Gossip is engaged in at home, school, work and even church and could be defined as nothing more than idle talk, telling tales and spreading rumors; the juicier the better! So how bad can it be if so many people eagerly participate in it? (Even many “news” magazines and television shows being based on the premise of “dishing the dirt.”)
Have you ever had a tall tale told on you? How much did it annoy or hurt you that somebody was messing in your business; how unfair were they in their portrayal of you and your ideas; how right was it for them to misrepresent you or reveal something that was true but nobody else’s business?
More to the point, have you ever gossiped? What makes it fun? Why can we hardly wait to share in the unknown and the telling of a secret? Are we truly interested in people and their problems or merely reciting a list of their troubles and faults? First we need to answer the fundamental question: What’s the difference between truth rightly shared and gossip? Proverbs says that a truthful witness gives honest testimony, does not deceive and potentially saves lives. (Proverbs 12:17,14:5,14:25) The basic difference being revealed by your intent in sharing it. Is it to find pleasure, excitement and a sense of superiority through someone else’s problems and short-comings or are you seeking to give counsel, advice and support in identifying the truth and overcoming troubles?
Many fail to understand what’s wrong with having a little fun, even if it is at someone else’s expense. We don’t mean any real harm, at times becoming involved in gossip unintentionally. Yet insult and harm occurs none-the-less. We should always strive to take the high road, to think the best of people, to stand in the gap and cover a mistake; not by condoning it but attempting to help people overcome weakness and difficulties. We can’t do that if we are seen as untrustworthy by people we’ve talked about or by developing a reputation for considering others as fair game in our conversations. Proverbs 12:6 asserting that some do indeed, “…lie in wait for blood,…”, being intentionally harmful. And even though that’s often not the case, harm is still often done because of the unthinking, uncaring, unloving attitude displayed in gossip. The second half of Proverbs 12:6 reiterating, “…the speech of the upright rescues (people).” Our conversations serving as a window to our heart, revealing what interests, entertains and inspires us.
Still not convinced? Then consider this: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” James 1:26 How we express ourselves is important to God. He goes to great lengths to make this clear throughout scripture. The book of Proverbs in particular having much to say on this subject.
§ Proverbs 20:19 warns that, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” (Get the point guys? Gossip isn’t the private domain of women, men do it all the time too!)
§ Proverbs 11:13 assures us that gossip reveals secrets, but a trustworthy man does not.
§ Proverbs 18:5 notes the almost insatiable hunger we have for gossip, saying “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” The implied warning being that carrying tales often becomes a part of our inner-being, increasingly becoming our primary means of communication with and about others.
§ Leviticus 19:16 cautions against, “…go(ing) about spreading slander among your people.” So what does that have to do with gossip? Slander is defined as uttering a damaging falsehood against someone, while the legal interpretation of libel – considered somewhat worse than slander – is any falsehood or malicious statement broadcast in print. Yet they are in truth only degrees of gossip, given legal identification because of their perceived heightened level of damage.
§ Proverbs 26:20 says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” James using the same word picture when he describes the tongue as a fire, capable of a world of evil with the potential to corrupt – not so much the person being talked about – but the person doing the talking! As a fire turned in on itself, it can set the whole world of the gossiper on fire. (James 3:3-12) He laments that, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!” James 3:9,10
The reality of man’s double-tongued nature inspired David to write, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth…” Psalm 39:1 Which takes constant vigilance and a heightened concern about what we say and how it impacts others; an absolute necessity for a successful Christian life and witness. (See 1 Peter 3:10-12)
Proverbs 6:16-19 further cites seven things God hates; among them a lying tongue, a false witness and men who stir up dissension. While Romans 1:29-32 lists in its spiritual hall of shame these things deserving death; wickedness, evil, greed, envy, murder, deceit, arrogance, insolence, boastfulness, ruthlessness, heartlessness, senselessness, faithlessness, lack of respect and disobedience; all of which we’d readily agree are deserving of God’s wrath. More sobering is the fact that gossip is situated right in the middle of these more “obvious” sins.
Practically speaking, gossip ruins reputations and lives. By its very nature, it is a discouragement to those talked about; often being responsible for lost relationships within families while compromising our attempts to witness to our friends about the love of Jesus. How could anyone trust a person who has gossiped about them or others and now claims to want to share the greatest secret of all with them? In fact, how can we really feel – let alone express – the Christ-like kind of love it takes to witness to someone we have so callously talked about?
So how do we stop gossip? Disregard it. Absorb it. Never pass it along. If possible, approach the originator and lovingly confront them, encouraging them to stop by reminding them of the chilling words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 12:36,37 “…I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (See also Matthew 5:21,22)
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