by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 27 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Justice)

"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." James 3:5,6

Notice how many times the word "fire" is used in that Scripture. God says that the tongue is a fire, and the fire which the tongue gets comes from the fires of Hell! That's exactly what He says. The Bible says that when someone misuses his tongue, he is using his tongue as a fire, and that fire comes from Hell. The word used for Hell in this passage is the word "Gehenna," not "Hades." Gehenna is the final lake of fire that comes after the Great White Throne Judgment.

Proverbs 26:20, "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth." What is the "fire" talked about here? The fire is the tongue. The fire that flows from an evil tongue comes from Hell. Notice, "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out." That means we must keep the wood away from the fire! In order for the fire to go out, keep the wood away from it!

In the Bible, good words are often referred to as "incense being burned," the odor of which goes up to God. Revelation 5:8 speaks of ". . .golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints." The prayers of Christians are sweet perfume to God.

On the altar of incense, spices were burning all the time. The fire came from the altar that was out in the courtyard of the tabernacle.

The altar of incense was in front of the veil which covered the area called the Holy of Holies.

Notice again, Proverbs 26:20, "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth."

The word "talebearer" means "spice peddler." Did anyone ever tell you a spicy tale? That is where it comes from. That person was a spice peddler! So in order to stop the fire, we must keep the wood away from it. In order to stop the fire of the tongue, we must keep the spice away from the fire! The Bible says that the fire will go out if there is no wood. Likewise, we must keep the spice away from the fire. Somewhere along the line, somebody must decide not to spread it or pass it along.

Let me tell you how gossip goes. As gossip keeps being passed along, it keeps on burning and burning. Nobody passes it along just to one person. Gossip gets passed to several people, and they each tell several more people. The farther it goes, the more hundreds of people hear the spicy news. This is talebearing. People who carry it are spice peddlers!

We must stop the spice from getting on the fire, for there it will burn and burn and never stop. Well, we should want to stop it. Every time the Lord rebukes us for being talebearers, He is rebuking us for being spice peddlers. God says that is sin! We are not to be spice peddlers or talebearers. How are we going to keep that spice from getting on the fire where it will burn and burn and never stop? We must keep it from getting there!

Proverbs 20:19, "He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips" The Bible says that the same person who flatters with his lips is also the talebearer. The talebearer has a way of saying it; he often says something like this: "Pray for so-and-so. He is a good man, but...." Then he "buts" him to death for a while! The "but" then leads to a tale or a bad report and is always preceded by flattering lips. A talebearer is often not openly malicious. He is smart enough to want to appear spiritual. He tries to look as though he is trying to help someone.

How can we avoid this awful activity of spice peddling? How can we keep the spice from the fire?

1. Do not associate with spice peddlers. You cannot get their spice if you do not associate with them. Proverbs 22:10, "Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease." God says not to associate with a talebearer. Do not associate with a spice peddler that person who likes to tell you something spicy, true or false! Do not run with people like that. Do not hang around them. Do not take them out to eat. Do not go out to eat with them. Do not be good friends with them. Be courteous to them, but tell them you have no use for their spices! The odor of that spice would spread everywhere. Stay away from it. Do not let that juicy gossip get on the fire.

So, the first thing God says is not to associate with them. You ask, "If we do not associate with them, how will we help them?" Not one place in the Bible are we told to help a talebearer! The Bible says to help the drunkard, the adulterer, the thief, the liar, the crooked, but you cannot show me one place in the Bible where anyone is told to lift up the talebearer! Why? When you see a drunkard staggering down the street vomiting in the gutter, you know that is bad, and he knows it is bad. He knows he is in deep sin. It looks bad to everyone, and you can lift him. However, a talebearer does not look that bad, and he will affect you!

I was at a church, and the Pastor showed me a letter that one of his members sent out to the other members. The letter said, "Pray for our pastor. He is a good man, but he has done...and needs our prayers." Do you see what that crook did? He was appearing to be spiritual by asking prayer for the pastor. He did not say to pray for him as he preaches; he did not say to pray for God to give Him power; he said for them to pray for him because he (according to the spice peddler) did something wrong.

If we associate with the spice peddler, before we know it, we will become one also. Maybe we did not know he was a talebearer. Perhaps we had never seen or heard him bear spicy tidbits before, but now we know, so we should not be with him!

2. Do not take the spice. You should not even have been with the spice peddler, but maybe you didn't know, so as soon as you recognize his conversation as something negative, you should say, "I really don't need to know that! I don't need to know, and I don't want to know!" Don't take the spice! By the way, you ought to be vigorous in your rejection. If you take it, you become a talebearer! "Bearing" means "to hold something up." You are now holding the spice or the tale because you accepted it!

We must keep that spice from getting on the fire, for if there is no wood, there will be no fire. If the incense gets by, the odor is going to fill the whole place.

Proverbs 25:23, "The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue." Be absolute in your rejection of the spice. Drive it away!

People who listen to the spicy stuff are affected by it. The spice peddler has a terrible affect on the one who receives the spice. In many cases, people who take the spice end up leaving the church. Most of them do not end up in a fundamental church! The talebearer is destroyed!

I can tell you about people who told spicy lies, and in many cases, they are not doing much of anything for God, but the people against whom they lied well, they are doing fine and going right on for God! For your sake, do not become a spice peddler, and do not take spice when it is offered to you!

3. Be disturbed if the spice peddler has given you his spice. You listened to it, so you already have it. You are sorry you have it, but you can't give spice back. You can give back something you steal, but you can't give spice back.

Once you have the tale, what should you do? Give him an angry countenance, and let him know you do not appreciate it! Let him know that you do not believe that it is true!

It is an awful thing to be a custodian of something bad. I hate for someone to tell me something bad about somebody else because then I know it, and in a moment of weakness, I might say it! I do not want that responsibility, so I do not want that spice. I have to do everything I can not to know it.

By the way, after a while folks will know that you will not take spice. We have had folks who have worked for me who thought they knew something bad about someone, so they got mad, quit their jobs and left the church because they thought I allowed it to go on. What they did not know is, I am not a spice peddler like they are, and I did not know that stuff was going on. Usually it was not even going on at all!

4. Break your association with the spice peddlers. Some of you are there right now. Some of your best friends are spice peddler. You say, "Brother Hyles, what should I do?" Break your friendship. Just tell them, "I am sorry. I love you. I will be your friend until I die as far as helping you is concerned, but it is not good for me to be around you. I cannot do it."

5. Do not deliver the spice. Proverbs 20:19a, "He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets." The secret is the tale, the spice. Do not associate with one who has spice. If you do get the spice from someone, though you tried to avoid getting it, do not pass it on!

Ladies and gentlemen, I promise you, that is the hardest thing known to mankind. You know what I am going to say right now. Don't trust yourself with spice. Don't trust yourself with it. I don't care who you are. You will tell your wife, and if you do, you are a spice peddler. You will tell your husband, and if you do, you are a spice peddler. Please do not trust yourself with spice. Do everything you can not to get spice in your hand. You should even avoid certain people!

I have preached with some spice peddlers around the country. There are pastor who are spice peddlers. Do you know what I do when I get with them? I plan what we are going to talk about. When I am met at the airport, I keep asking questions until I get to the motel. Why? I am trying to keep from getting spice. I am trying to keep from being rude. If I have to be rude and not take the spice, I will be rude. I will tell them that I do not want to hear it.

A pastor picked me up at the airport when I went to preach in a city out East, and before he put the car in the second gear he said, "Did you hear about so-and-so?"

I said, "Is it good or bad?"

He said, "Bad."

I said, "I do not want to hear it."

He said, "You are going to hear it while you are here."

I said, "I am not going to hear it, and I am not going to hear it from you right now either."

He said, "I am going to tell you, because I want you to know what the truth is."

I said, "Stop the car!"

He stopped the car, and I got out.

He said, "Where are you going?"

I said, "I am going back to the airplane and back home to Chicago. I did not come to hear bad news. I came here to spread good news."

He said, "I promise that I won't tell you. Now will you get back in the car?"

I said, "I will get back in the car." He did not tell me. Nobody else did either. I still do not know what it was that he was trying to spread.

I am not trying just to keep you from hurting other people. I am trying to keep you from hurting yourself. If you never tell it, you are still going to smell like it. I used to smell like tobacco whenever I got off an airplane. I never smoked a cigarette. Once you hear that spicy stuff, it is going to be on you. It is a part of you. It is already programmed in the computer.

6. Do not deliver what you have not seen. If you did not see it, do not tell it to anybody! Obviously, you have absolutely nothing to tell.

7. Do not deliver what you have seen to anybody but the authority over that area. Let us suppose that Brother Evans saw Brother Young's daughter out drinking. Should Brother Evans tell Brother Young? Yes, I think he should. He shouldn't tell him if he heard it. He should tell him only if he saw it. If he saw it, he should not tell Brother Lapina; he should not tell Brother Mc-Kinney or Brother Boardway; he should tell only the one who has the authority over that person. Deliver it to someone responsible for that individual. Do not deliver it to the wrong person!

8. Conceal it. Proverbs 17:9, "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends." Proverbs 11:13, 'A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithfulspirit concealeth the matter." What does it mean? It means you are to conceal it from everybody except the one who can do something about it. That is exactly what it means.

Proverbs 12:16, 'A fools wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame." I know what you are thinking. The Bible says that you should not cover sin. You should not tell people about someone else's sin, except the one responsible for the group that person is in. If you see one of our deacons down at a Calumet City tavern drunk tomorrow night, you let me know. If you only hear about it, do not bother me telling me anything. Do not tell anybody else. Do not tell your husband or wife, your brother or sister, or anybody else. I am not saying to cover it up. I am saying to uncover it only where it is supposed to be uncovered. Then, forget it!

People come to my office with a problem. They have done something terribly wrong. They will come to my office again six months later about something else. They will say, "Brother Hyles, I am doing better about my problem." I want to say, "What problem?" for I have forgotten it. I really have. When someone tells me something bad, I do not put it in a deep groove in my memory. That is what the Bible means here. Each one of us should be "a prudent man" that "covereth shame." When someone has given you some spice, conceal it from yourself.

Do not be a spice peddler. Do not let that spice get on the fire so that the odor will not fill the place. Let your tongue practice justice!


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