By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
"They visit me as if they were my friends, but all the while they gather gossip, and when they leave, they spread it everywhere. All who hate me whisper about me, imagining the worst."
I wonder how many of us, based on our personal experiences, can sympathize with the pain underlying these words. Would you be surprised to learn these thoughts were poured out to God long ago by King David and recorded in Psalm 41:6-7 (NLT)?
Being on the receiving end of gossip cuts deep, leaving lasting scars. David's heart stung from the whips of lies and betrayal. Years later, crowds clamored for the flogging and execution of Jesus, David's offspring, because evil men spread lies about Him. The same sinful tendency toward gossip is passed down through generations to us today.
If being the brunt of gossip traumatized us, then how can we so easily forget to guard against participating in this brutal activity?
Gossip—delicious and yet so pernicious all at the same time. The Bible likens gossip to tasty morsels (Proverbs 26:22). No wonder so many of us fall prey.
We don't need a dictionary to define gossip. A gossip gives out information, often partial and usually negative, about a third party. Even when the facts are entirely true, the motive is never pure. At least two people must participate—a speaker and a listener—for gossip to exact its full effect. We can gossip in person, using social media, in texts, and in other written communication. Often, we cloak gossip in concern or even spirituality. How often has sharing a prayer request turned into talebearing?
We learn to gossip early in life. In school, we excitedly blab to classmates about what happened to whom. We grow up and take these habits into the workplace and adult friendships. The targets are often friends, coworkers, church members, far-off celebrities, and leaders.
But the victim of gossip is sometimes closer to home. Even our spouses and children can be the subject of our careless chatter unless we guard our tongue.
5 Bible Verses to Avoid Gossip
What lures us into gossip? Knowing what draws us in helps us learn to avoid participation. Fortunately, the Bible explains the quicksand that sucks us into whispering and innuendo. Let's study five sinful precursors to gossip as well as five biblical solutions that help us to skirt around the danger zone.
1. Excess Speech
Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut (Proverbs 10:19 NLT).
The Bible warns us not to talk just for the sake of talking. A time of quiet may feel awkward, but a minor discomfort is better than descending into gossip.
Solution: A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent (Proverbs 17:27-28 NLT).
When we run every word through the filter of Christ before we speak, He will strain out any unnecessary or harmful prattle.
Fools' words get them into constant quarrels; they are asking for a beating (Proverbs 18:6 NLT).
Yikes! According to this blunt verse, careless, foolish words provoke arguments and deserve a harsh consequence.
Solution: Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone (Colossians 4:5-6 NLT).
Each conversation presents a choice between grace and judgment and between peace and strife. When we're at a loss to know how to add beauty into a discussion, we can ask God for help before spewing any additional words. We must think before we speak to promote a peaceful environment.
3. Delight in Drama
A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood (Proverbs 26:21 NLT).
I love to poke around in the fire pit using a long stick when I'm camping. It's fun to turn dying orange-black embers over and watch new flames shoot up as oxygen reacts with the wood and heat.
In the same way, some folks delight in stirring up drama purely for entertainment value. Just a few minutes spent on Twitter proves how quickly an argument blazes from a single tweet. We've all seen drama within our own social circles as well. A mess of tangled emotions and broken relationships inevitably follows.
Solution: Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so your words will encourage those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29).
Gossip, even when couched in polite words, is foul. No one is encouraged or built up by innuendo. Of course, gossip tears down its target. But have you considered how it also hurts the speaker and listener? The speaker hardens their own heart through sin. The listener becomes less secure in relationships every time they participate. If a gossip tears down other people to you, you should realize they'll also tear you down to others.
They will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people's business and talking about things they shouldn't (1 Timothy 5:13 NLT).
Apostle Paul said these words about young widows who refused to remarry. Before you bristle at such archaic ideas from your modern-day perspective, consider his point that is relevant to all—male and female. Those who don't busy themselves with productive work have too much time on their hands and tend to gossip.
Solution: Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people's business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12).
God designed us to work. Our jobs vary, but all are important to God. Some, like the young widows Paul spoke of in 1 Timothy, had no family to occupy their time and energy, so they directed their resources to things like gossip. We can avoid this trap of gossip by embracing God's purpose for our lives.
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words (Proverbs 15:28 NLT).
I hate to think of myself or others as wicked. It's such an extreme word. But what should we call the enjoyment of being the one "in the know?" We crave to be viewed as the source of information, to be the one who always has a juicy tidbit to share. Isn't that pride? God declares an awful truth. If we're gossiping, wickedness lies at the root. We never need to work at releasing the wickedness inside us. It flows out without any effort.
Solution: Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor (Proverbs 1:21 NLT).
Righteousness, unlike wickedness, must be actively pursued. We won't achieve righteousness accidentally. Our mantle of righteousness comes from salvation through Jesus. Then we must daily choose to remain in Him, to stick close and avoid wickedness which so often leads to gossip.
The Gossip Feast
Five sinful precursors tempt us to feast on gossip by waving a few savory morsels under our noses for a whiff. The appetizer entices us to pull up a chair at the table and dive into the main course. Just as rotten food goes down into the pit of our stomach and makes us sick, "rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one's heart" and produce misery (Proverbs 18:8 NLT).
Guard against gossip by becoming sensitive to these five gossip precursors. Refuse the appetizer and stay away from the table to avoid a habit of gossip gluttony.
Annie Yorty uses her writing and speaking to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.