“Did you hear about Judy? Do you know what Judy did? I am told that Judy really is guilty of it.” We usually call this kind of talk, “gossip.” Or, as it’s also known, backbiting, slandering, whispering, talebearing, and the like.
Some people are in the habit of it. Others may gossip without intending to. But it all comes out the same. Gossip maliciously spreads rumors or secrets about someone else that slanders their name and reputation.
Gossip can appear anytime, anywhere, even at church. There’s a joke about a minister who noticed that gossip was becoming a big problem in his congregation. So, he decided to preach on the subject. The order of service in the bulletin listed the sermon topic, “Gossip.” Immediately following was the hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.”
When it comes to gossip, one must remember the saying, “What often goes around comes around.” For example, Mildred, the church gossip, and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several members did not approve of her extracurricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one afternoon.
She emphatically told George and several others that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing. George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing.
Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred’s house… and left it there all night.
Even pastors can have the problem, like this joke illustrates: There’s a story about three pastors who decided to get away and go fishing. They started to talk about church problems and decided that if they couldn’t deal with their own sins they couldn’t help others deal with theirs. So each one confessed his own sin agreeing that they ought to keep it confidential. The first pastor confessed, “The people in my church give a lot of money every week. At first, I started to steal a few bucks, but eventually, I take a big amount. I can’t stop stealing so please pray for me.” The second pastor said, “I have a problem of lusting after the married women in my church and I’ve even had some affairs.” The third pastor was somewhat hesitant to bare his heart. But after the other pastors persuaded him to say what was on his mind, he finally confessed, “Well, I wasn’t going to say anything. But the sin I really struggle with is gossip. And I can’t wait to get home!”
While we’re supposed to tell others the Good News, the Bible clearly indicates that we refrain from spreading the gossip news. Why? Because, the Good News is constructive; the gossip news is destructive. The Good News brings encouragement; the gossip news brings discouragement. The Good News is genuine news; the gossip news is fake news.
Here is a list of Bible passages from Proverbs (The Message, MSG) that remind us of the danger of gossip:
11:13 “A gadabout gossip can’t be trusted with a secret, but someone of integrity won’t violate a confidence.”
16:28 “Troublemakers start fights; gossips break up friendships.”
20:19 “Gossips can’t keep secrets, so never confide in blabbermouths.”
25:23 “A north wind brings stormy weather, and a gossipy tongue stormy looks.”
26:20-22 “When you run out of wood, the fire goes out; when the gossip ends, the quarrel dies down. A quarrelsome person in a dispute is like kerosene thrown on a fire. Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you want junk like that in your belly?”
When God gave his law to Israel, one of his commands was, “Don’t spread gossip and rumors. Don’t just stand by when your neighbor’s life is in danger. I am God,” (Leviticus 19:16). This is one example of what it means to, “love thy neighbor as thyself” (v. 18) which summarizes the entire law (Deut. 6:4-5; Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:30-31) or, as James calls it, “the royal law,” that is, “the law of our King,” (James 2:8) since Jesus Christ is the one who lived it and taught it to his followers.
As the early church began to grow by leaps and bounds, one of the problems the apostles had to contend with was gossip. The work of the Lord was being hindered and even threatened because of “busybodies” who had nothing else to do but spread vicious rumors (2 Cor. 12:20-21; 2 Thess. 3:11; 1 Tim. 5:13; 1 Peter 4:15). The Apostle Paul pointed out that gossip is one of the products of depraved minds which leads to societal breakdown and suffering and the church should have no part in it (Romans 1:18-32). This is something that ought to be taken seriously in light of the gossip that goes on in today’s social media, mainstream news, and the political world. Christians are wise to steer away from this sort of action.
Gossip is probably one of the reasons why James devoted a large portion of his letter on the use of the tongue. For after his reference to loving your neighbor as yourself he goes on to discuss faith and works (James 2:14-26) including the challenge to control one’s tongue, (James 3:1-12). James was quick to give this reminder to his fellow Christians, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom….for where there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every thing,” (James 3:13, 16, New American Standard Bible, NASB).
One of those bad behaviors which cause disorder, division, disrespect, and such is the sin of gossip spread, of course, by the uncontrollable, undisciplined, untameable tongue. James previously stated that one who does not bridle one’s tongue “deceives his own heart,” and “his religion is worthless,” (1:26). But when one pursues heavenly wisdom and keeps one’s tongue in control by yielding to the Spirit, then blessings abound. This is the Good News: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable [lit., “willing to yield”] full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the good seed [lit., “fruit of righteousness”] is sown in peace by those who make peace,” (James 3:17-18, NASB).
Instead of the gossip news, our privilege is to spread the Gospel News for it sows the peace we all want to reap.
Here is Chris Tomlin’s rendition of the hymn, “Take My Life (And Let It Be)” http://youtu.be/V0Byp7aK2DA
Good News to YOU!