WHAT GOSSIP IS
Though the word “gossip” does not appear in the Bible, the concept does.
Gossip is called TALEBEARING (Lev. 19:16; Prov. 11:13; 18:8; 20:19; 26:20-22) and BACKBITING (Psa. 15:3), which is talking to others about the intimate details of people’s lives for injurious purposes.
Gossip is called being a “BUSYBODY IN OTHER MEN’S MATTERS” (1 Pet. 4:5). This means putting one’s nose in other people’s affairs which are none of my business.
Gossip is called “SLANDER” (Num. 14:36, 37; 2 Sam. 19:27; Prov. 10:18; Jer. 9:4-6; Rom. 3:8; 1 Tim. 3:11). This means to say false things about people, especially with the objective of hurting them. For something to be slanderous, it must involve deceit and falsehood and an injurious motive. To spread rumors about someone in an attempt to hurt that person is wicked gossip. We must be extremely careful about passing along things that we hear. If there is any question about the truthfulness of something, it is essential to verify it from someone who is in a position to know the matter.
Gossip is called “TATTLING” (1 Tim. 5:13). This means to prattle on about other people’s lives when it is none of one’s business and when one has no godly motive for such talk, to gossip).
God’s people must guard themselves vigilantly against these sins. Gossip is extremely damaging. In fact, gossip can destroy a preacher’s effectiveness and can ruin an entire church.
WHAT GOSSIP IS NOT
It is very important, though, not to confuse gossip with legitimate Christian endeavors.
SPEAKING TRUTH TO PROPER PARTIES FOR A GODLY PURPOSE IS NOT GOSSIP
It is not wrong to share truthful things with those who have a right to such information.
For example, it was not gossip for the household of Chloe to tell Paul about the problems in the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11). As the founder of that church, Paul had a right to know about those problems, and the household of Chloe were not telling him these things to hurt the Lord’s work but to help it. It is not gossip to talk to a pastor or Sunday School teacher or deacon about matters in church members’ lives that they should know about. It is not gossip to talk to a father or mother about matters affecting their children.
It was not gossip for Paul to remind Timothy that the Cretians had a poor national character which he described in such harsh-sounding terms as “liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” (Titus 1:12). What Paul said about the Cretians (quoting one of their own poets) was true, and his motive was not to hurt them but to help them (“that they may be sound in the faith” Titus 1:13) and to further the work of Christ in Crete.
It is not wrong for a Christian to warn another person about a serious problem in a church or organization, so long as the information is true and the motive is not to hurt but to help and to warn. Oftentimes I have warned people about serious problems with certain churches that I have known about. That is not gossip and it is not slander.
It is not gossip to speak the truth in love, regardless of how harsh the truth might sound.
QUESTIONING A PREACHER’S TEACHING IS NOT GOSSIP
It is also not wrong to question a pastor in a humble and godly manner and to test his teaching by the Scriptures. In fact, we have a responsibility before God to do that. That is not gossip and it is not wrong. Of course, we always must guard our hearts that we don’t become bitter and that we don’t develop a bad attitude and then try to hurt the pastor or the church by spreading things around the church membership or community.
We must also use wisdom about such matters. For example, it is not usually wise and proper to question a pastor publicly about some perceived error or problem. It is best handled in private, at least at first.
That being said, the bottom line is that it is not wrong to question a pastor’s teaching. Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21; and 1 Cor. 14:29 settle that. Pastors have much authority, but they are not popes and they are not to be followed blindly. Their authority is the Word of God, and if they veer from that they have no authority and should be corrected. And yet many godly Christians have been branded as gossips and troublemakers when they have attempted to question something the preacher taught. All too many pastors have wrongly defined “gossip” as saying anything negative about him and his preaching, and they create this false definition in order to manipulate the church members and to make them fearful of questioning anything he does. This is not right and does not create a wholesome New Testament church atmosphere. The pastor must remember that he not to lord it over God’s people. “Neither as being lords over Gods heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). According to this passage, the pastor needs to be more concerned about providing a godly example to the flock than lording it over them. This does not mean, of course, that the pastor does not have more authority than others in church. He does have authority (Heb. 13:17). What we are referring to here is the abuse of that authority. Even the Apostle Paul, who had greater authority than any pastor today, said, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (2 Cor. 1:24).
WARNING OF SIN AND ERROR IS NOT GOSSIP
Marking false teachers and warning about compromisers is not gossip or slander. Paul warned of false teachers and compromisers by name no less than ten times in 1 and 2 Timothy alone. If a church leader publicly teaches error or commits a serious sin that would disqualify him or otherwise does something that people should be warned about, it is not gossip or slander for men of God to describe the problem publicly. I have often been charged with being a slanderer or a busybody when I have named men such as Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell or James Dobson and have warned about their errors. Actually I have the right and responsibility as a preacher to mark those who depart from the Word of God. I do not have to get their permission to do so, and I do not have to approach them first. If their error is public and persistent, my responsibility is to warn of them publicly, just as Paul did in regard to Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20), Phygellus and Hermogenes (2 Tim. 1:15), Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17), Demas (2 Tim. 4:10), and Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14-15). Slander is spreading ill founded, untrue things about others with the intent to injure them. Warning about error in Christian charity for the sake of protecting God’s people from that error is not slander nor is it gossip.
ADMONISHING ONE ANOTHER IS NOT GOSSIP
Romans 15:14 says, “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Christians have an obligation to admonish one another to serve the Lord. This involves watching over one another and exhorting one another about things that would hinder our walk with Christ (Heb. 3:13; 10:24, 25). This ministry should not be confused with gossip. In some churches, though, this is exactly what happens. If a mature church member attempts to admonish and correct other church members, he or she can be labeled as a gossip and a troublemaker and a busybody in other men’s affairs. Admonishing others requires maturity and godliness (Rom. 15:14), but it is a legitimate duty of mature church members. It is not something that is to be left strictly to the pastor. Titus 2:3-5 describes how older women in the church are to teach and admonish younger women. I have known of churches, though, in which older women have gotten into trouble for attempting to exercise this ministry in a godly and scriptural manner. They were told that it was strictly up to the pastor to correct and disciple younger women about their personal lives and homes, but that is certainly not what the Bible says. There is a ministry of correction that is to be exercised by church members. I recall a situation in a church in which a young man was admonished by some mature church members to quit his job at a wicked movie theater for the sake of his own spiritual wellbeing and for the sake of other young people in the church who were watching his example. When he refused to follow this counsel and he quit the church in a huff, those who admonished him from the Word of God were branded as the troublemakers. In fact, they were exercising the legitimate biblical ministry of admonition among church members.
These examples illustrate that it is necessary to make a clear biblical distinction between gossip and legitimate Christian endeavors.
What’s Wrong with Gossip?
Everyone likes a good story, right? Well, not necessarily. What about the person the story is about? Does that person like the story? Probably not. Spreading rumors only hurts others and destroys our credibility. Who is going to trust us with anything when they think we’ll tell everyone else?
Gossip is also a way we judge others, which really isn’t our job. God is in charge of judging people, not us. Gossip really only ends up creating greed, hate, envy, murder.
Gossip is also a sign that we are not really active in our faith and in our lives. If you think about it, the busier we are, the less time we have to gossip. We no longer have the time to get wrapped up in someone else’s life. Gossip is bred out of boredom. It may start as a simple conversation about people, and then escalates quickly. The Bible clearly tells us to do more than discuss other people’s lives.
Leviticus 19:16 – “Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.” (NIV)
Proverbs 11:13 – “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (NIV)
Romans 1:29 – “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips.” (NIV)
1 Timothy 5:13 – “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” (NIV)
Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (NIV)
Proverbs 18:8 – “The words of gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” (NIV)
So What Do I Do About Gossip?
First, if you catch yourself falling into gossip – stop. If you don’t passon the gossip there is nowhere for it to go. This includes gossip magazines and television. While it may not seem as “sinful” to read those magazines, you are contributing to gossip.
Also, when you are faced with a statement that may or may not be gossip, check out the facts. For instance, if you hear someone has an eating disorder, go to the person. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the person yourself, and the rumor is something serious, you may want to go to a parent, pastor, or youth leader. Getting someone to help in a serious situation is not gossip as long as the information stays with you and the person you go to for help.
If you want to avoid gossip, focus on creating helpful and encouraging statements. Let the gossip and end with you and remember the Golden Rule – if you don’t want people to gossip about you, then don’t participate in gossip.
Proverbs 26:20 – “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” (NIV)
Deuteronomy 13:14 – “Then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly.” (NIV)
Matthew 7:12 – “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (NIV)
Ephesians 4:29 – “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.” (NIV)
Taken From http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/whatisgossip.htm and http://christianteens.about.com/od/whatthebiblesaysabout/f/gossip.htm
Friday, February 23, 2007