"Did you hear what she said?"
"I have a prayer request and wait till you hear what it is!"
"I'm not supposed to tell anyone, but since it's you, I know she won't mind."
"Let's pray for the pastor. Can you believe what he did?"
We've probably all been guilty, at one time or another, of gossiping. It is so easy to do and impossible to retract. Many times, it is a habit of long-standing, and the gossiper is unaware of practicing this ungodly habit.
There is a fine line between sharing prayer concerns and reveling in the details. We may think that because we are Christians, this is not happening. But the truth is that gossip is alive and thriving within the church family.
As we grow older, and perhaps have more time on our hands, gossip can be especially tempting. We may try to build ourselves up by putting another down, as we find out what is going on with others. And because gossip is so common, it is often not considered to be the sin it is.
However, God's Word is very clear:
"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" (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Ephesians 4:31, NIV).
"I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder" (2 Corinthians 12:20, NIV).
"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, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents" (Romans 1:29-30, NIV).
God plainly shows gossip to be a sin lumped together with murder, jealousy, envy, greed, and many other destructive actions and attitudes. Even so, it is a commonly accepted practice within our churches. It may be rationalized as a prayer request, concern over so-and-so's lifestyle, or simply normal conversation.
I have been brought up short numerous times. I try hard not to gossip, and yet, sometimes something just slips out, or it seems someone is able to pull the information out of me before I realize what is happening.
There is a profound difference between telling your secrets or concerns to someone who can be trusted and just talking about someone behind that person's back. One is healthy and the other is destructive.
Some good rules of thumb before saying something (or listening to something) are as follows:
Can I say this same thing in front of the person about whom I am talking?
Would I want someone to say something similar about me behind my back?
Is this something that will edify believers?
Will this prayer request cross boundaries of privacy?
Can I be certain it is true?
What might be the consequences if what I say gets out to others who are unrelated to the problem?
Is this something told to another, with the trust that it would stay with that person?
Am I being critical, judgmental, and faultfinding?
Gossip can be cruel and destructive, especially within the church family. We need to constantly guard against it and not give in to the habit. The next time someone says, "Did you hear . . . ," remember what God has to say about gossip.
By Crystal J. Ortmann