A couple of weekends ago I took my kids to the park. They were playing on the swings and we parents were all huddled off to the side, sipping coffee and enjoying the happy times. A man soon called my name and when I looked at him, I didn’t immediately recognize his face. He was wearing a hat and sunglasses, but he did look a bit familiar.
He told me his name and instantly I remembered. He was a recent coworker of mine at one of my prior employers. I hadn’t seen him in a few years and we were not really “friends” when we worked together, purely because we were in different departments and didn’t see each other often. He claimed to be a Christian, but I never knew him well enough to test the genuineness of that claim.
We soon chatted about old times and got caught up about how the people we mutually knew were doing. And that’s when we said something that shocked me. He mentioned an older woman we both knew and worked with. He then said, without any hesitation or remorse,
“I think she had a problem with the bottle, if you know what I mean.”
What did he just say? He then brought his hand to his mouth and made drinking motions. In the very next breath he said,
“But I don’t want to be one to gossip.”
Um, too late, I thought! I couldn’t wait for the conversation to be over with. It was around that time that I went to check on my kids.
The Good And The Bad About Gossip
Gossip is a strange thing. It is a cruel malady that’s both destructive and maddeningly tantalizing at the same time. As a pastor myself, I know how destructive gossip can be for the purity of my church. Our sinfulness wants to savor the tasty morsel of gossip and let others taste as well. It’s odd how difficult it is to encourage someone with our words, yet so easy to tear them down with words of gossip. Gossip is so sinful. WE are so sinful.
With just that brief conversation, my impression of both him and our mutual “friend” has been changed forever. Not many things can change an opinion of someone as fast as gossip can.
Here are seven things that have changed in my mind, purely because of that conversation—and none of them are positive.
1. I realized that I could never share anything “personal” with that man, knowing that he has loose lips.
2. I realized that it is quite likely he has (or would) gossiped about me in the past, especially when I ceased working for our mutual employer.
3. His “Christian character” was put into question.
4. I think he may be the kind of person that likes to put other people down in order to make himself feel good.
5. I’ll always wonder if what he said is actually true about that woman.
6. No matter how hard I try to ignore and block it out, the reputation of that woman has been tarnished in my mind because of what he said about her.
7. I realized that I wasn’t as angry at gossip as I should have been. I realized that I am also devilishly sinful when it comes to spreading and hearing gossip about others.
No, there really isn’t any good that ever surfaces out of gossiping about others. And that’s why it is strange that people do it so often. In fact, there are a couple of women in my neighborhood that seem to know the business of everyone else around our neighborhood. Whenever I or my wife see them, they are quick on the draw to tell us about whose house is going into foreclosure, which marriages are on the brink, etc, etc, etc. I have no idea how they find out this information, but it drips from their lips like poison.
But where in the Bible does it say that gossip is a bad thing? Well, here are a few verses that may help. (And please notice, if you will, how God calls gossip “malicious” and not merely interesting conversation.)
“And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13).
“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip” (Proverbs 20:19).
“being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips” (Romans 1:29).
“For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (2 Corinthians 12:20).
“Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11).
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved too much wine, teaching what is good” (Titus 2:3).
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these” (1 Timothy 3:1-5).
QUESTION: In what ways have you (or someone you know) been affected by gossip and its malicious effects? When was the last time you gossiped? How can we, as Christians, guard our minds, mouths, and ears from the sin of gossiping?
* Image credit: Sam Jessup (Creation Swap)