January 30, 2018
Recently I was sitting in my living room with some members of my family discussing celebrities. We talked about how difficult it must be to always be playing a role and how that must mess with your mind a little. Then the talk turned to naming celebrities that we had heard of that “went off the deep end.” It was a pretty innocent conversation…nothing very malicious or hurtful and certainly not about any people that we knew personally.
But God asked me later about that conversation. “Was the information you shared kind?” He asked. “Where you even sure it was completely truthful? What if those celebrities had been in the room with you? How would they have felt?”
I had to admit the truth. I had been gossiping and didn’t even realize it. You see, this was just part of an ongoing conversation I was having with God about gossip. I had listened to a message in the series “My Big Fat Mouth” by Life Church and it prompted this internal conversation. (You can listen to the message here.) The conversation started with me asking God, “In this world of social media and unlimited information, what is gossip and what is just information?”
I don’t have all the answers to my question right now, and honestly, the answers that God gives me to this question may be different than the ones He gives to you. But what I do know is that God takes gossip seriously.
Romans 1:29-32 – They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
2 Corinthians 12:20 – For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
These verses put gossip in the same company as God-haters and fits of rage. It’s not just a little white sin that everyone does. It’s a sin that God takes seriously. You might ask, “What is the problem with a little bit of gossip? What does it really hurt?” The Bible actually answers that question.
Gossip separates friends.
Proverbs 16:28 – A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
Proverbs 17:9 – Whoever conceals an offense promotes love, but whoever gossips about it separates friends. (HCSB)
Gossip betrays a confidence.
Proverbs 11:13 – A gossip betrays a confidence,
Proverbs 20:19 – A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.
Gossip can ruin your reputation.
Proverbs 25:9-10 – When arguing with your neighbor, don’t betray another person’s secret. Others may accuse you of gossip, and you will never regain your good reputation. (NLT)
Gossip extends quarrels.
Proverbs 26:20 – Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
Gossip can lead to ungodliness.
2 Timothy 2:16 – Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
So what can we do? How do we not gossip?
Well, first we should guard our mouths.
Proverbs 21:23 – The one who guards his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (HCSB)
Psalm 141:3 – Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Ephesians 4:29 – 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.
Guarding our mouths is a good first step to breaking the cycle of gossip, but it isn’t enough. We also must guard what we listen to (or read). Listening to gossip can be addicting. In two separate places in Proverbs, gossip is described as choice morsels.
Proverbs 18:8 – The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.
Proverbs 26:22 – The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.
Gossip is like candy for your ears. It can be really hard to say no to. The phrase “inquiring minds want to know” springs to mind. We all have inquiring minds. We all want to know what we don’t know. After all this was the reason that Eve got tricked in the garden in the first place. The snake said, “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
It is amazing what we can know or find out in the age we live in. Nowadays we can look up just about anything… Wonder if your symptoms are indicative of the flu; look it up. Wonder how to make the best fried chicken; look it up. Wonder about the relationship status of an acquaintance; look it up. Do you see where I’m going?
The other day I was sharing with someone about a book I was reading and she mentioned something about it being sad the author was going through a divorce. Everything within me wanted to look it up and see if this was true, but I was in the middle of the internal conversation with God about gossip. Here’s how the conversation went that day…
God: Why do you want to know if it is true?
God: Would knowing the information help you receive everything I have for you in the book?
Me: Well…maybe (I was trying hard to think of a convincing argument.)
God: Would knowing the information corrupt your view and respect of the author?
God: Do you know the author personally so that in finding out the information you could use it to encourage and help her?
And so I chose not to look up the information. I learned an important lesson about myself that day. Information about a person usually isn’t just information, but it is a tool that I use to form judgements and opinions about that person. It’s no wonder that God despises gossip. We use gossip to shape how we view others. Rarely does gossip improve our opinion of someone else.
In my conversations with God about gossip I’ve come up with three action plans that I feel will help me in this area. Perhaps they will help you too.
- Watch what I say about others and make sure that what I share about others passes these three criteria… Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? Ephesians 4:29 bears repeating here. Ephesians 4:29 – 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.
- Watch my motives when finding out information about others and make sure my heart is pure when I am seeking out information. If I’m seeking the information for my own knowledge and not so that I can encourage or pray for someone in my life, then the information is NOT necessary. Don’t be a busybody. 1 Timothy 5:13 – At the same time, they also learn to be idle, going from house to house; they are not only idle, but are also gossips and busybodies, saying things they shouldn’t say. (HCSB)
- Scroll past all the tabloids and sensational stories in my FaceBook feed. I didn’t really cover this one earlier, but it is part of seeking out information that I shouldn’t be interested in. It’s pretty easy for me to bypass, without even a glance, the tabloids in the checkout lane at the supermarket, but for some reason having a story with a catchy title just one click away in my FaceBook feed is another story. However, I have been disappointed over and over with the inability of the story to live up to its title. Even the feel-good stories that seem quite harmless leave me feeling empty and frustrated with the comments that people leave. I am finding that it’s just better to bypass these stories without a glance. They are not the pure and true things that I want to focus on or fill my mind with. Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
As I said earlier, God may give you completely different steps to combat the gossip in your own life. Perhaps today is the time to start the conversation with Him. I’d love to hear the action plan that He gives you. May we choose today to cover our lips and hearts with only those things that build ourselves and others up.