I gossiped last night. There, I said it.
I didn’t mean for it to happen. It just kinda poured out of my mouth like poison.
Gossip is sneaky. One minute you’re being helpful and the next you’ve gone and spilled the beans. We think it’s okay as long as we’re just vague enough. We aren’t telling the whole story, but if a couple questions are asked the listener is sure to figure it out. After all, we can’t lie so we have to answer them right?
It’s a slippery slope. One we choose to slide down whether we recognize it or not. No one falls into gossip. We straight up leap head first with a smile on our face. But why? Maybe because we feel further along than the person we’re slandering, or they’ve hurt us and we want someone to back us up, or we just plain don’t like them. Regardless, none of these reasons are valid enough to allow malicious words to spring from our lips.
A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28 ESV)
The bible isn’t silent on this issue by any means. In Proverbs alone, someone who gossips is called a fool (10:18), not trustworthy (11:13; 20:19), an instigator (26:20) and dishonest (16:28). That’s a far cry from the acts of love we are called to display as Christians.
In fact, to take it a little further, let’s consider the biggest slanderer there is: Satan himself. The Devil is the definition of a fool. He actually thought he could overpower God Almighty and take his throne. Talk about foolish. Have you ever known someone who was blatantly manipulative? While you may have been fooled at first, eventually you learned you couldn’t trust them. They proved themselves to be a fraud. Likewise, the enemy of our souls surpasses any human manipulator ever to linger the earth. Satan knows he can’t have believers. We are sealed in Christ. But he does know however, exactly how to cause disunity among us, and it’s his favorite pastime. He’s an instigator. He stirs up strife among us. Furthermore, he is nicknamed the “Father of lies” for a reason. He is as dishonest as they come. Just like most gossip, he tells half-truths or twisted truths.
Friends, when we gossip, we are following in the footsteps of our enemy, and more importantly, God’s enemy. Father, forgive us!
So, what counts as gossip? Well, there are many different ways we commit this sin. To save time, I’ll touch on a couple ways we may not recognize.
This is the biggest way we step into slander. I’ve fallen prey and witnessed others fall prey to “venting”. It sounds like a positive thing to us. “I just need to talk it out to feel better.” The issue is: there’s a difference between seeking counsel on how to respond biblically, and allowing our emotions to get the better of us while dragging another friend into our frustration. Ninety nine percent of the time we are accomplishing the second option, not the first.
If you need wisdom on how to handle a situation, you should find a wise woman in your life that can provide biblical counsel. You shouldn’t text or call 5 of your friends to tell them what so and so did.
Calling in for Back Up
Along those same lines, sometimes we call in for back up. Maybe a friend wrongly accused you of something. I have been here. I felt so crushed under the weight of accusation that seeking counsel turned into a quest to prove my innocence. In doing so, I sinned against my friend. Yes, all I did was tell the truth about what happened and what was said, but it may have painted her in a bad light to our mutual girlfriends, and that was unfair.
It should have been enough for me that the Lord had released me of that false accusation. After all, he fights for us. We don’t need to fight our own battles.
The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. (Exodus 14:14 ESV)
When Genuine Concern Turns Sour
Sometimes, we encounter a friend who is in sin and needs to be lovingly confronted. Following the steps laid out in Matthew 18, if she hasn’t repented you must ask a friend to come with you to confront her. This is not gossip. It is bringing another person in on the situation for the good of your sister.
Now, this can be a tight rope. Genuine concern turns sour when you are telling others because you just want to talk about it. Maybe it’s bothering you and you think you’ll feel better once you tell someone. I’m here to tell you, you won’t. I’ve done this. In one conversation alone true concern turned into loose lips about things I had no business sharing. We have to be so very prayerful about what we say. If it is for the purpose of building a person up, go for it! If not, keep your mouth closed. Preaching to myself here.
Slander is damaging. We must be more careful about the words that come out of our lips. If not, the bible calls us fools and we follow in the Slanderer’s footsteps, not our Savior’s.
Don’t miss these words from the book of James:
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:5-10 ESV)
Our words are powerful. They can build up or they can destroy.
Gossip hurts people.
Gossip stains or blackens the body of Christ.
Gossip sets lives on fire by hell.
Gossip curses fellow image bearers.
Gossip is a deadly poison.
I’ve been challenged as a young woman to learn the art of saying no to gossip, now. If we take God at his word, we can no longer pretend that slander is a sin to toy with. We have to address this now. Let’s speak words of life that are like a cool spring rain rather than dragging our sisters into deadly forest fires for our own delight.