I made the mistake of watching the “news” recently. As a rule I refuse to do this, but I was lured into watching the “news.” What I saw was a bunch of unfounded, unverified hearsay passed along in order to convince the viewer that they should be outraged about these same unfounded, unverified rumors. The Biblical term for such talk is “gossip.”
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 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, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ro 1:28–32.
Did you notice “gossips” appear in that list? I think most followers of Christ are really comfortable with calling most of those sins exactly what they are: sin. Yet it seems very comfortable for most people to be ok with gossip. And when the gossip is packaged and sold to us as “news” or “the real truth,” it becomes more palatable.
Still, if the message is intriguing or scandalous enough, we just might listen. And then we are happy to pass it on. Don’t believe me? Just look on Facebook, or Twitter, or any other social media platform. Americans love to “share” those shocking “articles” about politics, or some celebrity. We convince ourselves that others need to know this “truth,” but did we stop to check the validity of the claims? Have we actually done the research, or simply passed along what we were told?
We can rationalize it away, or try to find some reason to justify doing these things, but the Bible is very clear. Gossip is sin.
The most common area I encounter gossip is around actions that one deems inappropriate. Those actions may or may not in actuality be inappropriate, but the assumption of inappropriate behavior usually sparks gossip. From there the assumption is told to another, and then to another in hopes of building a consensus that this assumed inappropriate behavior is wrong. It gets even easier to do this sort of thing when dealing with a celebrity or politician. But acting this way is absolutely not acting like Jesus. I really like Bruce Waltke’s take on this.
“Now we come [to] ‘Do not bear false witness,’ in which we spare—we bestow on the other—the right to a reputation. We guard the other person’s reputation. We guard it against false testimony. I suspect all of us have violated this; we’ve gossiped about somebody. I think sometimes we hold court in living rooms, drinking cups of coffee. We talk evil of another person, with no due process at all. They’re not there to defend themselves. There may not even be witnesses, but they should not gossip about another person unless the other person is there to defend himself or herself. We’ve got to protect the other person’s reputation. Christians should never gossip.”Bruce K. Waltke, OT300 Old Testament Theology, Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).
How about we consider what Jesus suggests?
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Mt 18:15.
When it comes to friends, family, or other Christians, this should be fairly easy. You make it a point to go directly to the person.
Not to the minister. Not to the elders. Not to your friends.
You go directly to the person you have an issue with. You just might learn that an assumption on your part was incorrect, or it’s possible your concerns might be validated. If there actually is a legitimate problem, then the two of you can address it without everyone else getting involved. This is how Jesus tells us to handle this situation.
So the next time you’re a part of the conversation that steers toward talking about people who aren’t there, remember the wise words of a former First Lady.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.Eleanor Roosevelt