For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15:19, NKJV)
Murder is the outward display of a heart full of malice and hatred. The first recorded murder sprang from the angry heart of Cain, who hated his brother Abel (Genesis 4:4-8; 1 John 3:11-15). While the outward results of hatred versus murder are usually quite different, the sin of hatred is just as evil. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:14-15). Both the slaying of an innocent person (murder) and hatred of a brother produce spiritual death. Cultivating love for one’s neighbor guards against the sin of hatred as well as the ultimate acting out of that hatred – murder. “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).
20 Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. 21 As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body. (Proverbs 26:20–22, NKJV)
An entire industry exists to peddle gossip. From People magazine, to TMZ website, to E! News (whose byline is, “Your source for entertainment news, celebrities, celeb news, and celebrity gossip”) – millions and millions of dollars are spent on “tasty trifles” about the “rich and famous” (or, infamous). Gossip is a sin that causes division and strife (1 Peter 4:15). It spreads rumors that harm reputations and destroys relationships. It expresses a cowardly heart, backbiting, but rarely actually facing the person being smeared. The way to stop gossip is not to give it fuel; do not listen to the gossiper. Remember, the person who gossips to you about someone, is also more than likely gossiping about you to someone else. Gossip is an evil that will only stop when the heart is purified of its malice, and kindness is put in its place (Ephesians 4:31-32). That requires godly sorrow, producing repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … 3 He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; (Psalm 15:1, 3, NKJV)
The ninth command God spoke to Israel from the mountain forbade them to bear false witness against their neighbor. Yet, it became a common sin in Judah, for which God rejected them (Jer. 6:28-30). The slanderous use of the tongue continues to be a common sin that prevents many souls from entering God’s presence. Backbiting draws a vivid picture of one who approaches unnoticed, from behind, to launch a deadly attack against an unsuspecting soul. Just as God receives the one who “speaks the truth in his heart,” He rejects the one who uses his tongue maliciously (Psa. 15:2-3). Drive out malice from your heart in order to remove backbiting from your tongue, so that kindness and compassion may take its place (Eph. 4:31-32).
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Bitterness is like acid eating through one’s heart. Gone is empathy, kindness and merciful forgiveness toward one who sins against the bitter of heart. The companions of bitterness are angry, resentful responses, evil words and ill will. Christians must put away all these things from their hearts. This is done by recalling the kindness of God toward us in Christ. God could have been bitter toward us because of our sins against Him. But His kind love forgives us in Jesus. There is no room in our hearts for bitter resentment. Be kind. Be merciful. Forgive. That’s how God has treated you in His Son.