When The Devil Bites

When The Devil Bites

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Tasmanian devils are named for their chilling shrieks that can be heard when the sun goes down on the island of Tasmania. The sound of the devils crying in the night reminded the early colonists of the mythical hellhounds. Despite their terrifying calls, these creatures aren’t as much of a danger to humans as they are to themselves. Not so long ago a vicious cancer began killing these animals and the cause of the disease was a mystery. As scientists began to study them, they discovered that the cancerous tumors were self-inflicted. It’s not uncommon for the Tasmanian devils to fight and bite one another over a carcass or the rights to a female. A devil’s ears will burn a bright red color when they become upset but by lashing out at one another they further their own extinction. The bites they inflict on one another are likely to develop into the mutating cancer that will grow until they succumb to the disease itself, or starvation. You won’t see the ugly side of these animals in Looney Tunes, but there are some valuable lessons to be learned from this. At times we can be guilty of destroying one another through gossip or complaining and, sadly, the church isn’t immune to this disease. It’s no wonder that God warns us about the dangers through His New Testament authors. 

Consider the following verses: 

“Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” James 5.9 

“But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5.15 

“We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.” 

I Corinthians 10.9-10 

While there’s much to be said about the damage that the tongue can inflict, it’s more productive to discuss solutions to the problem. Ironically, it’s a lack of productivity that often spawns gossip and complaints. As the old adage goes, 

“When there’s nothing to see and do, there’s much to hear and say.” 

Sadly, the darker side of closeness, history, and intimacy can be the breeding ground of gossip. The wounds inflicted and the trust that’s broken can be difficult, if not impossible, to repair. A song we teach to small children should be modeled by adults. 

O be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little ears what you hear

For the Father up above

Is looking down in love

So, be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little tongue what you say

O be careful little tongue what you say

For the Father up above

Is looking down in love

So, be careful little tongue what you say

Three Ways To Fight The Bite

  1. Avoid being a spreader. It will build your integrity and trustworthiness. 
  2. Make it a point to speak highly of the person being slandered. 
  3. Offer biblical solutions instead of contributing to the gossip. This assumes the person spreading the gossip is genuinely concerned about the person(s) they’re talking about. Have they confronted the subject of their gossip (Matt. 18.15-20)? If they’re unwilling to act but willing to talk— avoid them. 

On the last night of His life Jesus prayed the following, 

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17.20-21 

If unity was on the mind of the Savior even as He faced the cross, it must be important. 

Unity: without it there’s pain but with it there’s unlimited power. 

via Flickr (credit: Mike Prince)