Our capacity to communicate is probably one of God’s greatest gifts. There is great power in our words; power to bless, comfort and encourage, but our words can also be a powerful source of deadly destruction leaving deep wounds that can cause hurting for years. Gossip is one of the most deadly ways we misuse our words.
As believers, gossip drags our witness for Christ through the mud. We dishonor ourselves, we dishonor God, we harm others and it breaks fellowship and friendships.
In James’ letter to the Christians in Jerusalem (James 3:5-6), he likened our words, “our tongue,” to a fire that sets a forest ablaze, leaving a wake of ruin in its path. Long after the words of whatever juicy gossip was revealed, like a burned out forest, gossip causes pain, emotional scarring and devastation that can be evident for days or even years.
“Busybodies” are generally easy to recognize but they do have some stealth in their delivery. These are the people who carelessly pass on “the latest news” about other people, things, situations, relationships, etc.,. The busybody always has the latest scuttlebutt and can hardly wait to tell you all about it (though she may do it tongue in cheek, she’s literally bursting at the seams to share the juicy dish she came across).
Sometimes the busybody little harder to identify, but her “disclaimer” usually gives her away. The busybody may go to the trouble of even saying, “you didn’t hear it from me…” or “y’all don’t say anything to anyone, but…” or my favorite, “I don’t mean to gossip, but…” In truth, the guilty gossip always confesses (A warning, as a listener, we should immediately heed).
Sound familiar? Maybe you know someone like this. Or truer still, maybe its you.
The second is identified as a malicious gossip, someone who intends to hurt another with their words. The Greek word from which malicious gossip is translated in The Scriptures, is diabolos, the same word used for Satan. We know Satan has always had a strategy to bring people down, create doubt, destruction and disunity. People who gossip with the intent of harming someone or someone’s reputation is walking in Satan’s footsteps.
Gossip is an egregious sin, indeed. Sadly, its a sin that runs viral in our daily lives.
As a church, in many ways we have accustomed ourselves to gossip. It’s most often camouflaged in our “concerns” for someone or when we explain someone’s situation to another so we “can pray” for them. It sounds innocent and even spiritual, but is it really? So many believers struggle in this area, but the truth is inescapable: gossip has no place in a believer’s life. Gossip is unfitting and unbecoming of a child of God.
It’s a heart issue…
Matthew 12:34, tells us that “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Basically, whatever comes out of our mouth reveals the raw realness in our hearts and puts it on display for all to see and hear. Gossip reveals a lot of ugliness, but to that end we have an avenue to do some personal reflection around the motives and issues that typically accompany gossip.
Gossip is evidence of:
Need for acceptance
Gossip carries far-reaching consequences.
Most obviously, the victim of the gossip suffers due to the slander, leaving them hurt or embarrassed. Gossip has a variety of deadly effects: friendships are broken, dissension occurs in families and future opportunities can be lost due to whatever the rumor was, true or not.
The gossiper forfeits their integrity from a personal standpoint and from a faith standpoint. Gossips stunt their spiritual growth and struggle with discernment.
Ultimately, the gossip deprives themselves the opportunity of having good, close relationships because they have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, double-minded and two-faced. No one wants to be their next victim.
The listener isn’t off the hook, either.
By listening to gossip, it is essentially consenting, agreeing and encouraging the divisive relationship-breaking behavior. Additionally, words, by their very nature are influential and there is no way those who are standing near by aren’t going to be influenced by what they hear. Thirdly, by listening to the gossip, it sets the listener up to be a gossip themselves, as they slowly sink into the irresistible temptation to seek and to share the news with another.
The right response to gossip is found in God’s Word:
-Use gracious words that edify those who hear you (Ephesians 4:29)
-Resist doing evil (3 John 11)
-Keep the secrets of others close to your heart (Proverbs 11:13)
-Think before you speak (Proverbs 12:18)
-Don’t associate with gossips (Proverbs 20:19)
-Do not participate in the talk of gossips (Proverbs 26:20)
-Have the courage to confront believers who gossip (3 John 10-11)
We have all been guilty of gossip at one time or another and it’s important that we learn to recognize it, deal with it and manage it-–if for no other reason, God detests it.
In order to get out from under the burden of gossip we must be transformed from the inside out. This is possible through the mighty, guiding work of the Holy Spirit, in all believers. We can’t work on it if we don’t acknowledge our capacity for gossip. We need quiet time with the Lord. We must confess our wayward and divisive tendency to malign others and submit to Jesus’ full authority and all-sufficient mercy, grace and truth.
As believers, we are called to be compassionate, not condemning. We are called to love one another, not judge.
We are made to praise and to magnify God! Let us use our words for good things, edifying the body of Christ, encouraging one another and spurring each other toward good works, so we look more like redeemed and transformed children of God and less like this fallen world. Not that we seek to be recognized and praised by men, that is not even remotely the intent, but rather, that God Almighty would be glorified in all we do and SAY!