This post is part of the series on unintentional sins, looking at wrong things we do without really thinking. Sins we commit almost unintentionally.
See also: Daydreaming into Danger!
What is gossip?
The dictionary defines gossip as casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true. The word ‘gossip’ doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the words translated ‘talebearer’ in the Old Testament or ‘whisperer’ in the New Testament mean similar things – one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger. In the book of Proverbs we have good definitions of what God considers gossip to be:
He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips. (Proverbs 20:19)
A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter. (Proverbs 11:13)
So really, gossiping or talebearing is the sharing of privileged information – secrets – about others with those who have no need to know it.
It is often the intent of the gossiper (or the nature of the information being shared) not just simply to pass on information. Gossip is frequently shared to make others look bad, or to feed the gossiper’s own sense of self-importance as the source of information which others want to hear. The information shared is usually negative, sharing things which the object of the gossip would prefer to have kept quiet.
If you’re thinking, ‘Well I don’t go around gossiping and telling other people’s secrets’, then consider Proverbs 17:4, ‘a wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue’. Gossip involves listening as well as speaking.
What does God think about gossip?
Throughout the Bible it is clear that God takes gossip very seriously, in His eyes, gossip is sinful. Nowhere is this made clearer than in Romans 1:29, where God places gossip amongst a catalogue of sins which characterise those who are under God’s wrath and are ‘worthy of death’. The listing of gossips (or whisperers) alongside murder and fornication may be shocking to us. It’s easy for us to consider it as a ‘little sin’, but God takes it seriously.
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death… (Romans 1:29-32)
In 1 Timothy 5:11-13 there is a particular warning to young widows who through idleness had a tendency to gather together and gossip – ‘But the younger widows… learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.’ We must make sure that we are not falling into this trap of gossip when we have spare time on our hands. Even if not directly gossiping, perhaps in idle moments you pick up your phone and scroll through Instagram or Facebook to find out the latest about people you know. What’s your motivation in doing so? Are you storing up gossip for next time you’re with your friends?
Consequences of gossip
As we have already seen, gossip is sinful in God’s eyes and will bring His wrath upon us if not repented of. Further to this, gossip can have many consequences in our lives and the lives of those who are the victims of gossip. I’m sure many of you have had unkind things said about you at some point in your life, you know how this makes you feel. I just want to highlight two verses in the Bible which speak of the consequences of gossip:
- The first, Proverbs 16:28, teaches us how gossip can break apart even the closest friendships – ‘a whisperer separateth chief friends’.
- The second, James 3:5, speaks more generally to us in being careful about what we say, but certainly applies to gossiping – ‘Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!’
You may think a ‘harmless’ comment about someone won’t have any significant consequences, but God teaches otherwise. And remember, once you have said something it can never be unsaid.
If not gossip then what?
So, if we are not to gossip, how should we behave when talking to others. Firstly, never say something about someone else that you wouldn’t want them to say about you. Take some time to consider the following scriptures which really speak for themselves regarding how we should behave.
- ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers’ (Ephesians 4:29). Our words should be seeking to build one another up in faith, not to bring others down.
- ‘He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends’ (Proverbs 17:9).
- ‘Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth’ (Proverbs 26:20).
- ‘Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles’ (Proverbs 21:23).
Perhaps the following from Philippians 4:8 should be our measure of what we should speak as well as think about, ‘whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.’[A00082 – 26/07/2018]