to take back all those things
you have said about me.")
(Ill. Another Pastor was having trouble with a gossip in the church.
Every time she would see his car parked anywhere strange, she began immediately to spread
the word that their Pastor was having an affair. There was no truth to her rumors, but she
kept it up until the pastor, in an effort to stop her mouth, left his car parked in front
of her house, day and night for a week. That cured the problem.)
The words of a false witness can be forgiven, but they will never be
forgotten by those who are touched by their poison! Eternal damage can be done to
reputations and ministries. People can even wind up in Hell because of the lies of a
foolish person. I don't know about the rest of you, but I have absolutely no use for a
gossip and a talebearer! I don't think the Lord does either!
The man who with the breathe lent him by heaven,
Speaks words that soil the whiteness of a life;
Is but murder, for death is given,
As surely by the tongue as by the knife!
B. It Is A Sad Thing - It is a sad day when one
person thinks they have to repeat something on another. This is behavior that is hateful
to God and demeaning to men! There are several ways in which people are guilty of using
their tongues against another.
1. Slander - defined as, "Communication of
false statements injurious to a person's reputation." We are guilty of slander when
we knowingly lie about another person in an effort to harm their reputation.
2. Lying - "A false statement deliberately
presented as being true." Whether we admit it or not, we are all guilty of lying. Its
no wonder when 67% of Americans do not believe in "Absolute truth." It is said
that 91% of us lie regularly. Most never make it through a week without lying and 1 out of
5 cannot even make it through one day without telling a lie. Even men of God lie - Ill.
Aaron - Exodus 32:24. Statistics say that people lie 92% of the time to save face and 98%
of the time to keep from offending someone else. But, we have gone way too far when we
tell things on others that we know are untrue.
3. Criticism - What I am referring to are
statements made about another's actions, ways and deeds in an effort to hurt their
reputation. Constructive criticism is a good thing, but destructive criticism is right out
of the pit of Hell! (Ill. The vulture sees nothing but that which is rotten and dead. He
does not see the flowers and the green grass. He does not see the living things all
around. His focus is on that which is dead and corrupt. There are a lot of vultures around
the Lord's house!
(Ill. A lady was looking out her window, watching her neighbor hang her
wash on the clothesline. As she watched, she remarked to a friend, "Our neighbor sure
isn't clean. Why, just look at those streaks on her laundry." Her friend replied,
"Those streaks are on your windows, not her clothes!" Sometimes, it is the sin
in our own heat that makes us look for the evil in others!)
(Ill. If the best thing you can do is criticize, you would do well to
keep your big mouth shut!)
4. Talebearing - This is the practice of
spreading gossip and rumors about others. It may be that the rumors are true. But, even
that does not give us the right to tear down another's reputation. If we learn a secret
about our neighbor, then we had better tell no one but God. He knows how to deal with
their need and with them. I will promise you that He knows how to handle the gossip as
well! Gossip is always a sin!
5. Insinuation - This is the practice of
insinuating or hinting that something may be wrong in the life of another. When we are
guilty of making people doubt another's reputation, we are guilty of sin before the Lord.
(Ill. This is the tactic that Satan tried to use against Job - Job 1:11; 2:5.)
6. Flattery - Flattery is saying something to a
person's face that we would never behind their backs. Usually flattery is given in an
attempt to gain something from that individual. Flattery is lying!
7. Exaggeration - This is an easy lie to tell.
We stretch number, statistics, etc., to make things look better. What fisherman is there
who has not been guilty of stretching the size of the one the got away? When we
exaggerate, we are lying!
8. Silence - When we here an untruth told and we
remain silent, we are guilty of the "slander of silence." We become a party to
the deception by not setting the record straight.
9. "Loose lips sink ships!" This old saying is appropriate to
the church tonight. Many churches are in turmoil because of gossiping and foolish talking
tonight. God will deal with the gossip. Notice what the Word has to say about the trouble
a gossip can cause - Pro. 26:20-28.
C. It Is A Sinful Thing - when we practice any
of these methods in regard to another, we are guilty of sin before the Lord! (Pro. 12:22;
Lev. 19:16-17; Eph. 4:25. In fact, God includes abuses of the tongue as three of the seven
things He hates the most - Pro. 6:16-19.) Are you guilty of using your tongue to harm
another? If so, then you need to repent of that sin and get right with God! When you use
you tongue to attack another, you are opening up your life to the judgment of God. James
is exactly right when he says the tongue is "World of iniquity." The question
tonight is, what shape is your world in?
III. REPUTATIONS SHOULD BE VIGOROUSLY PROTECTED
A. Confront The Gossip - Be quick to stand up
for those who are being torn apart by the mouth of a gossip. We are just as guilty as the
one talking when we stand there listening and do and say nothing in our brother or
sister's defense. Be ready though, most gossips are sneaky, conniving people. They will be
just as ready to turn their sharp tongue on you as they would on anyone else! In fact, if
a gossip will gossip to you, he/she will probably gossip about you!
B. Conceal The Guilty - This does not mean that
we condone sin in the lives of believers. It ides mean, however, that we hesitate about
bringing it out into the open. Many lives have been destroyed because people talked about
others behind their backs and condemned them instead of praying for them and letting God
work it out in His time and in His way.
As usual, God has a word about his matter also, Pro. 11:13; 17:9; 1 Pet.
C. Here is a good practice for living when it comes to what you will say
or refrain from saying. We can form an acrostic from the word THINK. We should THINK
before we speak of another.
T - Is it True?
H - Will it Help?
I - Is it Inspiring?
N - Is it Necessary?
K - Is it Kind?
If what you have to say fails in any of these categories, then it is
pretty safe to say that you would be better off not using your tongue for damage. A
good habit to fall into is that of saying nothing about anyone unless it is good!
Conc: Are you guilty before the Lord tonight of using your tongue in a
manner not pleasing unto Him? If so, then I invite you to come to the altar and get that
thing made right with the Lord. If you have been hurt by the long, wicked tongue of
another, then I invite you to bring that injury to Jesus and let Him heal your heart.
Every child of God needs to search his or her heart and determine for whose glory we are
using our tongues. God help us to do the right thing!