Gossip–it’s a problem at every high school, on every job, and sadly, in most churches. You may or may not be surprised by a study which concluded that 80% of all conversation is gossip and one which found that more men gossip than women. The idea of talking about someone behind their back in a negative way is appealing to some for one reason or another. Someone has said “as long as you whisper, people will listen to anything you have to say.” Gossip is defined as: “a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others; a rumor or report of an intimate nature; or chatty talk.” The idea that gossip involves sensation and personal details about others is perhaps what makes it attractive, but it is certainly not a Christian thing to do.
When most people think about their bodies, there is a heightened concern about weight and physical fitness these days, but I’m not sure there is a heightened importance on watching the tongue. God, throughout the Bible, is continually warning humanity about the deadly nature of the tongue, and the damage that it can do (Lev. 19:16; Prov. 10:19; Jas. 3:8). The damage that the tongue can do is seen in a grand fashion when people gossip. Gossip destroys families, ruins reputations, and costs people their lives; yet still some partake in this act as regularly as breathing.
A Christian must be on guard against being like the world (Jn. 17:16; Rm. 12:1-2) and should not love those things that the world has to offer (Jas. 4:4; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). Are we failing in regards to gossip and the way we view it? Can people count on you to share information with them about others? Do you have an itching ear for the latest sensational story that will tear down another? The thing about gossip is, when it is done by me it’s viewed as a small thing but when it’s done about me then it’s viewed as a big thing. No matter how religious one seems to be, if the tongue is not controlled they are simply being fooled: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
With all of the bad things associated with gossip why is it still so enticing?
It’s easy to do
Telling information about others and sharing intimate information about another takes no courage, wisdom, or virtue. The fact of the matter is, gossiping is an easy and effortless thing to do, and this is why many engage in it. Jesus characterized His disciples by the difficulty that would be associated with their lives (Mt. 7:13-14). Refraining from gossiping, or not allowing others to do so when they are with you may be hard; but it’s the way of the disciple. Christians don’t take the easy way out, we take the holy way out (1 Pet. 1:16).
Do you have the courage to tell close friends and relatives that you don’t want to hear what they have to say about another because you don’t engage in gossip? Are you ready to reject information that someone tries to whisper to you no matter how interesting it may seem because you “walk to the beat of a different drum” (2 Cor. 5:17)? Easy isn’t always the best way out, sometimes we must be willing to travel the hard road.
When someone has a weak or wrong view of themselves, the way they see others will likewise be faulty. If I think less of myself than I should, it will cause me to think less of others, and I will have no problem tearing them down. Many people live by the mistaken notion that in order to make myself look good, I must make others look bad. This idea of making others look bad so that I’ll look good is simply not true, I don’t look good if others look bad, I only look good when I am light in a dark world and when I follow Christ (Mt. 5:13-16).
The Christian must always desire to grow and to progress—but this should not cause one to constantly look down on one’s self to the point of being insecure. The way to deal with insecurity is to see myself the way God sees me, not by tearing down others created in the image of God (Jas. 3:9).
The truth of the matter is that it takes two people to have a conversation. Gossip would die where it begins if people never listened. However, the harsh reality is that there are always those who lend their ears to that which is ungodly (2 Tim. 4:3-4). People that gossip usually know who they can depend on to listen and further promote their agenda (Prov. 26:20-22). Christians sometimes allow themselves to be used in this fashion and this should not be the case. We need to be people of discretion when it comes to what we entertain with our ears. People should not be able to rely on us to further their destruction of another person’s reputation or to aid in the character assassination of another (Phil. 1:27).
The reason gossip is popular is because people have ears that want to hear it, it’s easy to do, and people are insecure about themselves. However, there are some good reasons why we should refrain from gossip:
Our words will meet us at judgment
On one occasion Jesus was being wrongly accused of casting out demons by demonic powers (Mt. 12:24) and he had this to say about words to those who were using their words so carelessly on this occasion: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mt. 12:36-37).
Gossip, though seemingly innocent and harmless, comes with a hefty fine to pay. Jesus says the words we speak will meet us at the finish line of life. Think about every careless word you have spoken. Now think about standing before a Holy God in judgment on behalf of those words (2 Cor. 5:10-11). When you think about your words condemning or justifying you do you smile or cringe?
The fact that words will play a part in our eternal destiny should help us with the problem of gossip. Eternity is too long to gamble with the idea of being separated from God because I had to share the latest news about somebody’s clothes, marriage, children, or finances. What a shame it would be to lose my soul over a story about someone else.
Our words should be used to glorify God
In James chapter three, James has a lot to say about the tongue and its improper uses. He speaks of the contrast between its small size and its great power (Jas. 3:2-5). Then James discusses the inconsistent use of the tongue that characterized those he wrote to (Jas. 3:9-10). We bless God with our tongue on Sunday, and then turn around and use that same tongue to talk about a co-worker on Monday—how hypocritical. James gives the example of a fountain and how it cannot give both bitter and sweet water (Jas. 3:11). Imagine drinking from a fountain and receiving cool and fresh water, only to return days later dehydrated, and this time the spring gives forth bitter water! Just as surely as we can rely on the consistency of some natural things, God should be able to rely on our tongues to be used consistently for praise and glory, and not gossip (Ps. 5:3).
Our tongues should be used to glorify God and to build up people made in the image of God. We cannot claim to glorify God with our tongue, and use that same instrument to tear down people He loves and created (1 Jn. 4:20-21). It’s sometimes easy to give lip service to the idea that I love God and sing songs about Him and even pray to Him. The challenge is to be consistent with my speech, and to give glory to God by not using my tongue in a manner that is inconsistent with my claim as a Christian (Mt. 12:34).
Wise people don’t gossip
Nobody likes to be called a fool, especially if it’s not April 1st, but that’s how the Bible describes people who engage in gossip (Prov. 18:7). Only a foolish person would want to waste most of their time concerned about someone else’s business. Especially when there is enough of one’s own business to tend to (Phil. 2:12). The book of Proverbs was no doubt written to give wisdom and sound advice (Prov. 1:1-3), and its pages are filled with warnings about listening to and spreading gossip.
If someone is wise and wants to keep their life they will watch their tongue (Prov. 13:3). Wise people attempt to maintain good friendships and solve issues—gossip does otherwise (Prov. 17:9). Death and life are in the power of the tongue and wise people make good use of it (Prov. 18:21). Those who engage in gossip show themselves to be unwise and wisdom to be out of their reach (Prov. 24:7).
Ways to overcome gossip
You know what the Bible says about gossip, but how do you avoid it? When you are done reading this post, it probably won’t be long before someone tries to come and share something with you about someone else, or maybe you will be tempted to do the same. How can we combat this?
Be careful who you associate with (1 Cor. 15:33). Some people will continue to gossip, they have a reputation of gossiping, and their conversations generally consist of little else. One must be wise concerning who they surround themselves with, as to avoid this type of habitual behavior.
Pray to God for wisdom in speech (Jas. 1:5). Seek to find the good in most situations and people rather than the bad. People generally get what they are looking for, so look to see the good, and don’t always magnify the bad. I try and live by the motto (when dealing with those who are not Christians) “If you don’t plan to evangelize, don’t criticize.” Reaching out to someone with the gospel is a good way to keep from gossiping, it will keep speech honest, sincere, and focused on more important matters.
Love people! This is a sure way to keep from gossip (Jn. 13:34-35). Jesus said we need to treat people the way we want to be treated (Mt. 7:12), it’s just that simple. When you put yourself in the shoes of the one being gossiped about, it becomes really easy to stop gossiping and start repenting. Don’t gossip, or let people gossip to you, just don’t do it. Don’t excuse it as discussing spiritual things, don’t allow people you look up to gossip to you, and don’t gossip about Christians to non-Christians.
Eleanor Roosevelt was on to something when she said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
 Merriam- Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Ed. (2011)