It happens at your company’s water cooler or at lunch in the break room. It happens on the neighbor’s porch and most often at parties or social gatherings. Surprisingly, and most unfortunately, it happens at our churches and even in our prayer meetings. What could be so prevalent and unseemly? Gossip. Ironically, it’s the sin that no one ever wants to talk about!
When someone is gossiping about another person, it shows more about who they are than the person who is the topic of the discussion.
One of the topics that God addresses most often in His Word has to do with the sins of our mouth. The Book of James devotes an entire segment to the power of words, and especially the pitfalls of having an uncontrollable desire to speak.
James describes the power of the tongue to be as volatile as a spark which sets aflame an entire forest (James 3:5). Taking into consideration the danger of this description, we should be sober about the power we have in communicating things about others.
When someone is gossiping about another person, it shows more about who they are than the person who is the topic of the discussion. People often gossip because they themselves have an insecurity or feel a sense of worthlessness and they use gossip as a tool to subjugate others, while promoting themselves. However, the fundamental reason gossip exists is due to the sinful nature of man. In truth, gossip is a distortion of the intention of the heart more than it is about the words spoken.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus expected us to be careful and not careless with our conversation.
Some people who gossip are not even aware of the reason that they are doing so. They know, deep down, that what they are doing is unequivocally wrong, put they can’t quite put their finger on the reason WHY they find themselves in the conversation. They have failed to examine their heart over a prolonged period, and self-control escapes them.
Think about James’ warning about the potentially inflammatory nature of wrong or misused words in conjunction with God’s call to be wise with our words. The Bible teaches us that Jesus expected us to be careful and not careless with our conversation. In fact, the New International Version states it this way, “…everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken” and the King James Bible expresses it this way: “…every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord. Psalm 19:14
If our words tell the truth of what it is hidden in our heart, and God says that we will be held accountable for every idle word, it stands to reason that we should spend a considerable amount of time examining our heart’s intentions and praying that our intentions are more aligned with Christ’s purposes and character.
We are expected to be uplifting, kind and gentle with our words, letting no corrupting talk come out of our mouths and giving grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). God is against secret slanderers (Psalm 101:5), and revealers of secrets (Proverbs 20:19) and people who portray themselves as religious while they can keep no control over their tongues (James 1:26).
Learning how to maintain self-control during a conversation that might be going off the rails takes practice. It is not easy. However, it is important because gossip can destroy ministries, marriages, professional lives, friendships and all manner of relationships.
An effective way to envision gossip is to imagine that every inappropriate or unflattering word you’ve spoken has been carried away by a bird that has been perched near your conversation. A bird who then flies into every nook of your personal and professional life, repeating every word you’ve spoken.
If we sat for a moment, taking the time to clearly envision gossip as a physical form taking flight into many areas of our lives, we might think twice about the negative things we say about others. But, even more importantly, we should regularly conduct an inventory of our heart. We might ask God to make us more attune with His character and His intentions so that we are not caught off guard in conversation. Lastly, we must pray.
Here is a short, simple prayer directly from Psalm 19:14:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.