Gossip: Let Your Speech Always Be With Grace
Why do we as human beings feel the need to always be speaking about something new or interesting and have itching ears that long to hear some alluring piece of information? Maybe that is a question for psychology, but it certainly plays a part in our spiritual walk on this earth as God’s people. One cannot go through a checkout aisle without seeing the gossip magazines the media produces on a daily basis. Maybe as Christians we are not concerned with that type of gossip as much as the everyday hearsay of a coworker, neighbor, or brother/sister in Christ. Many times we can get caught up in what others are saying about someone or a particular situation involving another, and even if we do not have all the facts, we feel compelled to give “our two cents” worth. How often do we stop before we speak and think, “Will this help the person or hinder them?” “If the person in question were here would I say this to their face?” “Am I trying to be sincerely helpful or unfairly judgmental?” In other words, before we join in a conversation about another person who is not present we need to firstly examine our own motives. How we use our tongues everyday reflects upon the church of which we are a part and the God whom we serve.
First, it would be beneficial to discuss the meaning of gossip. The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines it as, “Idle talk, which foolishly or maliciously spreads rumors or facts” (“5000-HUMANITY,” Bible Themes Dictionary, n.p.). Webster’s Dictionary explains it as, “information about the behavior and personal lives of other people; a person who often talks about the private details of other people's lives”. Gossip is anything spoken of about another person’s life that is false or portrays them in a bad light. That brings up some areas of concern. If a person is publicly sinning and we are aware of it, should we keep quiet because we do not want to gossip about them. In that situation we should first speak with that person (no one else) and try to get them to turn back to God, and then, if they do not repent, we follow the Scriptures and inform others (Matthew 18:15-17; Luke 17:3). When people are openly and impenitently sinning, the Bible tells us to point them out so others will not be lead astray (2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15). This is not gossip because we would be obeying God’s Word and wanting the best for that person (their repentance). Gossip takes place when we want to tear down someone’s character or reputation (no matter how small of a matter it may be) either with falsehoods or truths.
God’s Word is not silent on how our Maker expects us to use our speech. In both the Old and New Testament, there are examples of gossip (Psalms 41:5-8; John 7:12-13; 3 John 1:9-10), and it is condemned throughout the Bible (Leviticus 19:16; Exodus 23:1; Psalms 101:5; Romans 1:29-30; 2 Corinthians 12:20). The inspired writers of the wisdom books include often the prudence of keeping one’s tongue in check (Proverbs 10:18-19, 18:6-7; 21:23; 29:11; Ecclesiastes 5:2-3). Christians are to follow after the example of the Lord, and He never falsely accused anyone or spent His time spreading rumors. Christ told His disciples that one day everyone will give an account for every word uttered (Matthew 12:36-37). This indeed is sobering and should motivate us to be all the more diligent in how we use our tongues. If we think that we can say anything that comes to mind we are deceiving ourselves (James 1:26). Christians are commanded to have “speech that is always with grace” (Colossians 4:6) and “sound speech” (Titus 2:8) so that no one can accuse Christ’s followers of evil. This leaves no room for gossip in the Christian’s life. See also 1 Timothy 5:13; Titus 2:3; 1 Peter 4:15.
Why is it so important to watch what we say? No one puts the answer to this more clearly and effectively than James does in his book (James 3:1-12). God has blessed each of us with means to communicate, and how we do that is of our own free will. It ought not to be the case that we speak forth “blessings and cursings” or “bless our God” only to turn around and “curse men” (James 3:9, 10). As Christians we must make a conscious effort to check our thoughts before they cross our lips. If we do not, the results can be disastrous (Proverbs 11:13; 16:28; 17:9; 25:9-10; 26:20). Our purpose on this earth is to serve God and help as many as we can in our short stay here do the same. In order to fulfill this, we must think on things that are true and virtuous (Philippians 4:8) and open our mouths with wisdom and kindness (Proverbs 31:26). Gossip is not to be found among the characteristics of a Christian. May each of us pray for strength to “set a guard over our mouths” and “keep watch over the door of our lips” (Psalms 141:3).
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