For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
-- Proverbs 26:20
During World War I and World War II, enemy submarine attacks cost the United States and its allies thousands of lives and millions of tons-worth of shipping. The ship captains tried to protect their vessels by sailing in convoys guarded by naval escorts. But all too often, the submarines were waiting. And the results were both devastating and deadly.
The U.S. Government placed some of the blame on spies, who could pass along the convoys' sailing schedules to enemy forces. The spies often got their information by overhearing the careless talk of off-duty servicemen, who might be discussing their wartime adventures with family or friends. To help prevent these dangerous disclosures to the enemy, the government established rules of conduct for the military--and civilians alike--that became known by the slogan, Loose Lips Sink Ships.
In wartime, careless overheard words can lead to lost battles, planes and ships...and not to mention deaths and other casualties. And although it's not in the headlines, Christ-followers are at war right now. The Apostle Paul tells us through Ephesians 6:12 that we're facing spiritual "powers and principalities" (also known as the devil and his demons). There are no tanks or machine guns in this real-life combat zone. But loose lips can still cause immense damage and spiritual death when the wrong words are overhead by the wrong person.
Gossip is one of the most destructive weapons on the spiritual battlefield. And as Proverbs 16:28 reminds us, "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and gossip separates friends." So insidious is gossip that it's actually possible to spread it through a seemingly sincere prayer request among well-meaning Christ-followers! Likewise, complaints and criticism are destructive cousins of gossip that can both wear out and cut down their target. The fact is--as innocent as they may seem at the time--our words can either give life or bring death. The same mouth that tells a child, "I'm proud of you" can just as easily utter, "You'll never amount to anything."
It takes more than a Band Aid solution to replace the toxic talk from our loose lips. In fact, it's a heart issue requiring immediate surgery. The first step for Christ-followers is to consistently pray for God's help so our words and actions are a true reflection of His Son, Jesus. Let's first think before we speak. Will our words bring with them life...or death?
"Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord," prayed King David through Psalm 141:3. "Keep watch over the door of my lips."