Respectable Sins: Gossip & Slander
We are continuing the series that we began during the worship period last week entitled Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. The goal, once again, of these lessons is to show that even though we may say that no sin is respectable or honorable, there may be times in which we do not show this to be the case in our actions. There are times in which we may be inconsistent in how we approach sin or times in which we neglect or justify certain sins, especially when they are happening in our lives. Then we do our weekly duty; we come to church twice per week, and act like everything is alright and deceive ourselves into thinking everything is ok for me spiritually. So in this series I have chosen some examples of sins that are commonly overlooked. Last week we looked at the sin of immodesty. If you missed that lesson, I would encourage you to go back and watch it. This week we will open up our Bibles and discuss the subjects of Gossip and Slander.
Let’s begin by asking the question: What is Gossip? The fact is: gossip is hard to define. One of the things we want to do is to try to put it in a box so we can know how far we can go and not be gossiping, but this obviously is not a right attitude to have. As I share this lesson today, you may be thinking of a few things or conversations you have had in the past and may ask yourself, “I wonder if this is gossip?” You may want to ask me or someone else after this lesson if something is gossip, but I would encourage you that if you have to ask someone, it may be something you shouldn’t say. It is hard to nail this down, but let’s at least look at some definitions so we can try to get a better understanding of what gossip is:
Here is a dictionary definition of the word gossip: gossip is “Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, at times involving details that are not confirmed as being true. It is idle talk or rumor about the personal or private affairs of others.
The Greek word used for gossip in the New Testament is defined by Strong’s and Vines as “someone who is a whisperer, or someone that is secretly or openly slandering.” We see in this definition how gossip and slander work together (slander being just the idea of speaking evil of someone, or saying overly negative things about someone. The same Greek word in the New Testament is used to say slander or blasphemy)
In other words, if we are saying something that is going to lower that person’s opinion of the person you are talking about or is going to prejudice them against that person, you are gossiping and slandering. If the things you are saying are dishonoring someone or harming someone’s reputation, that is gossip.
Gossip is something that we don’t tend to see it in ourselves. It is very easy to gossip whenever we are not thinking enough about what we say. We worship with the body of Christ, and then once we get off to ourselves and start talking about one another, and the discussion turns negative. Or we get into a discussion at the water cooler at work about politics, and the discussion quickly turns to attacking the president’s character or a certain candidate’s character… Or as we are writing a post on Facebook or sharing an article, we don’t think about whether the things we are typing are showing love or whether or not the article that we are sharing says things about people that may not be true.
Whenever we do such things, we may be gossiping. We may be sowing discord, and sinning with our tongues, and in doing so, we make our religion worthless, which is what James says in . If we cannot control our tongues, we are deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are religious people.
Profile of Gossip:
My name is gossip. I have no respect for justice. I mame without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cunning and malicious. The more I am quoted, the more I am believed. I flourish in every level of society. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves from me. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try the more elusive I become. I am nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation it is never the same. I topple governments and wreck marriages. I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights. I spurn suspicion and generate grief. I make innocent people cry in their pillows. My name is gossip. Office Gossip, home gossip, shop gossip, telephone gossip, email and social networking gossip, church gossip. I make headlines and headaches. I am gossip.
That old adage is a lie that says that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This is just not true. Gossip hurts. The sad part is people that we gossip about don’t even know they are being attacked, and they may not know for weeks, months, or maybe even years. They have no idea and can’t protect themselves. And at times our motives for gossip are selfish. We like to make ourselves look better at other peoples’ expense.
You may have said these things before. I know I have.
1. “It isn’t gossip if it is true.” We tend to think that gossip only involves lying and spreading rumors that may not be true. It includes those, but you can also slander and gossip with the truth. It may be true that a brother or sister committed adultery a while back, or maybe a brother did lose his job for lying, but if you are trying to pass that information along to lower someone else’s opinion of that person, you are gossiping. That is slander. Just because something is true does not mean that you have the right to go and tell everyone the news. We need to keep that in mind.
2. I didn’t mean to mar that person’s reputation, so I didn’t gossip. Of course there are times when we say things that we don’t mean to about people that we shouldn’t say, and we don’t mean to hurt someone’s feelings or to hurt someone’s reputation, but that doesn’t make it ok. Trying to justify ourselves will not work with God. We will give an account for every idle word. Brethren, we need to put some effort into making sure we think about the things we say before we say them to make sure that what we say will lift that person up instead of tearing them down. That takes a lot of effort. Try to have conversations with a goal of making someone think better of someone than before you talked to them. If you are going to talk about people, say good things about people behind their backs. That will be an encouragement if it gets back to the person. Attacking someone’s character, no matter who they are, is NOT the loving thing to do! If someone really wants their reputation to be destroyed, let them do it themselves. You don’t need to do it for them.
3. I don’t want to gossip, I just want to let you know. Why? Do I really need to know? Do I need to know that a brother sinned against you or someone else? Do I need to know all of the dirt on my brothers and sisters in Christ? About a political candidate or the President? The answer is NO! We should not be airing people’s dirty laundry like that. If you know about someone’s sin, who should you go talk to about it? Not me or another brother. You go and talk to the person who sinned. If you tell someone else first just to let them in on the info, you are gossiping. Husbands and wives, I am sure most of us are guilty of this: usually who is one of the first people we tend to tell when someone frustrates you, angers you, or sins against you? Your spouse? That is gossip. It doesn’t matter who you are sharing the information with. Our spouses don’t need to hear about all of our grievances with other people.
4. I don’t mean to gossip, I just thought you would be able to help. Turn to . This passage is very important in regards to our last point, but it is also important with this one also! If someone ever comes to you and wants to let you in on some information about someone’s sin or thinks you can really help them in giving them some Biblical wisdom, just share this verse with them so they can know what to do.
"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
What did Jesus say in verse 15? If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” You do not go to another brother, not the preacher or one of the elders, not your spouse, to the one who sinned). We usually forget about this verse when someone sins against us or offends us, but brethren, if a brother sins against you, read this passage, and then obey it! If someone comes to you to share their grievances with someone, ask them if they have obeyed what Jesus says in this passage yet?
This is the best help you can give someone. And if someone sins against us and, instead of going to that person first to reason with our brother, we go to the elders or the preacher or our spouse, etc., etc., we are disobeying Jesus!
5. I would say this in front of them, so it’s not gossip. This is how you respond to someone that says this: “well, alright, let me give them a call on speakerphone and we can make sure you say it in front of them.” Or you can say “Ok, let’s take a ride over to their house so we can talk about it together.” Remember, just because you are willing to say it to the person does not mean that you are not guilty of gossip. Just because you would slander someone to their face or malign someone’s reputation in front of them does not mean that it is ok to do it behind their back.
We try to say these things to justify our gossip, but it doesn’t work. We are gossiping when we say these things.
For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
This is a helpful illustration; a common sense illustration. To get a fire going and to keep it going, you need wood to burn. Gossip is the wood that kindles the fire and keeps it hot. When you remove the gossip, quarreling and strife goes away. We need to make it our goal to stop gossiping for the sake of the body of Christ. It is capable of (figuratively) burning the church to the ground. When you have a congregation that is at peace and unified, talebearers probably are not present, but when you have a congregation that has turmoil and strife, it would be no surprise if there are gossips within the group.
O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? 2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. 3 He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend
Who are the ones that will dwell with the Lord? Not us if we slander and gossip. This is really serious! We cannot have fellowship with God if we use our tongues to slander those who are made in God’s image!
We need to understand that we are going to be held accountable for the words that come out of our mouths. Here are some verses that show this. Let’s go through them quickly:
“28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
When Paul wanted to list all of these gentiles that were of a debased mind, he included gossips and slanderers. Paul says that those who practice such things deserve to die. But not only those who do these things are worthy of death, but also those who give their approval of what they do, which is what we do when we accept gossip that others want to share with us. Remember; it takes two people to gossip, the one who is giving it and the one who is receiving it. And both have a responsibility to put an end to it. Don’t think that because you may be the one who is sitting there listening to the gossip that you are innocent. You are not. We like to hear other people’s deepest and darkest secrets. We want to hear all the juicy details. We are just as guilty for accepting the gossip and letting it continue. This, my brothers and sisters, is something that we all need to hold each other accountable for.
James wrote, "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles! (.) James continued, "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell" (vs. 6).
Jesus said, "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account for in the Day of Judgment. For by thy words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned" (, ). Our words reveal the true content of our hearts. What are the words that come out of your mouth revealing about your character? Let’s all do a heart check today.
And one more before we close:
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
This is the Apostle Paul’s invitation for you. Stop grieving the Spirit of God with your words. If you are guilty of the sins of Gossip and Slander, Paul calls you to stop using your words to tear down and destroy others and to use your words wisely, in a way that shares God’s grace with those we are talking to, and shows love (not bitterness or anger) towards those we are speaking about.
If there is anything we can do to help you know the Lord better, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing.