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The Destructive Power of Gossip

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Proverbs 26:20-22

The Destructive Power of Gossip

Without wood a fire goes out;

without gossip a quarrel dies down.

As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,

so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;

they go down to a man’s inmost parts.

A

mong the awful sins catalogued in Scripture, none contaminate the people of God more thoroughly than does the sin of gossip.  One tongue sharpened as a sword can destroy more saints than all the powers of hell.  One sanctimonious prayer request on behalf of another, one statement made just so another will know what is going on, one recitation of what was heard, can forever render a fellow saint powerless and ineffective.

As I began to research the Word of God in preparation for this message I quit printing when I had printed over three pages of Bible statements condemning gossip and warning of the effects of unchecked gossip.  I gather from this that gossip must be a serious problem among the saints of God.  Gossip does have an ugly twin—slander.  Together these terrible sins destroy the heritage of God, render powerful servants of the True and Living God ineffective, and ensure that God’s work grows stagnant and sterile.

It is a disturbing fact that gossip and slander reside within almost every church.  These dreadful sins are tolerated and excused by many within the churches of our Lord.  Perhaps it is by virtue of the regularity with which they are practised—their familiarity—that they are tolerated.  In some instances gossip persists because those promoting this wickedness have never been born from above.  You do realise that not everyone who claims to be a member of the church has necessarily been born from above.  It is not what I say I believe but it is rather what I believe that matters.  In other instances gossip persists and is permitted because no one has withstood such evil demanding that it cease.  Woe betides the church which has in leadership men and women with a tongue hinged in the middle and flapping loose at both ends.  Such people can work frightful evil in the vineyard of Christ all the while enjoying the reputation of being pious which permits them to continue working their wickedness unhindered.

Part of the work of the minister of Christ is to unmask evil so that the people of God may be horrified by its presence and thus avoid it.  I do not say that this is agreeable work for the man of God—it is not.  However, such labour is necessary if the Body of Christ will be healthy and strong.  By God’s grace I thus propose to address this dire evil which threatens even us that you may be warned and by that warning avoid its pollution.  It is not my intent to name names, but it is my purpose to equip each of you so that you are enabled to identify this wickedness and assist in stamping it out among us.

Consider the words of the Wise Man found in the 26th Chapter of Proverbs.  The latter part of that chapter focuses quite pointedly on sins of the tongue.  We haven’t time to review all the verses in the time allotted for worship this day, but I would encourage you to read verses seventeen through twenty-eight.  The words of Solomon will no doubt benefit each of us, and the more so as we endeavour to move beyond the tensions of days recently past.

The Attraction of Gossip for Christians —

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;

they go down to a man’s inmost parts.

[Proverbs 26:22]

This is not the only time this warning is issued by Solomon.  The same saying appears in Proverbs 18:8.  Therefore, we might conclude that avoiding gossip is crucial to godliness.  Apparently gossip is more than a little sin.

Why do we gossip?  Knowledge is power and knowledge about people is potentially power over those people.  In honesty we enjoy holding power over others.  We like to think that we have private knowledge about others.  It is human nature to want to be in on what is happening.  There exists an entire industry devoted to informing us of what is happening in people’s lives.  Perhaps you don’t read the broadsheets at the grocery checkout counters (at least I hope you don’t).  However, I daresay that you do enjoy knowing what is happening in the life of your favourite movie or television star, the celebrity of the moment, or the news focus of the week.  If this were not so People magazine would cease publication.  Ophra Winfrey would cease broadcasting.  Entertainment Tonight would no longer be seen on evening television.

Let’s be honest enough to admit that we do enjoy knowing about others though we are less eager to expose our own lives to such scrutiny.  Perhaps we are not planning to blackmail any movie stars or divulge any secrets that threaten the security of the nation, but a story detailing the failings of a notable figure captures our attention and ensures that we carefully listen or read.  In a similar fashion we are interested in what is happening in the life of fellow Christians—especially if those saints are recognised as leaders, carry a label as being stalwarts of the Faith, or have years invested within the congregation.  We will listen if someone relates a story concerning them.

I would not suggest that you cease speaking of one another, but I would remind you of the teachings of the Word of God concerning your speech.  I would remind you that you are responsible to speak only those things which build up fellow believers.  In an extended passage the Apostle Paul addressed this very issue.  Listen to Ephesians 4:11-32.

It was [the ascended Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.  Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body.  “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

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.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I encourage you to focus on that twenty-ninth verse, where you read one portion which most of us say we obey: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.  We would say that we obey this injunction because we don’t use foul or abusive language [nlt].  We are not given to filthy speech and crude expressions and so we would say that we are obedient to this text.  Paul did not stop with this negative injunction, however, but continued by saying that we are to speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Please listen to this latter portion of the injunction as it appears in a couple of contemporary translations.

When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger.  Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you [ncv].

Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them [NLT].

Your mother used to tell you, If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.  Mother’s advice was good; it communicated precisely what the Apostle says here in the Word of God.  You and I are responsible to review our speech to ensure that we speak only to build others up and not to permit anything we say appear as though it would tear another down, injure them, or harm them in any way.  We are to communicate only those things which strengthen others.  This is especially true when we are speaking of those who are fellow believers.

The words which Paul penned in Philippians 4:8 are similar and are also applicable in this particular instance.  Take a moment to turn to that passage of Scripture with me.  Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Of course, if the things of which I think are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, my speech will reflect those same qualities.

In order to make this instruction complete I urge you to remember that though a communication may be true, you are responsible to ensure that it is noble and pure and lovely.  Consider whether your recitation of a truth will be excellent or praiseworthy.  Not everything we may say concerning what we have heard or witnessed will honour God or build up others.  It is falls into the category of doubt—don’t.

The Real Picture of a Gossip —

As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,

so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.

[Proverbs 26:21]

Akin to this particular point Solomon makes are some other Proverbs which you should also relate to this particular teaching.

A gossip betrays a confidence;

so avoid a man who talks too much

[Proverbs 20:19]

A perverse man stirs up dissension,

and a gossip separates close friends

[Proverbs 16:28]

A gossip betrays a confidence,

but a trustworthy man keeps a secret

[Proverbs 11:13]

In our text we discover that a gossip is quarrelsome.  The gossip tries to justify what was said and why he or she said it.  The gossip seeks to kindle strife.  The tales the gossip bears (whether true or strained) are fuel for destroying another.  Gossips will not keep a confidence; their egos are so fragile that they must build themselves through destroying others.  If they separate close friends, so what!  Dissension is their stock in trade and when a friendship is broken they will gladly embrace you and be your best friend.  After all, you ensure that they can continue their gossip for you provide another ear into which they can pour their toxic wastes.  As a friend of the gossip you are just another in the long list of victims whose character has been trampled in the mud, for that is what shall shortly happen to you when you have been embraced by the gossip as a confidant.

I cannot say that gossip has become a greater problem in the churches during the days of my ministry, but I do say that I have not yet found a church which was not plagued with gossips.  In my ministry of seeking to heal troubled churches the major opposition to restored health is gossip.  The toil of ministry is compounded by the need to address constant misinformation and dissension stirred up by gossiping tongues.  I am familiar with Paul’s warnings to Timothy concerning the state of mankind in the last days.  Listen to his warnings as presented through the New Century Version of the Word.

Remember this!  In the last days there will be many troubles, because people will love themselves, love money, brag, and be proud.  They will say evil things against others and will not obey their parents or be thankful or be the kind of people God wants.  They will not love others, will refuse to forgive, will gossip, and will not control themselves.  They will be cruel, will hate what is good, will turn against their friends, and will do foolish things without thinking.  They will be conceited, will love pleasure instead of God, and will act as if they serve God but will not have his power.  Stay away from those people [2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NCV)].

I do know that in the last days, a period which began even during Paul’s ministry and which continues to this present moment, we will witness people that will say evil things against others [blavsfhmoi], be slanderous (that is, they will gossip) [diavboloi], hate what is good [ajfilavgaqoi], turn against their friends [prodovtai].  Any of these dark characterisations mark the gossip, but taken in whole they paint a dark picture of the character of gossips—especially as they will appear in the last days.  Gossip undermines confidence and destroys respect among the people of God.  Within the Body of Christ we are to trust one another to fulfil the ministry Christ assigns to each of us and we are to receive one another with respect and treat one another with dignity.  Gossip ensures that there shall be no civility if it continues unchecked.

Lest you should be tempted to think these characteristics have no relevance to the churches in this age listen to the Apostle’s concerns about a church he had to visit and possibly would need to correct.  I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be.  I fear that there may be quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder [2 Corinthians 12:20].  Imagine a church where there is quarrelling (e[ri"), jealousy (zh`lo"), outbursts of anger (qumoiv), factions (ejriqeivai), slander (katalaliaiv), gossip (yiqurismoiv), arrogance (fusiwvsei") and disorder (ajkatastasivai).  If you can imagine such a church you can imagine the Apostle’s distress at having to confront such evil.

What is important to see is that where one evil exists, all exist.  If gossip is present and tolerated, then likewise quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, arrogance and disorder are present and disrupting the life of the Body.  Gossip is not a polite deviation which may be tolerated among the people of God, but it is rather an awful sin which destroys the work of God and neutralises the power of God’s people as they endeavour to confront the enemy.  To refuse to put an end to gossip is to dishonour God and to ensure that the health of the Body is imperilled.  To fail to stop gossip is to consign the church to perpetual disorganisation and impotence.

Consider now that the very things which marked that church are the characteristics which mark the wicked whom God has given over to their own devices.  In the New Century Version of the Bible we read about such people in Romans 1:28-32People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God.  So God left them and allowed them to have their own worthless thinking and to do things they should not do.  They are filled with every kind of sin, evil, selfishness, and hatred.  They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, lying, and thinking the worst about each other.  They gossip and say evil things about each other.  They hate God.  They are rude and conceited and brag about themselves.  They invent ways of doing evil.  They do not obey their parents.  They are foolish, they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or mercy to others.  They know God’s law says that those who live like this should die.  But they themselves not only continue to do these evil things, they applaud others who do them.

I cannot imagine that a church would wish to think of itself as so tolerant that they admitted gossips among their membership.  What I would have you see is that the gossip is motivated by the fires of hell itself.  Listen to James, the Brother of our Lord as he warns about the unchecked tongue.  The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell [geevnnh"][James 3:5, 6].

How to Kill Gossip among Christians —

Without wood a fire goes out;

without gossip a quarrel dies down.

[Proverbs 26:20]

The gossip treats our ears as though they were an open sewer into which he or she will dump his or her putrid load of toxic waste.  When the people of God refuse to receive that noxious refuse, gossip ceases.  The responsibility to kill gossip is imposed upon each of us.  When the people of God refuse to accept a statement about another, gossip will cease.  When the people of God stop the recitation of a story by stating that they will seek verification from the source, gossip will cease.

Each Christian is responsible to refuse to receive gossip.  This means that we may need to stop some people from speaking to us at the first hint that they are relating a story for which there is no justification.  If you have no need to know what a person said or did, why would you wish to hear about it?  There are some questions you will do well to ask before you receive a story.  Is it true?  Is it helpful?  Is it necessary?

Can the one reciting the story verify the accuracy of what is being related?  How will your receiving the story make you a better person?  How will receiving the story better the life of the one about whom the tale is related?  What effect will this story have on your view of that individual?  What effect will your receipt of this story have on your relationship with the one about whom the story is told?  If the story does not strengthen you, the one about whom the story is related, or the Body of Christ, refuse to receive it.  In what way is it necessary that you have the information you are about to receive?

It is true that we can put an end to gossip in the church by refusing to receive it, but it would be better still if we each determined that we would refuse to tell all we think we know.  There is in the Proverbs instruction to assist us in this matter.  Just because you see something, don’t be in a hurry to go to court. You might go down before your neighbours in shameful defeat.  So discuss the matter with them privately.  Don’t tell anyone else, or others may accuse you of gossip.  Then you will never regain your good reputation [Proverbs 25:8-10 NLT].

Do you understand what Solomon is saying at this point?  If you think you saw something which was unsavoury or which could reflect negatively on another person, go to the one involved and seek clarification.  Perhaps there is an explanation for what you think you saw.  This is nothing less than a practical application of the apostolic teaching.  If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others [Philippians 2:1-4].

Paul’s teaching to the churches in Galatia would also apply at this particular point. Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load [Galatians 6:1-5].

As he concludes that passage the Apostle makes a final summary statement which we need to hear.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers [Galatians 6:10].  Doing good means that we believe the best about one another.  Doing good means that we refuse to receive anything which could potentially hurt a fellow Christian.  Doing good means that we stop all stories, however fine our motives may appear, before those stories take on life of their own.

This instruction is nothing more and nothing less than practical application of the warning of Leviticus 19:16 which states: Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people (NLT).  The warning against gossip is iterated through James who bluntly speaks.  Brothers, do not slander one another.  Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.  When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it.  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.  But you—who are you to judge your neighbour [James 4:11,12]?

As gossips become known, I will rebuke them.  I will do so privately in hopes of reclaiming them for the cause of Christ.  If they refuse to accept correction, I will deal with them as their sin deserves.  If necessary, I will rebuke them publicly.  I am concerned for the health of the Body and thus I stand opposed to that which is detrimental.  I will put an end to gossip with your help and to the glory of God.

At the last, God Himself opposes the gossip and the slanderer.  Do not underestimate the importance of purity before Him who purchased the church with His blood.  He sets the standard for all who would worship.  You have no doubt read the Psalms and among those Psalms you have encountered this recitation of the qualities of those who honour God.  Notice especially verses two and three which speak rather pointedly against gossip.

Lord, who may enter your Holy Tent?

Who may live on your holy mountain?

Only those who are innocent

and who do what is right.

Such people speak the truth from their hearts

and do not tell lies about others.

They do no wrong to their neighbours

and do not gossip.

They do not respect hateful people

but honour those who honour the Lord.

They keep their promises to their neighbours,

even when it hurts.

They do not charge interest on money they lend

and do not take money to hurt innocent people.

Whoever does all these things will never be destroyed. 

[Psalm 15:1-5 (NCV)]

To participate in gossip, whether through receiving tales or through conveying tales, is to jeopardise intimacy with God and to surrender any hope to worship.

David gives a model prayer for the one under assault.  Those who would speak against another, those who would recite a story which was unhelpful for building up another, or those who would receive such a tale, need to hear this Psalm.  Listen and consider whether God opposes you.  Listen and consider whether you do not place yourself in jeopardy through participating in gossip.

Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men;

protect me from men of violence,

who devise evil plans in their hearts

and stir up war every day.

They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;

the poison of vipers is on their lips.  Selah 

Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked;

protect me from men of violence

who plan to trip my feet.

Proud men have hidden a snare for me;

they have spread out the cords of their net

and have set traps for me along my path.  Selah 

O LORD, I say to you, “You are my God.”

Hear, O LORD, my cry for mercy.

O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer,

who shields my head in the day of battle—

do not grant the wicked their desires, O LORD;

do not let their plans succeed,

or they will become proud.  Selah 

Let the heads of those who surround me

be covered with the trouble their lips have caused.

Let burning coals fall upon them;

may they be thrown into the fire,

into miry pits, never to rise.

Let slanderers not be established in the land;

may disaster hunt down men of violence

[Psalm 140:1-11]

If we refuse to receive gossip, it will cease.  If we refuse to communicate gossip, it will cease.  If we would but learn to do what the Word of God instructs us to do and go to those about whom we think we must speak to determine why they are doing what they do or to determine why they are saying what they say, we will put an end to all gossip.  This is nothing less than a plea for the people of God to treat one another with respect.  This means that we must not allow ourselves to make excuses for why we will not speak to another concerning a tale we have received or which we wish to relate to another, but instead it means that we each assume responsibility to verify or be silent.

I have no doubt that the message is pointed and that some within this congregation are feeling the sting of my words.  I pray that you understand that I have not spoken personally, but I have spoken pastorally.  If you will not heed the admonition of the Word, then you must prepare to confront Almighty God.  We may be assured that He is concerned for the welfare of this flock and that He shall surely put an end to such sin if we will not receive the warning of the Word.

I am calling on the people of God to forsake the culture from which we come.  This is precisely what Paul called for when he wrote those piercing words in the Ephesian encyclical.  I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more [Ephesians 4:17-19].

I call on you to publicly renounce any reliance on gossip.  Among us should be a large number of men and women who will stand and publicly state that they will no longer receive any story about another without verification and without reason for doing so.  If you will commit yourself to such integrity, please join me today by standing.  If you will commit yourself to refuse to advance any story which may be hurtful to another, join us in standing today.  Amen.


17 In the Lord’s name, I tell you this.  Do not continue living like those who do not believe.  Their thoughts are worth nothing.18 They do not understand, and they know nothing, because they refuse to listen.  So they cannot have the life that God gives.19 They have lost all feeling of shame, and they use their lives for doing evil.  They continually want to do all kinds of evil.20 But what you learned in Christ was not like this.21 I know that you heard about him, and you are in him, so you were taught the truth that is in Jesus.22 You were taught to leave your old self—to stop living the evil way you lived before.  That old self becomes worse, because people are fooled by the evil things they want to do.23 But you were taught to be made new in your hearts, 24 to become a new person.  That new person is made to be like God—made to be truly good and holy.

25 So you must stop telling lies.  Tell each other the truth, because we all belong to each other in the same body.26 When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.27 Do not give the devil a way to defeat you.28 Those who are stealing must stop stealing and start working.  They should earn an honest living for themselves.  Then they will have something to share with those who are poor.

29 When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger.  Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.30 And do not make the Holy Spirit sad.  The Spirit is God’s proof that you belong to him.  God gave you the Spirit to show that God will make you free when the final day comes.31 Do not be bitter or angry or mad.  Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others.  Never do anything evil.32 Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.

[New Century Version]

17 With the Lord’s authority let me say this: Live no longer as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused.  18 Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him.  19 They don’t care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways.  Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed.

20 But that isn’t what you were taught when you learned about Christ.  21 Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, 22 throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception.  23 Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.  24 You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness—righteous, holy, and true.

25 So put away all falsehood and “tell your neighbour the truth” because we belong to each other.  26 And “don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.”  Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.

28 If you are a thief, stop stealing.  Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need.  29 Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.  Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behaviour.  32 Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

[New Living Translation]
I cannot say that gossip has become a greater problem in the churches during the days of my ministry, but I do say that I have not yet found a church which was not plagued with gossips.  In my ministry of seeking to heal troubled churches the major problem I have faced is gossip.  The toil of ministry is compounded by the need to address constant misinformation and dissension stirred up by gossiping tongues.  I am familiar with Paul’s warnings to Timothy concerning the state of mankind in the last days.  Listen to his warnings as presented through the New Century Version of the Word.

Remember this!  In the last days there will be many troubles, because people will love themselves, love money, brag, and be proud.  They will say evil things against others and will not obey their parents or be thankful or be the kind of people God wants.  They will not love others, will refuse to forgive, will gossip, and will not control themselves.  They will be cruel, will hate what is good, will turn against their friends, and will do foolish things without thinking.  They will be conceited, will love pleasure instead of God, and will act as if they serve God but will not have his power.  Stay away from those people [2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NCV)].

I do know that in the last days, a period which began even during Paul’s ministry and which continues to this present moment, we will witness people that will say evil things against others [blavsfhmoi], be slanderous (that is, they will gossip) [diavboloi], hate what is good [ajfilavgaqoi], turn against their friends [prodovtai].  Any of these dark characterisations mark the gossip, but taken in whole they paint a dark picture of the character of gossips—especially as they will appear in the last days.  Gossip undermines confidence and destroys respect among the people of God.  Within the Body of Christ we are to trust one another to fulfil the ministry Christ assigns to each of us and we are to receive one another with respect and treat one another with dignity.  Gossip ensures that there shall be no civility if it remains unchecked.

Lest you should be tempted to think these characteristics have no relevance to the churches in this age listen to the Apostle’s concerns about a church he had to visit and possibly would need to correct.  I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be.  I fear that there may be quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder [2 Corinthians 12:20].  Imagine a church where there is quarrelling (e[ri"), jealousy (zh`lo"), outbursts of anger (qumoiv), factions (ejriqeivai), slander (katalaliaiv), gossip (yiqurismoiv), arrogance (fusiwvsei") and disorder (ajkatastasivai).  If you can imagine such a church you can imagine the Apostle’s distress at having to confront such evil.

Consider now that the very things which marked that church are the characteristics which mark the wicked whom God has given over to their own devices.  In the New Century Version of the Bible we read about such people in Romans 1:28-32People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God.  So God left them and allowed them to have their own worthless thinking and to do things they should not do.  They are filled with every kind of sin, evil, selfishness, and hatred.  They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, lying, and thinking the worst about each other.  They gossip and say evil things about each other.  They hate God.  They are rude and conceited and brag about themselves.  They invent ways of doing evil.  They do not obey their parents.  They are foolish, they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or mercy to others.  They know God’s law says that those who live like this should die.  But they themselves not only continue to do these evil things, they applaud others who do them.

It is true that we can put an end to gossip in the church by refusing to receive it, but it would be better still if we each determined that we would refuse to tell all we think we know.  There is in the Proverbs instruction to assist us in this matter.  Just because you see something, don’t be in a hurry to go to court. You might go down before your neighbours in shameful defeat.  So discuss the matter with them privately.  Don’t tell anyone else, or others may accuse you of gossip.  Then you will never regain your good reputation [Proverbs 25:8-10 NLT].


 

This instruction is nothing less and nothing more than practical application of the warning of Leviticus 19:16 which states: Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people (NLT).  The warning against gossip is iterated through James who bluntly speaks.  Brothers, do not slander one another.  Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.  When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it.  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.  But you—who are you to judge your neighbour [James 4:11,12]?


At the last, God Himself opposes the gossip and the slanderer.  Do not underestimate the power of prayer lifted to Him who purchased the church with His blood.  He sets the standard for those who would worship.  You have no doubt read the Psalms and among those Psalms you have encountered this recitation of the qualities of those who honour God.  Notice especially verses two and three which speak rather pointedly against gossip.

Lord, who may enter your Holy Tent?

Who may live on your holy mountain?

Only those who are innocent

and who do what is right.

Such people speak the truth from their hearts

and do not tell lies about others.

They do no wrong to their neighbours

and do not gossip.

They do not respect hateful people

but honour those who honour the Lord.

They keep their promises to their neighbours,

even when it hurts.

They do not charge interest on money they lend

and do not take money to hurt innocent people.

Whoever does all these things will never be destroyed. 

[Psalm 15:1-5 (NCV)]

To participate in gossip, whether through receiving tales or through conveying tales, is to jeopardise intimacy with God and to surrender any hope to worship.

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