Coming out of the store, I bumped into a lady I had not seen for many months. At first we were full of smiles and happy greetings, then her voice dropped and she moved closer. I knew instinctively what was coming. Did you know….
Growing up in rural Australia, we had what we called a party line. The old black box on the wall would ring with signals, like Morse code. There were seven families on isolated properties in our large district. Each one had a different code. Like the smart phones of today, a ring tone of their own.
One interesting aspect about this telephone system was the name. It invited gossip and listening in to other people’s conversations. When does casual conversation slip over into gossip? When do our ears pick up some piece of juicy information? How much information do we really need to be able to pray?
This tendency is not exclusive to the adult female population. Children learn the skill at an early age. If fostered by curious parents they carry it into adulthood until it is a way of life.
To fully understand gossip from a biblical perspective, we need to examine a bigger picture. The Word reveals gossip is like a recipe with many ingredients. It takes a long time to prepare, short time to eat and a lengthy and messy clean up to follow.
The seed of gossip is found in every crack in society. There it puts down roots deep into evil soil and grows into a tree. Its branches are talebearer, whisperer, meddler, busybody, jabberer and backbiter. These develop the fruit of malice, slander, rumour, mocking, false reports and lies.
People and events are composted. The gossip tree is fed by loose tongues, idle talk, and worthless chatter. Its leafy odours pollute atmospheres. These are carried on the winds of foolish ignorance. Passing on personal and sensational facts, filling minds with bitter vinegar. Finally producing quarrels, strife, divisions and struggles.
We may not be aware of the seed falling in our midst. It is often disguised as helpful information. However, by developing spiritual discernment we will recognise it when it sprouts.
Gossip can have a devastating effect on others (Prov.18:8). It can cause deep hurt and is not at all helpful (Prov. 14:10). It may distract others from God and cause them to fall (James 3:5).
The effect on ourselves can cause suffering (1 Peter 4:15). It indicates untrustworthiness (Prov. 11:13). Timothy goes a step further and says gossip shows a lack of self-control (5:13). This statement is also supported by Paul (2 Thess. 3:11). God warns us not to even associate with a gossip (Prov. 20:19).
Gossip does not glorify God. It dishonours him and others (Prov. 20:3). God will act against it (Rom.2:1-16) and humble a gossiper (2 Cor. 12:20-21; John 21:19-23). God hates gossip (Prov. 6:16-19) and once we indulge in it we may even interfere with God’s plans.
The clincher comes in the book of Romans. Paul reveals and exposes gossip as equal to other sins, including murder. It is part of a depraved mind and life (1:28-32). There are no degrees of sin in God’s economy. The sin of gossip cannot be rationalised by percentage. Once we are prone to this evil, it takes a determined effort with help from the Holy Spirit to break the habit. We need to resist the temptation to gossip and obey God.
Douse gossip with prayer and the Word of God. Influencers for God need to be bold to address the issue through solid biblical training. Healthy disciples do not grow gossip trees. If necessary take an axe to the root. Dancing around the base will not suffice. Use a threefold preventive measure: saturate, stop and sever.
Follow this with daily maintenance of honouring Jesus and dwelling on the things of God. Be occupied with the Lord’s business extending his kingdom. Esteem others better than ourselves. And by avoiding gossip we set a godly example for the next generation.
When gossip is exposed in the light of the Word we begin to understand why we are given this exhortation. ”Finally, brothers, 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” (Phil. 4:8).
How did I handle my unexpected meeting, “did you know”? Firstly, I interrupted the conversation before one full sentence was released. Smiling and touching her arm gently, I simply said, “I probably don’t need to know what you are about to tell me.”
Choosing to close the ear gate to temptation may meet resistance but will eventually foster respect and lead to a positive influence.
That was two years ago. The lady is now a social media friend and we support and encourage one another frequently. No is an acceptable response to gossip.
Rusty A Lang is the author pseudonym for Marlene A Morphew. Schooled in brokenness, Marlene has served her Lord internationally over 40 years. Her passion is for people to be released into the Kingdom of God, living a natural supernatural life for Jesus Christ. Living in Australia she is an active speaker, writer of articles and devotionals. You can follow her on Facebook and through a regular blog on rustyalang.com. Her books Good Things Take Time: Metamorphosis of a Damaged Soul and Timeless Treasures: Digging for Gold Daily may be ordered directly from her website in Australia or Amazon and Barnes and Noble elsewhere.