Two Kinds of Gossip
There are two ways to gossip. We can gossip with things we say or with things we listen to other people say. Both are participating in gossip.
But the Bible does not forbid talking about other people. There are numerous instances in the New Testament where people are called out by name because their sin has affected other people and those actions were reported to church leaders. A great example is Philippians 4, where a conflict between Euodia and Syntyche was permanently canonized in scripture because someone talked to Paul about it.
So we need some way to diagnose our words and our motives in order to gain wisdom about what gossip is. The questions below reveal that most of the things we say about other people are harmful rather than helpful.
Gossip through Speaking
- Will I help or hurt the person’s character by repeating this information?
- If I talk about this, am I doing unto others what I desire to be done unto me?
- Even if the information is true, am I improving the situation by talking about it?
- Will anyone be edified if I repeat this information?
- What is my motive for telling it? Am I really seeking to build or destroy?
- Is the information true? Is there any basis for it? Is it rumor or innuendo?
- Is the information about something which the other person has repented of? (if so, leave it alone).
- Am I promoting unity by talking about this?
Gossip through Listening
- Am I enabling the sin of gossip in another person by giving audience to them?
- Will I feel better towards the one being talked about by hearing what is spread by a gossiper?
- Am I assisting the character of the person speaking to me by allowing them to talk about this?
- Am I convinced that the person speaking to me truly desires unity and love for the other person they are talking about?
- Has the person speaking to me already approached the one being spoken about?
- Even if they have, does that excuse this conversation?
- Who is being drawn more to Christ as a result of this conversation?
Proverbs 18:19 warns, “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” If you are speaking gossip or listening to gossip then you are fortifying walls of distrust in other people.
Don’t do that.
(This post is connected to the Christ the King Church series on the biblical book of James called Wisdom. You can download the sermon “Taming the Tongue” here.