A pastor friend of mine once told me a story about a lady in his church coming up to him after he had finished preaching. She waltzed up to him and very quickly said, “Did you know that the Smiths have a problem with_____ ?” My friend looked at her and delivered a classic line — one that we all hope that we have the guts to say. He said, “Do they know that you have a problem with gossip?” She promptly stormed off…
Too often we are guilty of one of the most heinous of sins. To make matters worse, we don’t even think of it as sin at all. It is the sin of gossip. We laugh to ourselves and say that we’re doing pretty good. After all, we are not living in sexual perversion, we aren’t stealing, we spend quiet times with the Lord, we go to church, we serve the body of Christ…Yet we are fooling ourselves when it comes to the matters of the tongue.
1. God Takes Gossip Very Seriously
In Proverbs 6:17-19, God gives us a list of seven things 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 run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Notice that someone who “spreads strife among brothers” is included in this list. This is a serious matter in God’s eyes. Spreading strife is “spreading controversies” in the Hebrew. It has to do with stirring up trouble between people (one’s motive or intentions do not matter, only the result).
You may have not intentionally spread strife, but the reality of the situation is that you did spread strife with your gossip. Gossip in itself is the attack on another person’s credibility and character by the repeating of negative information concerning that individual.
It starts like this: you have some juicy bit of info that you have just heard about a person and you can’t wait to tell others about it. Maybe you aren’t’ even thinking about how you want to bring them down a peg; yet, that is exactly what you are doing. You are murdering their character and credibility in another person’s eyes.
God says that it is an abomination. So let’s be clear, gossip is definitely a sin in His eyes. To put it in perspective, let’s look at another passage in which the same word is used.
“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22)
So many Christians of late are so quick to condemn homosexuality as an abomination before the Lord, and yet how many are just as quick to condemn the gossip monger they hear every day. You may be quick to condemn that homosexual protesting down the street, but would you be as quick to condemn that little old lady sitting beside you in church making rude comments about the pastor’s wife?
Paul also refers to gossip in the New Testament, especially in the pastoral epistles. In Titus 2:3, 1 Timothy 3:11, and 2 Timothy 3:31, Paul warns of “malicious gossips” or “diabolos” in the Greek language. Those who spread malicious gossip are a danger to the Christian community as a whole.
We might not think of it in terms comparable with other sins such as fornication or adultery, but the sin of gossip is every bit as dangerous to the body of Christ. Nothing will destroy a group of people like gossip running wild through it like a uncontrolled wildfire destroying everyone in its path. The word Paul uses here in these passages is “diabolos.” We get our word “devil” from this word. It means literally, “to slander, or to accuse falsely.”
When those in the church slander others and participate in gossip, they are like the devil, who has been a slanderer from the beginning. They are in effect little devils, causing divisions in the body of Christ. You can see why the Apostle Paul warns these two young pastors to be wary of malicious gossips in the church.
2. Common Ways A Person Gossips:
God hates a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:17), another abomination before the Lord. Most believers do not struggle with overt lying, or making up something false about another person. The problem for most people comes when they hear something that they haven’t verified as truth and then repeat it as if they know what they are talking about.
Don’t be the one passing on lies about another person. This is demonstrated in another way when we talk to others about a person, thinking that we know what is going on in their lives. So often we only get to see a small part of a person’s life. Making judgments about a person and then talking to others about them puts us in the place of God. We blaspheme, taking God off His throne and plopping ourselves up there. This is what James is talking about in James 4:11-12, “…there is one Lawgiver and Judge…” and its not YOU!
Another way to gossip is when you repeat something to someone else and justify it by telling yourself, “Well, it’s the truth.” It doesn’t matter if it is the truth or not, don’t repeat it to others. Whether you realize it or not, you are fostering strife among the brethren. I have heard this come out in the church when others speak about things of which they should not.
It often comes out like this: “Can you pray for so-in-so, they are struggling with _____ right now?” This is merely an attempt at sanctified gossip. The key here is that it is still gossip. Pray for the person who is going through sin; don’t betray confidences. If someone has told you a piece of gossip, tell them what they are doing is sin and to stop. Then pray for both individuals, the one with the issue and the busybody who told you.
The challenge for each of us when we are confronted with gossip is to be the ending link in the gossip chain.
3. Practical Steps for Taming Your Tongue
When you speak about another person, you are bringing them down and elevating yourself. Your gossiping comes from a position of arrogance and pride and not from love. If we truly thought about ourselves Biblically, understanding the depths of our own sin before God, we would not be as quick to mention the sins and failings of others.
To turn it around, when you glory in the failings of others and repeat them, you are basically saying that you would never do such a thing. How arrogant is that?! James condemns the arrogant one in James 4:7, “But as it is, you boast (glory) in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” James’ response to arrogance is, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10). Humility is understanding that God is great, and you are not.
Here are some quick points to help you with the sin of gossip:
- Biblical Love believes the best about people. (1 Corinthians 13:7) — Just because you hear something bad about a person doesn’t mean that it is true. Don’t repeat it; go to the person yourself.
- If you can’t say something good about someone, then don’t say anything at all. (Ephesians 4:29) — My mama taught me this one when I was a kid. Speak only good about a person.
- Tame your tongue, self control is the fruit of the Spirit! (Galatians 5:22-25) — A believer growing in maturity will have these qualities ever growing in their life. If you are truly a believer, then you can resist the sins of the tongue and practice self-control.
- Watch out who you hang out with. “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33) — Immature believers need correction and instruction, not a willing participant in gossip. Refuse to listen to, and participate in gossip of any kind.
In order to deal with gossip, we must acknowledge first of all that it is sin before the Lord. It is a serious matter, one that cannot be glossed over or ignored. God views it as serious and we should as well. My list of examples of gossip today were not meant to be exhaustive, only to get you thinking about your own use of your tongue.
I’m sure each one of you could come up with many examples of how you were the victim of gossip, or the perpetrator of it. I pray that each of us would be mindful of what James says in James 3:2, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man, able to control his whole body as well.”