Reminder #4: Speak evil of no one
Remind them . . . to speak evil of no one.... (Titus 3:1–2, ESV)
Uh, oh. I think he's talking about gossip here. I've always thought of gossip as the sin no one commits. Everybody recognizes that it's bad and sinful, but I truly don't think I've heard anyone ever say, "Hey, would you please pray for me. I'm really struggling with this sin . . . it's kind of embarrassing to say, but, well, my lips have been pretty loose lately."
But I've always thought the definition a little slippery to nail down as well. Knowing what exactly this sin is, is the key to knowing if it's an issue in our own life.
The specific word used in Titus 3 means "slander, revile, defame, speak irreverently/impiously/disrespectfully of or about." (William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 178).
But God's concern about our speech goes even beyond unkind words. The Bible frequently commands us to avoid evil speech, but also forbids idle chatter and passing along juicy tidbits about the lives of others.
In the New Bible Dictionary (D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 1150), Paul Ellingworth pull together some excellent scriptures on this topic that are worth a careful look:
These words translate, in the OT, expressions implying secrecy (Pr. 18:8, ‘whisperer’), evil report (Nu. 14:36), the giving out (Ps. 50:20) or carrying (Pr. 11:13) of slander, or the (wrong) use of tongue (Ps. 101:5) or feet (2 Sa. 19:27). In the NT the words translate accusation (1 Tim. 3:11, diabolos), speaking against (2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Pet. 2:1, katalalia) or defaming (Rom. 3:8, blasphēmeō). All talebearing, whether false (cf. Mt. 5:11) or not (cf. Dn. 3:8), malicious (Ps. 31:13; Ezk. 22:9) or foolish (Pr. 10:18; cf. 18:8 = 26:22; Mt. 12:36), especially between neighbours (Je. 9:4) or brothers (Jas. 4:11), is condemned (Lv. 19:16) and punished (Ps. 101:5) by God, and causes quarrelling (Pr. 26:20). Slander springs from the heart (Mk. 7:22) of the natural man (Rom. 1:30), excludes from God’s presence (Ps. 15:3), and must be banished from the Christian community (2 Cor. 12:20; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; 1 Pet. 2:1; cf. [of women] 1 Tim. 3:11; Tit. 2:3), which itself suffers slander (Mt. 5:11; cf. Rom. 3:8).
May we remember to guard our words today and bring honor to our Savior by the way we speak.