The Sin of Gossip

Our Favorite Busybody

If you are anything like me, the word gossip brings to mind a picture of an older lady with a face that resembles that of Rachel Lynde, the nosy neighbor from Anne of Green Gables. Mrs. Lynde was the one who kept a keen eye on all the goings on in Avonlea and “from brooks and children up… if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.”1

While Rachel Lynde is a stereotype and her opinionated character adds hilarious drama and interest to the books, one must admit that if she was our neighbor she would be a downright nuisance, and we would be horrified to find ourselves to be anything like her.

Sinful Gossip

According to Webster, gossip is defined as “information about behaviour and personal lives of other people, or a person who often talks about the private details of other people’s lives.”2 By this definition, gossip is not that one is simply speaking of another but that one is sharing secret things. Proverbs has something to say about that:

Whoever goes about [gossiping] reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered (Proverbs 11:13 NKJV).

There is an undeniable thrill that comes with knowing information that others do not and being the one to drop the bomb on a conversation whether in a small group of friends or with the prayer circle at church. It is not just a stereotypical Rachel Lynde that fits the description of a gossip. Young or old, male or female, all are susceptible. To be a gossip is relatively easy and many are without realizing it. Admittedly, women are most prone to gossip (sorry ladies), and Paul wrote to Timothy about their tendency to gossip, saying:

“they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13 NKJV).

Notice that Paul addresses idleness before gossip, which makes sense. Who, being too busy in their own affairs, concerns themselves with others’ private matters? Proverbs says it well: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”3 “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace.”4

More than Mere Words

There are other words that the Bible uses interchangeably with gossip. One is slander, which is “to make a false spoken statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone.”5 Undisciplined speech leads to gossip, and gossip destroys. Slander is speech with the intent of destroying someone’s character or reputation, while gossip is found in idle and mindless chatter.6

“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of of a brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:11-12)

“When Scripture warns against gossip (Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Timothy 5:13), it is applying an entire understanding of God, Jesus, his word, his image, his plan, his salvation, and his people,” writes Paul Maxwell in his article on gossip for Desiring God.6 “God judges gossip to be arrogant (Proverbs 21:24) and foolish (Proverbs 9:8) because it is so unlike and in contradiction with the character of his own speech.”7

When God speaks it is always direct and forthcoming. He is never passively aggressive8 as gossip is about other people. Jesus, when interceding for us to the Father, only speaks for our good in love and with a plan to help us. Gossip is the opposite of who God is.

While there is a time that one should speak, there are guidelines to follow. God designed His church as a body, a functioning unit that cannot live apart from its members. Jesus instructed in Matthew 18 that brothers should go to each other when there is sin. “…If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” (emphasis added). This open dialogue between the two persons must be pursued even if the sinning brother will not repent; it is vital for the health of the body, the church.

Judging Grace

Behind each slander and gossipy tidbit is a judgmental spirit. Gossip puts the person being talked about in a circle with the gossipers standing around pointing their fingers. Paul Tripp says, “Judgment is easier than mercy. It’s easier to stand apart from somebody and point a finger than it is to patiently walk alongside of them, to love them, to forgive them, to get your hands dirty as you help them bear the burden of change.”9

As humans, we quickly judge something and are apt to share our conclusion on the matter with the first willing listener. Often our conclusions are wrong and we honestly have no understanding of the situation because we are on the outside looking in. Instead of assuming we know all that there is to know and if we are genuinely concerned (not just curious!) about a brother or sister in the church, talk to them about it. Seek to hear them and their reasoning behind whatever it is they are doing. Desire to be gracious; extend mercy and grace to them. Be willing to be the one to come alongside them and “get your hands dirty.”

The battle starts in the mind. When we continue to think negatively about someone in our minds, of course we are going to then judge and speak of them accordingly. Trite as Philippians 4:8 may sound to some of you, I encourage you to read it again with consideration and imagine it’s the first time you are reading it. “…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Beautiful Speech

We work, live, and interact daily with people. To not talk about them would be next to impossible. There are good things to be said that build up, and there are ways that are not wrong when speaking “behind someone’s back,” so to say. The next time you are tempted to share personal information about someone, run it through the Philippians 4:8 filter. But this verse isn’t a foolproof filter, so stop to think twice about the implications that come from your speech (Are you building up the person in the eyes of the listener?). And do not forget to ask the Lord for wisdom.

If you should be subject to listening to a gossip, remember that “to say nothing is to give others the impression we agree even if we don’t.”10 Someone who enjoys hearing gossip is just as guilty as the person who shares it. If you find yourself guilty of the sin of gossip, repent. Ask the Lord to give you the grace to change your heart and mind. It will be a battle, no doubt, but His power and His Spirit will lead you to victory. Take courage and press closer to His heart. Let Him teach you beautiful speech: His way of speaking of others.

Linda Linda Hershey lives in the beautiful mountains of Mexico. She desires that all people would know and serve God as He desires to be known and served. She loves to make people smile and can rarely turn down an invitation to a good discussion. When she is not cooking in the kitchen, you might find her learning Spanish, helping with children’s classes, or attending Bible studies. She also enjoys playing and writing music, and reading thought-provoking books.

Note:

For further thought on the subject of gossip, I recommend the cited works “What Gossip Says About God” along with “Speaking With Wisdom, Part 5.” James 3 and 4 are really good reads as well.

Works Cited

  1. Montgomery, L. M. Anne Of Green Gables. Mt. View, Calif.: Wiretap. Print.
  2. “Definition of Gossip”. Merriam-webster.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016
  3. “Proverbs 10:19.” The Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011. N. pag. Print.
  4. “Proverbs 17:28The Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011. N. pag. Print.
  5. “Definition of Slander”. Merriam-webster.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016
  6. Dutcyvich, Beck. “Speaking With Wisdom Part 5”. One mediator between God and man….. N.p., 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2016
  7. “What Gossip Says About God”. Desiring God. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2016
  8. “What Gossip Says About God”. Desiring God. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2016
  9. Marvin Stutzman, Feb. 2016
  10. “What Gossip Says About God”. Desiring God. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2016
  11. Marvin Stutzman, Feb. 2016

 

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