The Power of Words: Gossip

God loves all people, including sinners and unbelievers. Remember, though, that there are things that people do that our Lord hates – including lying, deception, violence, denigrating others – basically anything people do that is not edifying for the person or body of Christ. Oh, and gossip. He’s not a fan of gossip, either. And since we’re finishing up with a series about our words, let’s take a peek at this particular variety.

In my opinion, there’s a difference between relaying positive facts to other people versus telling secrets or things told to you in confidence, or even just talking about others for no decent reason based on things you’ve seen, heard, or surmised. The difference is a tough one to navigate, though, and I’ve struggled in this area because I like knowing what’s going on (especially at work) and being a confidant to people. After all, when you think that at least part of your life is ministering to others, you want them to tell you things.

So, lately I’ve been asking the Lord for revelation on what gossip really is. It turns out that the answer is pretty simple. Basically, if you’re repeating (or tweeting, blogging, Facebook commenting, emailing, or texting) something that you would not want the person to know you said, then I’d say it’s likely gossip. I’m fond of a quote that has been attributed to many different folks (and especially Eleanor Roosevelt) in various iterations, and that goes something like this: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” It doesn’t mean that it’s always true – people do, naturally, discuss other people. But the quote serves as a bit of a reminder to me that whenever I’m talking about other people, I need to really think hard about what I’m saying and how I’m saying it.

Biblically speaking, there’s a lot written about making sure your words “edify” – or build up – others, whether spoken directly to a person or not. Ephesians 4:30 states: “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.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 states: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Ephesians 4:15 talks about “speaking the truth in love” as a basis for edification, and those two things – truth and love – should be seen as prerequisites for using our words. Biblically speaking, if what we’re saying is not building someone up, or is not spoken in love, or even if we are agreeing with someone who is speaking in a non-edifying manner by spreading secrets, complaining, or disrespecting others, then I think we could lump all of that into “gossip,” too.

Proverbs 26:20-22 speaks to how gossip can stoke the fire of a quarrel: “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” Moreover, Proverbs also indicates that while certain secrets are likely to be told, gossips are the ones who can’t keep them: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

It’s that simple. And, really, it’s one of those areas where, if you have to ask yourself, “I wonder if it is gossip?” then it probably is, and it’s best just to stop.

Accordingly, I believe the best course of action is to err, once again, on the side of silence. We must watch our tongues and try not to repeat things or engage in non-edifying speech, regardless what we think we might know. We should always ask ourselves, “Is this something I would say directly to the person I’m talking about?” Additionally, if someone comes to us with information about another person, we should ask, “What is their motive in telling me this thing?” If it’s something that’s none of our business, we should refer the person to the person being spoken about. It’s most important that we DO NOT agree (even politely) or participate in the gossip with the gossiper. As we covered in the last post, polite agreement to gossip might be one of those things that can open the door to spiritual attack. It’s subtle, but a door cracked open is still an open door.

ACTION: Ask for an extra measure of discernment to recognize gossip, to help you bridle the weapon of your tongue, and only to use it to build someone up and to edify God’s people. Pray for both the gossiper as well as the person about whom the gossiper is speaking. Pray for Truth and Light to be revealed, and that you do not add any fuel to the gossip fire.

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