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The Surprising Solution to Gossip

April 16, 2018

We are needy people who crave words that bring life,Remember Rachel Lynde, the “town gossip” in Anne of Green Gables? While none of us want her blabbermouth reputation, we often don’t mind listening in as a gossiper shares her juicy news…  

“Did you hear the Davises are moving? I think he lost his job.”

“I heard Jan had to go the hospital…do you know why?”

“What happened to that teacher who quit last year? Is there more to the story?”

Matthew Mitchell says “Sinful gossip is sharing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart”. It’s entertainment. If I decided to tell you what my neighbor ate for dinner last night, it wouldn’t be gossip. But if I told you my neighbor ate dinner with a man who wasn’t her husband…you get the idea. The story just got more interesting.

A No-Win Situation

We’d all probably agree that the Bible forbids gossip, but do we know why? I found six reasons in Scripture for why gossip is wrong:

1. It’s counterproductive.

…they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. (1 Timothy 5:13)

What is gained by 20 minutes of talking about salacious details of someone else’s life? What good deed has been done? Gossip can masquerade as “sharing a prayer request,” but are you really going to give yourself in prayer for this person? We are not called to be the newsmen of the community—we are called incarnate Christ to those around us by word and deed. Time spent spreading or listening to gossip is time ill-spent.     

[Tweet “Time spent spreading or listening to gossip is time ill-spent.     “]

2. It spreads lies.

You shall not spread a false report (Exodus 23:1a)

We all know how the game of telephone works, as gossip quickly turns to rumors based on half-truths. We need to be aware of this even if we are not sharing something firsthand. Perhaps the information you are sharing is a half-truth. If it isn’t your news to share, you can’t be guaranteed you are sharing it accurately.

3. It breaks trust.

He who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. (Proverbs 11:13b)

It’s harder to trust someone who takes the precious, personal details of your life and throws them around for reckless fun. Personal stories told in confidence are like fine china; they must be handled carefully.

[Tweet “Personal stories told in confidence are like fine china; they must be handled carefully.”]

4. It separates friends.

A gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28b NIV)

Using the events of another person’s life for entertainment is selfish and unloving, and there are usually more relationships at stake than you and the person you are talking to. Perhaps a confidence was broken in the chain of whispers before the news reaches you. It’s wrong to further the damage. Just because you didn’t start the fire doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to stop it.   

5. It prolongs quarrels.

Without a gossip, a quarrel dies down. (Proverbs 26:20b NIV)

We have all witnessed the role that gossip plays in continuing quarrels. What was newsworthy yesterday may be mute now; but as long as the story lives, its potential to divide remains. Also, our flesh tempts us to sit as judges over people, and news that is sensational is rarely commending, often producing and prolonging quarrels.  

6. It’s often irresistible.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels. (Proverbs 18:8a NIV)

Gossip takes both the speaker and listener prisoner to its tempting feast of news, and important talk is left in the dust. The soul in front of you may have an encouraging word to share with you, or a sin they are ready to confess—but you have just offered them a tasty morsel they can’t refuse. The ministry that might have happened is now sidelined.    

A Can’t-Miss Opportunity

So, you’re talking with a co-worker, and once again she can’t wait to tell you the latest ridiculous excuse Joe made for being late to a meeting. What do you do? Preach a sermon on the evils of gossip? Put your hand in her face and walk away?

Here is the surprising solution: You love her. Ask a question about her. Tell her how you’ve been praying for her. Point out where you’ve see her grow in character. Share your admiration of how she has handled trials in her past.

[Tweet “We are needy people who crave words that bring life.”]

Consider: What good thing does the Lord want her to know right now?

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Instead of gossiping about someone else, we can love the person in front of us by:

  • Focusing what’s good for building them up
  • Saying what “fits the occasion” (ESV) or “meets the need of the moment” (NASB)
  • Giving grace

Gracious speech is seasoned with salt—it’s tasty. It’s full of the lavish blessings of kindness and timely love we see poured out by Jesus onto the people he encountered while on earth. We are needy people who crave words that bring life, so we should not be satisfied with conversations that entertain at the expense of others. Especially those in our family and church, whose lives and faults we see up close. Through the power of the Spirit, we are enabled to love each other graciously and intelligently—building each other up for the good work of growing into Christ’s image.

Let’s trade no-win gossip for the can’t-miss opportunity of loving, productive, Christlike speech.

For further discussion this important topic, visit this helpful link.  

[Photo Credit: Unsplash]

The Author
Rachel Lehner

Rachel Lehner is married to Peter, has four children, and serves in women's ministry at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church. Among other things, she loves helping with math homework and reciting Dr. Seuss from memory.

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