In the middle of the book of Matthew are two verses that should give us all pause. Matthew 12:36-37 says, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Words are powerful. James 3 exhorts us to tame the tongue as it is a small member of the body capable of both blessing and cursing. Proverbs 21:23 directs us to use this instrument wisely, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue, keeps himself out of trouble.”
Careless words are part of gossip and the Bible has much to say about this type of talk. Gossip is linked to those who did not acknowledge God and were given up to a debased mind (Romans 1:28-32). It is listed with sins of unrighteousness such as sexual immorality, evil-mindedness and even murder! Gossip is sin in need of repentance, followed by the taming of the tongue.
According to Merriam-Webster, a gossiper is defined as “a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts,” or as “a rumor or report of an intimate nature.” The danger of gossip is that it can damage a person even if the information is true or untrue. When we gossip, we can also slander, an act of speaking against another person. And when we slander, we have made ourselves both judge and jury over another person.
Yet, so often, gossip is ignored, tolerated or even entertained, maybe because so many of us are guilty of it. We make excuses for our desire to know or we are simply fascinated with rumors. We justify gossip and think it isn’t a big deal.
Our motives to gossip can be for any number of reasons. Maybe we gossip to make ourselves look better, to win someone over to our side, to look like we are in the know or have the inside information, or maybe we do it because we feel insecure. Whatever the motive, it is not godly. When we look at the list of sins that include gossip, we need to take this behavior seriously. God sees it as sin and tells us to stop doing it.
Years ago, Bill Gotthard developed these 5 questions to helps us think about whether we are about to engage in gossip:
- Why is this person telling me this information? Is there some reason I should know in order to help or be part of the solution? If not, it may be idle chatter.
- Where did you get your information? The person should be open about the source of the information.
- Since gossip is often based on rumor or poor information that tends to get distorted, have you checked the facts?
- Have you gone to the people directly involved? We are urged to do this in Matthew 18:15.
- Can I quote you if this information gets out?
The Lord can help us stop gossiping. Ask Him to set a guard over your mouth and keep watch over the door of your lips (Psalm 141:3). Remind yourself that James 1:26 tells us that if we think we are religious but don’t bridle our tongue, we deceive our heart and our religion is worthless. Our aim is Titus 3:2, “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”Guilty of Gossip