When I think of gossip, sometimes one of those characters from a movie or book comes to mind. Like the one who runs around the small town spreading “news” about something that’s inaccurate or insignificant. And since I never do that, I never think of myself as a gossip.
Maybe, but maybe not.
Merriam-Webster defines gossip as “a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others” or “rumor or report of an intimate nature” or “the subject matter of a gossip.”
The longer I live, the more I’ve come to believe that gossip is far too prevalent in the modern church. It can masquerade as a prayer request or seeking counsel. It could sound like “did you hear…?” or “I don’t know about you, but I disagreed with several points in the sermon” or “did you see Hyatt and Waldo talking after the meeting today? Do you think they’re discussing last week’s controversy?” Such conversations may be absolutely necessary, or they could have vibes of speculation, rumor, and speaking on matters about which one possess little knowledge.
Gossiping is not a victimless sin nor a harmless sin.
Too often I fail to put into practice the adage, “if you’re not directly part of the problem or directly part of the solution, it’s none of your business.”
More importantly, here’s a scripture on the topic of communication.
“[Remind them] to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” Titus 3:2 NKJV.
“Speaking the truth in love…“ Ephesians 4:15.
“nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” 1 Timothy 1:4.
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” Ephesians 4:29 (emphasis added).
One of the most godly individuals I have known (he is now with the Lord) was a man out of whose mouth I never heard an unkind word about another. He took to heart the Bible’s instruction, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). How wonderful it would be if all Christians followed this saintly man’s example.
Gossip may be defined as speaking ill of another outside of their presence. The motivation is generally selfish—i.e., to make oneself seem better than the other by discrediting the other’s character, abilities, or actions.
Oftentimes gossip is based on fact although at times it may be either exaggerated or blatantly false. Whether truthful, exaggerated, or false, gossip usually has consequences far beyond those intended.
There are at least three ways in which gossip destroys relationships in the church body:
- It is divisive
Gossip usually takes the form of “so and so did such and such.” The implication is that neither the gossiper nor the one with whom he is speaking would ever have done such a thing. In other words, the gossiper and his listener are of one “class” and the one gossiped about is of a lower character.
- It is destructive
By its very nature, gossip seeks to discredit and impugn the character of the one gossiped about. It is the opposite of the Bible’s command “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).
- It results in offenses
Frequently both the gossip and the person who is the originator of the gossip will become known. Naturally, this results in offense and resentment. As the Bible says, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city” (Proverbs 18:19). Interpersonal relationships are destroyed and close fellowship is broken.
A notable aspect of gossip is that once it is committed, once a person has been slandered, it is impossible to completely retract the gossip. The damage may possibly be mitigated but it will never be completely erased.
How much better to faithfully follow the simple instruction of Scripture, “To speak evil of no man” (Titus 3:2)
Church is a closely interconnected group of people often with bonds between them as strong as a natural family. The issue of gossiping at these levels should never be overlooked. Because you are part of someone’s church does not mean you need to know all aspects of their life. If a person decides to keep things private it is important to honor their desire and it is inappropriate to expose someone’s personal matters without their approval. Another issue is that when a person gets catapulted into gossiping he or she starts to care less about their own life and instead keeps talking about other’s life. This is a way of escape.
“Christians don’t gossip, they just share prayer requests”
Scripture is filled with warnings against the destructive power and divisive nature of gossip. The author of the book of Proverbs states: He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with gossip (Proverbs 20:19 NASB). God forbids the act of gossip from Torah to the Prophets, indeed in every section of the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament we find similar warnings.
Dangers of engaging in gossip:
- Gossip is rooted in the idleness of believers. Instead of engaging in God’s commandment believers choose to be idle (1 Tim 5:13) and instead of sharing the love of Christ, they choose to be the devil’s mouthpiece and make themselves busy by engaging in gossip.
- Scripture says the effect of gossip is disastrous. Proverbs 16:28; 17:9 talk about how gossip separates intimate friendship. Scripture talks about the blessings of having friends. Indeed, godly friends are vital for one’s emotional and spiritual growth. Gossip can ruin friendships by instilling a lack of trust and provoking misunderstandings. A gossiper reveals secrets entrusted to him and thus is an untrustworthy person (Proverbs 11:13).
- Engaging in unconstrained speech leads to transgression (Pro 10:19). Failure to bridle the tongue causes hurt both for the one who engages in the gossip and the one who is the victim of the gossip (Proverbs 18:6-7 & 21:23).
- God condemns and judges gossiping and gossipers. In Leviticus 19:16 God specifically prohibits gossiping. This sin is so disgraceful to God that the Lord attaches His name to this command (Do not go about spreading slander among your people – Leviticus 19:16). In fact, when we slander our fellow human beings or a fellow believer, we slander the “imago dei” (image of God). God considers gossip a very serious sin and pronounces judgment against gossipers. In Psalm 101:5 He says that He will destroy the slanderers. Scripture also calls slanderers fools (Proverbs 10:18) and in Romans 1:29-30 they are declared to be under God’s wrath. The Lord Jesus said that those who engage in such careless speech will have to give account for it on the day of judgment.
Even the secular world condemns this vicious act. John Dryden, a seventeenth-century British dramatist and poet, once commented on man’s propensity to gossip: There is a lust in man no charm can tame, of loudly publishing his neighbor’s shame. Hence, on eagles’ wings immortal scandals fly, while virtuous actions are but born and die.
Gossiping is an intimately closer way of associating oneself with the Devil’s character. It is not a work of holiness but rather corruptness.
Somehow many people think it is not a sin or not a dangerous thing to do. Clearly as seen through the Scriptural warning gossiping is not a victimless sin nor a harmless sin. It has an alluring power, and a dangerous one indeed, and churches and believers should not encourage it.
Featured image titled Gossip by Eugene de Blass dated 1903