Gossip is everywhere—break rooms, coffee shops, the gym, and, sadly, even in the church. Sometimes it’s obvious, like the example above. Other times it’s much more subtle.
“Jean, I want to share a prayer request. Did you hear that John’s fallen off the wagon again? We’ve got to pray for him and Chelsea. I’m so afraid he’s going to lose his job. And then how will they keep the kids in Christian school? I heard that they’re paying $20,000 a year to keep them there. . . and I think they had to take out a second mortgage to buy that new minivan last month.”
Google defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”
Scripture has a long list of names for it: slander, backbiting, betraying a confidence, whispering, and tale bearing. However you define gossip, the Bible clearly warns us of its destructive power.
1. When we gossip, we break God’s greatest commandment, the call to love one another.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34-35).
2. Gossip hurts our witness to the unsaved world.
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:25).
Wounding other believers with our speech (gossipy “prayer requests,” whispered “I’m concerned about so-and-so,” and behind-the-back conversations in the spirit of “care and concern” doesn’t demonstrate an accurate picture of how sisters and brothers in Christ should act toward each other. The world sees this, takes note, and determines that “believers” are no different than unbelievers.
3. God holds us accountable for every idle word we say.
“But 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.” (Mat. 12: 36-37).
If we’re true, born-again believers, we have the assurance that Christ took the punishment for our sins, even the ones we haven’t committed yet, on the cross. So when the Bible talks about being judged, it’s talking about a different type of judgment. This judgment may involve a loss of rewards (because gossip is certainly “wood, hay, and stubble” that will burn) or experiencing the natural results of being a gossip, like loss of trust and broken relationships.
4. Gossip will cause you to lose friends.
"A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28).
The most obvious way we can lose friends is to gossip specifically against that person. When word gets back to them, and it will, your relationship can be permanently damaged.
Another reason gossip parts friends is because sharing gossip, even if it’s about someone else, destroys our friend’s confidence in our trustworthiness. If Cara hears you gossiping about Shelby, then she’s naturally going to wonder what you say about her when she’s not around. Because trust is the foundation of any deep and lasting relationship, without it, our friendships will be superficial and stunted.
5. Gossip will find its way back to you.
“What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:3).
The very nature of gossip requires passing along information. When that “information” makes its way to the person being talked about, rest assured, the tale-bearing breadcrumbs will lead straight to your door.
Now that we’ve examined these five scary truths about gossip, here are six questions we should ask ourselves before we speak:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it kind?
3. Does it really need to be said?
4. What is my motive in sharing this bit of information—to build someone up, or tear someone down? Look deeply into your heart and examine your true motives.
5. Would I say this if the person was standing here in front of me?
6. Do I have a right to speak on this matter? Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?
One of the best ways to break the gossip habit, according to Chip Ingram in his Bible study, Five Lies that Ruin Relationships, is to listen more and speak less. This is sound advice, straight from the Bible:
"When words are many,” Proverbs 10:19 says, “sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
I want to be known as one who uses my words to help others, not hurt them. I suspect you have a similar desire. As we pursue this noble goal, may the words of Ephesians 4:29 guide us:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Now it's your turn. Why do you think almost everyone struggles with gossip? What steps have you taken to help break the destructive speech cycle? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you're reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom of the post, and leave a comment.