2 Corinthians 12:20
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
There is a time to talk about a situation or about another person. David told Samuel all that Saul had done to him (1 Samuel 19:18). Paul and John exposed the sinful behavior of specific brethren in their letters. But we find ourselves justifying talking about people and situations way too much.
The Oxford Dictionary defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”
What are some thoughts from the Scripture that will help us define what gossip is?
Gossip is talking about people and situations without seeking a solution.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Are we just venting to others? Are we just telling our side of the story? Is our purpose to find a solution and seek reconciliation, or is it just to tell others how right we are and how wrong others are? Gossip comes from pride, we simply think too much of our own opinion that includes our opinions and conclusions of others.
Gossip is imagining the worst motives about a person and repeating that to others.
All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.
If our tone and our words are simply running somebody down, then what’s the point of that? If we keep thinking the worst of others, and we keep finding out that those things aren’t true, shouldn’t we look in the mirror and see that we are maligning others? God wants us to believe all things and hope all things, but if we are creating the worst possible scenario on people’s actions, words and motives, then we are not living in love.
Malign, according to Oxford Dictionary, means “to speak about (someone) in a spitefully critical manner.”
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
Gossip is going “house to house” and repeating the story to person after person.
1 Timothy 5:13
Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.
Just as the gospel is spread “house to house” (Acts 20:20), so is gossip. Are we spreading the gospel or spreading gossip from house to house? We have to look in the mirror and ask if we are talking about a situation to too many people.
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
2 Thessalonians 3:11-12
For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
Gossip is uncovering what should be covered.
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
My words have great power, including the ability to separate close friends. Maybe we need to be more like Noah’s sons, who walked backward to cover their father’s nakedness (Genesis 9). There are times to expose the sin, and the Bible is full of those examples. We especially need to expose those who are stirring up discord among God’s people. But as we are talking with others, let’s prayerfully consider whether we are seeking to cover sins or to make others look shameful before others.
Gossip must be stopped and silenced.
One of the jobs of shepherds in the church is to “stop the mouths” of those who are causing trouble. Gossip is one of the 7 things God hates. Shouldn’t we as God’s people seek to stop what God hates? The apostle John was going to personally stop the mouth of Diotrephes (3 John 9-10). Paul told Titus that the brethren’s idle mouths at Crete needed to be stopped (Titus 1:10-13). Paul knew that some people’s idle babble will spread like a cancer (2 Timothy 2:16-17). There was a time that Paul “delivered” certain brethren to Satan so they would learn to better use their mouths (1 Timothy 1:20).
There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
We stop gossip by:
- Not repeating it. Gossip is like a chocolate cupcake, it sure tastes good to hear and really makes a great story to repeat. But God says this is sinful (Proverbs 11:13; 18:8; 26:20-22). Where there is no wood, the fire goes out. Stop adding fuel!
- Not listening to it. The Bible says not to “associate” with a gossip (1 Corinthians 5:11; Proverbs 20:19; Romans 16:17-18). It amazes me that sometimes brethren are more concerned about disciplining a brother who has stopped attending church rather than stopping the gossip that is destroying the church. Gossips don’t make good friends. They just bring you down and you become like them. Proverbs says not to make friendship with an angry man lest you learn his ways and it be a snare to your soul (Proverbs 22:24). Gossip comes from angry hearts. Don’t hang around that kind of behavior.
- Understanding that there are two sides. Love the other person who is being gossiped about. Love them enough to consider that you haven’t heard from him. Love him enough to go and hear from him. The Proverbs says that “the first one to plead his case seems right until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Have you ever had someone gossip about you, and then that other person swallows that stuff hook, line and sinker without even coming to you? That hurts doesn’t it?
- Following Jesus’ simple guidelines for resolving conflict (Matthew 18:15-17). Jesus told us, no he commanded us what to do. Are we smarter than God? Do we think we have a better way to resolve conflict? As Dr. Phil may ask, “How’s that working for you?” Is our way working?
Jesus will stop all idle mouths one day. The passage below is Jesus saying that we will give an account of those idle words one day. We will give account for every one of those idle words…not to my friends, not to the church, not to my boss, but to Jesus.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Here are a few questions a shepherd gave me that he has used to ask others:
- Did they tell you about this matter because they wanted you to go with them to try and reconcile the situation?
- Did they tell you about this matter because they wanted your thoughts on how they could best approach them?
- Did they tell you about this matter because they wanted you to pray for them?
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.