Rumors and gossip circulate in the workplace, the neighborhood, organizations, and even at church. Gossip has become such a normal part of our social interaction that oftentimes we aren’t even aware that we are engaging in it. When we share information that was meant to be kept confidential, we are in the wrong. The Bible would say that we are guilty of gossip. Why do we struggle so much with gossip? One reason may be our desire to feel important—and we feel important when we have information others don’t have. But in many cases, there is another, more sinful motive driving our actions. It is a desire to feel superior, to build ourselves up at the expense of others.
What kind of activity falls under the Biblical prohibition of gossip? How do you know when you have entered the gossip zone? Before you say anything about someone not present, ask yourself this question: Would I say this if this person were here? If not, keep your mouth shut. If we would follow that one rule, 99% of what passes as gossip would be eliminated and we could avoid a whole lot of pain. If we are honest, most of us don’t see gossip as a major sin, do we? To God, gossip is not a little sin. In Romans 1:28-31, gossip is linked with some pretty heinous sins. God doesn’t like it. There is a reason the Bible comes down so heavily on gossip. It is because it can be so destructive. It is not something to be trifled with. Its effects can be devastating and irreversible. Gossip often involves betraying a confidence (Proverbs 11:13). It stirs up dissension and separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28). It fuels quarrels (Proverbs 26:20). It disseminates information which shouldn’t be spread (1 Timothy 5:13).
God hates gossip, and so should we. What can we do to put out the fire of gossip? (1) Acknowledge gossip as sin. Until we see gossip for what it is, namely sin and a gross failure to love our neighbor, we will not be motivated to change our behavior. We must come clean and say, “Yes, God, I have a problem with gossip, and I want you to help me in this area.”
(2) Refuse to be a party to destructive speech. This requires a great deal of discipline. My Dad used to say, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” That is usually pretty good advice. But refusal to participate in destructive speech doesn’t exhaust our Christian obligation to love our neighbor. No, we need to have a higher standard for our conversations. We need to set the example of gracious speech.
(3) Set an example of gracious speech (Ephesians 4:29-30). Refuse to speak negatively about anyone. To put out the fire of gossip, it really helps to set the example by modeling gracious speech.
(4) Encourage others to follow Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” If someone comes to you with gossip about another, point them back to the person with whom they are having the problem.
(5) Purposefully avoid those who incessantly gossip (Proverbs 20:19). Do you know anyone like that? There are some people, who no matter how hard you try to redirect a conversation in a positive way, continue to gossip. And no matter how hard you try to behave yourself, you find yourself being sucked in. Under such circumstances, sometimes it is best to avoid such people.
Although it is challenging to avoid gossip, change is possible with God’s enabling power. Let’s commit to watching our words.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Need help with gossip? Free, confidential counseling is available. Visit our counseling page and get in touch.
- Refuse to gossip. Don’t go there. Stop it!
- Don’t encourage others to gossip. Steer conversations in positive directions.
- Use your words to love and build others up rather than tear them down.