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Ancient Wisdom for Modern Man: The Rumor Weed

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I’ve entitled this morning’s message The Rumor Weed, based on a Veggie Tale entitled Larry Boy and The Rumor Weed. In this Veggie Tale episode, Junior Asparagus and Laura Carrot learn the hard way just how easily rumors can get started when they accidentally launch a whopper of a story about Larry-Boy’s butler, Alfred. They take an innocuous statement that Alfred makes to them and somehow reach the conclusion that Alfred is in reality an alien robot who’s going to take over the earth. They then innocently repeat their thoughts to a nocuous weed who then begins to spread the rumor all over Bumblyburg. The weed feeds on more rumor and eventually takes over then entire town.

    • Play the VCR tape.

Did you catch the lyrics to The Rumor Weed Song? “It starts as a story. Maybe it’s true, maybe not, but once you repeat it, it’s hard to defeat it. Now look at the mess that you’ve got! I’m a rumor weed! I’m a rumor weed! A tiny little story is all I need to make a big mess.”

A rumor, as the song implies, is like a weed that grows so fast that it gets out of control, until you are left with a big mess with which you are completely puzzled with what to do. The rumor weed is only finally defeated when the citizens of Bumblybug discover the rumor is untrue and begin saying nice things about Alfred.

This morning we are going to resume our journey through the Book of Proverbs by looking at what Solomon has to say about spreading rumors.

    • Read the Scripture text.

I. THE ROOTS OF RUMORS

        1. the Bible contains strong warnings about spreading rumors and gossiping
            • "He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip." (Proverbs 20:19, NASB95)
            • "Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, And do not deceive with your lips." (Proverbs 24:28, NASB95)
              1. the Apostle James tells us that the tongue is a fire and that it can have a corrupting affect upon our lives if we do not bring it under the Lordship of Jesus Christ
          1. yet rumor mongering continues to be a plague upon God's people because, in all honesty, we enjoy it
              1. the English Standard Version translates Proverbs 26:22 this way ...
                • "The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body." (Proverbs 26:22, ESV)
              2. now technology has brought us an entirely new way of gossiping
                  1. it is just as sinful as before, but now it is easier than ever to spread rumors about others
                  2. we can gossip electronically, via email!
                  3. why do we gossip?

A 1st WE LOVE OUR INSIDER STATUS MORE THAN WE LOVE PEOPLE

    • "Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." (James 3:5-6, NIV)
          1. we seldom think about the implications for the person we’re spreading rumors about
              1. our thoughts are usually on being the first one to spread the news so that ...
                  1. we’ll get credit for being ‘in-the-know’, and ...
                  2. we’ll get others to share their rumors with us when they’ve got some delicious morsels
                    • ILLUS. It goes like this. Virginia asks Molly: “Hi Molly, how's your day going?” Molly sighs, “Not so great. Jordan Peters was a real monster in class this morning!” To which Virginia responds, “Oh, I know. His brother's just as bad.” “Yeah, well, wait until you get Jordan next year!” exclaims Molly. Virginia leans in and says in a low voice, “I probably shouldn't say this, but their mom's seeing someone and she just doesn't have time for them. They want attention and they don't care how they get it.” Molly smiles and responds, “I’ve heard he has stayed over several nights. You’d think she would at least wait until the divorce was finalized.” Virginia ends the conversation by saying, “I know; it's terrible. If you hear anything new let me know.”
              2. it’s a conversation you might hear in any teacher’s lounge at school or the foyer of a church’s Sunday School wing
          2. the simple but hard truth is that we are raising ourselves up by stomping others down
          3. the simple but hard truth is that we are enhancing our own self-image without consideration that others must foot the bill
          4. the simple but hard truth is that we are willing to destroy other’s reputations and lives in order to improve our standing

B. 2nd WE LOVE TO EGG ON A GOOD FIGHT

    • "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends." (Proverbs 16:28, NIV)
    • "Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down." (Proverbs 26:20, NIV)
          1. there are those times, when we just enjoy stirring the pot!
            • ILLUS. One of my all-time favorite Hollywood musicals is Fiddler on the Roof. It’s about a milkman named Tevye who regularly finds himself talking to God about the problems purposely stirring up dissension! In the opening scenes, Tevye is talking to the audience and he’s telling us about the village he lives in and it’s people. He says, “And among ourselves, we always get along perfectly well. Of course, there was the time when Percheck sold Laben a horse, and told him it was only six years old when it was really 12. But now it's all over. And we all live in simple peace and harmony.” Then Tevye smiles, leans into Percheck and whispers in his ear, “It was really 12 years old.” Percheck shouts, “It was six!” And suddenly the argument is on!
          2. sometimes we gossip because we like to sit back and watch the results!

C. 3rd WE HARBOR BITTER ENVY AND SELFISH AMBITION

          1. the Apostle James refers to this problem in the 3rd chapter of his epistle
            • "But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth."/ (James 3:14, ESV)
          2. how often has rumor mongering and talebearing been the means of advancing a career by destroying or damaging the career of a co-worker?
              1. Solomon tells us in verse 25 that even when such a person speaks graciously, do not believe him

D. 4th OUR HEARTS ARE NOT RIGHT

          1. the use of your tongue reveals what you are really like on the inside
            • ILLUS. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about this when he said that they were like tombs – White and polished and respectable on the outside, but full of corruption on the inside.
              1. Solomon tells us in verse 23, that the person who spreads rumors has burning lips
              2. he has burning lips because he had a wicked heart
          2. the language you use, more than anything else about you, presents an image to the world of your inner self – of who and what you really are
              1. if you are a critical of others in your language, it’s a fair indication that by nature you are a critical person
              2. if your language is gloomy and melancholic and joyless with little inflection, it’s a good bet that you’re an unhappy person
              3. if your language is uplifting and encouraging you’re probably a joyful person
              4. it you are a righteous person because Jesus has made a difference in your character and conduct, that is also going to show up in your speech and the way you talk
          3. what you are comes out in the way you talk
          4. if you have a problem with the content of your tongue the first thing you need to do is check out the condition of your heart
              1. the only way to change your heart it to turn to God and humble yourself as David did when he prayed:
                • Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” NIV
              2. I like the way the Living Bible translates this verse: Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires.

II. THE RESULTS OF RUMORS

          1. a spirit of rumor mongering is at its core murderous
              1. the 6th Commandment tells us that we should not murder
              2. Jesus came along, and in His Sermon on the Mount tells us that just as intentionally killing taking someone’s physical life is wrong, so is intentionally killing that person’s character with words as equally wrong
                • "You know that our ancestors were told, “Do not murder” and “A murderer must be brought to trial.” 22But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell." (Matthew 5:21-22, CEV)
              3. the result of spreading rumors is that lives are damaged or destroyed, money is lost, reputations are ruined, churches are split
          2. rumor mongers often use the excuse that they are only being honest as they covertly report to their listeners
              1. but ‘points for honesty’ are negated the moment our words bring reproach upon the target of our tales
          3. anytime we engage in spreading rumors, backbiting or gossip or a whispering campaign on any level, we harm
              1. Rumors will destroy the joy of fellowship
                • "As a north wind brings rain, so a sly tongue brings angry looks." (Proverbs 25:23, NIV)
                  1. joy is a fruit of the spirit, but where there is evil talk the Spirit of God is absent
                    • "For, Whoever would l ove life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it." (1 Peter 3:10-11, NIV)
              2. Rumors will diminish your testimony
                  1. Jesus said we would love each other
                  2. if we give evidence to the contrary through gossip, the world will have every right to judge us negatively
                    • "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman ... “ (Psalm 15:1-2, NIV)
              3. Rumors will demoralize a church
                  1. No church will effectively do the work of the ministry where tongues are out of control
                    • “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” (Proverbs 26:20, NIV)

III. THE REMEDY FOR RUMORS

          1. there is only one remedy for the rumor weed ... repentance

A. 1st IF YOU ARE SPREADING RUMORS ... STOP IT!

    • "Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges Him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it." (James 4:11, NIV)
          1. what if the observation about the person is true?
            • “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you." (Colossians 3:12-13, NIV)
              1. T-H-I-N-K before you speak by asking yourself five questions before you pass along information
                  1. T – is it True?
                  2. H – is it Helpful?
                  3. I – is it Inspirational?
                  4. N – is it Necessary?
                  5. K – is it Kind?

B. 2nd IF YOU ARE LISTENING TO RUMORS ... STOP IT!

    • “A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue.” (Proverbs 17:4, NIV)
          1. there are two sides to this coin ... those who speak ... and those who listen ... both are defiled ... both are in sin, and both will ruin their testimony and ultimately destroy their church
              1. Saul was poisoned by those who slandered David
                • “[David] said to Saul, "Why do you listen when men say, 'David is bent on harming you'?” (1 Samuel 24:9, NIV)
          2. the Christian should have a deaf ear when it comes to rumors
            • ILLUS. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher Socrates, and said to him: “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about your friend?” “Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test.” “Triple filter?” “That's right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're going to say. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?” “No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and...” “All right,” said Socrates. “So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?” “No, on the contrary...”“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you're not certain it's true. You may still pass the test though, because there's one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?” “No, not really.” “Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”/
          3. if you are listening to gossip ... stop it!

C. 3rd AVOID PEOPLE WHO SPREAD RUMORS

    • "He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip." (Proverbs 20:19, NIV)
    • "But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer ... With such a man do not even eat." (1 Corinthians 5:11, NIV)

D. 4th MAKE IT YOUR AMBITION TO HEAL WOUNDS

    • “For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” (Proverbs 26:20)
          1. a rumor can be like coals in a fire – them may appear to have died out, but when you take a stick and stir them around, they often reignite and begin to burn again?
            • ILLUS. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln’s coffin was opened in 1887 because a rumor had convinced many people that the pine box was empty. To the surprise of many, Lincoln’s body was found just as it had been buried twenty-two years earlier. Some good rumors never die, however. Fourteen years later the same rumor circulated again. The critics would not be silenced, so Lincoln’s body was exhumed again, and again his body was right where it was supposed to be.
          2. just like in Bumblyburg, it’s almost impossible to retract a rumor once it’s been started
              1. like the citizens of Bumblybur, wounds are healed only by kind words

E. 5th GUARD YOUR HEART AND YOUR MOUTH AT ALL TIME

    • “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32, NIV)

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God calls us to live above the spreading of tales.

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