Gossip is defined as “conversation about the personal details of other people's lives, whether rumor or fact, especially when malicious.” For the most part, people do not want the intimate details of their lives revealed to every person around them. Things told in confidence—perhaps as a cry for help—should never be shared with other people.
How does one know if he should repeat something or not? Here are a few tests to aid in determining if something is worthy of sharing with another person. One good test regarding shared communication might be, “Would I want it said about me?” Another test might be, “Would this information be helpful or harmful if repeated?” A person might also ask, “Will it edify others if it is commonly known?” Finally, one might ask, “Does this information really need to be repeated?” Gossiping can be serious problem in the church. As God’s people, we must seek to control our tongues. The Bible contains many passages about the manner in which we use our tongues. David wrote, “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” (Ps. 34:13). He also wrote, “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me” (Ps. 39:1).
Oftentimes gossip has content that is uncertain or completely false. Psalm 52:2-4 tells us, “Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.” Gossip is often used to stir up controversy or create sensationalism. All lying, which can include some forms of gossip, needs to be done away with in our Christian walk. Solomon wrote, “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood” (Pro. 6:16-17). Gossip does not have to be about things that are contrived or embellished. Gossip can be sensational talk about things that are completely true. Even when we are repeating things that are true, we need to be careful about the manner in which we use our tongues. We should heed the inspired advice of Solomon, “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Pro. 21:23).
Gossip oftentimes circumvents the appropriate method of dealing with conflict in the Lord’s church. The first thing we are to do is approach the person who has done something to offend us. Matthew records that Jesus told us to contact our brother directly: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matt. 18:15). Instead of doing this, some want to talk about a person behind their back while sensationalizing the story to make them seem like the person who is at fault. Such behavior can create division in the Lord’s church.
One does not know the complete story regarding the conflict that existed between Euodias and Syntyche, but their problems had reached the ears of the Apostle Paul. He wrote of the situation, “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil. 4:2-3). He urged the Philippian brethren to help those two women out of their conflicts. We need to understand that division—doctrinal or otherwise—creates problems in the church. It was important to the Apostle Paul and it should be important to us as well.
Gossip is an inappropriate means of using our tongues. The Bible gives us instructions regarding the appropriate way of leading a godly life. Peter wrote, "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it" (1 Pet. 3:10-11). Gossiping can lead to egregious evils that injure many people. The simple fact of the matter is we must keep our tongues from evil communications and motives. One is not truly religious until he is able to control his tongue. James said, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain” (Jas. 1:26). When we engage in gossip it makes us less trustworthy in the eyes of other people. Sometimes a person might reason, “If they would say such things about that person, what might they say about me?” People who strive to be leaders in the Lord’s church need to be careful about the manner in which they communicate. By the same token, we all need to be careful about how we use our tongue.
Johnny preaches for the Sycamore Chapel church of Christ in Ashland City, TN
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