Gossip destroys individual families, close friendships, churches, and reputations. It ends careers and shatters lives. Tragically, it is one sin that is rarely confronted. In fact, gossip is encouraged because our flesh is intrigued by what we might hear. All that is needed to set gossip in motion is this enticing setup:
“Did you hear about…”
These words are an invitation to destruction. Don’t allow yourself to be part of an ugly communication chain. Perhaps this illustration will help makes things clearer:
Someone comes to you and instead of saying “did you hear about…” he says, “let me tell you about the marriage I am helping to destroy”. Suddenly, the words don’t sound inviting anymore. You would immediately question the intent of the speaker. This is the reality hiding behind the pretense of passing information. Gossip is deceptive!
We live in the information age. The acquisition of information has become akin to a civil right. Social networks, 24/7 news channels, texts, tweets, all lead to the false premise that we are entitled to as much information as we can consume. There is precious little verification of this information. Verification requires time, restraint, and careful investigation. Verification is not compatible with gossip.
So what is gossip?
One respected author and theologian defines gossip this way:
“Gossip is spreading information about someone to which other persons don’t need to hear.”
This is helpful. It helps to broaden the scope of understanding what gossip really is. While gossip is often false information, but it can also be information that is true. True information that is incomplete can be even more destructive than false information. This means we must be careful with what we say and hear if we are to avoid gossip and the destruction it brings. The Proverbs and James 3 provide many warnings about the damage gossip does. The best way to stop gossip is not to hear it or speak it.
Ephesians 4:29 gives specific instruction about what should come out of your mouth.
“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.”
If what you say or hear is not designed to build up others or benefit the hearer, it should be classified as unwholesome speech. This applies to gossip. If words do not build up or benefit, gossip is a real danger.
If someone says to you did you hear about…, have the courage to say, “is this information going to help me or benefit the person you are telling me about”?
If you are faithful in following this example you can be a force for truth. You will be a blessing to your children because your example will help them avoid the ugly, destructive sin of gossip. This practice might make you unpopular with some, but it will bring honor to your God. Your choice!