In the old King James Version, it was called “whispering” (Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20). Today, we call it gossip.
More than that, though, we often laugh at it, treating it as something harmless that people just do.
In reality, gossip is a hideous sin, and it will destroy lives…and can even destroy a congregation.
So…What is “Gossip?”
To understand why gossip is so dangerous, though, we must understand what gossip is. The King James Version uses the word “whispering” or “whisperers” to translate the word that we usually think of as “gossip.” The reason why they chose that word was actually very good.
There was another Greek term that usually comes to us in Scripture as the word “slander,” and it carried the idea of hurting someone openly. Sometimes, we hear it as a “backbiter.” The idea is that we are tearing down someone’s character out in the open.
A “whisperer”–a gossip–though, does just the same thing, but in hushed tones. Spiros Zodhiates describes the Greek word as “a secret slanderer” (The Complete Word Study New Testament, pg. 968). It is not out in the open like a slanderer, but the result is the same.
We are harming someone’s reputation, but doing so in a quiet, hushed fashion. Thus, a “whisperer.”
Isn’t It Just Harmless, Though?
But, isn’t this just harmless? We aren’t really hurting anyone. We’re just telling a few stories. We’re just blowing off some steam…….
It is far from harmless. In fact, gossip is pure evil.
Consider how truly evil gossip is. Not only is it going against the reputation of a fellow Christian, it is doing so without even having the backbone to do so to that person’s face. It is hearing some “juicy tidbit” about someone and not even having the courtesy or love to check the story with the one this could harm. It is running to tell another person the worst about someone before we ever stop to pray to our Father in heaven, seeking best in that person.
And here we thought it was just passing along a little story.
Gossip can ruin a person’s reputation. It can change, and even destroy, relationships. It can cause tension and distrust among people.
And all the while, we are just laughing it off as no big deal. It’s just what people do, right?
And, Oh, How Is Spreads
These little tales go to our inmost being and make us feel like we have something we just have to share. They eat away at our heart and soul for other people, and we reduce relationships to digging for dirt to talk about. “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down to the inner parts of the body” (Proverbs 18:8). And then it spreads since we just have to tell.
In our technological age, gossip is more incendiary than ever. As soon as we hear that little tidbit, we pick up our smartphone and group text (making sure, of course, that the “guilty” party isn’t included in the group). We jump on Messenger and share it with someone several states away. We call up our friends and “just have to tell” what we have heard.
And all the while, the Bride of Christ is hurt.
A brother or sister in Christ is having his/her name run through the mud.
The community is learning that we do not keep secrets, and we do not mind sharing “dirt” on someone we claim to love.
A society is seeing that we are looking for some little tale to tell, just like they are.
A family member is, possibly, in need of loving restoration, but, instead, is being run down without even knowing it.
And the trust needed to have a strong and loving Christian family is slowly eroded, one conversation or one late-night text message at a time.
Eventually, though the doors to the building are open, the light of a congregation that is filled with gossip is snuffed out. A church can be destroyed, as the family atmosphere is eroded tale by tale by tale…….
Paul commanded Christians, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). In what way could we possibly say that gossip is “good for building up?” In what way is it possibly a type of speech that “gives grace?”
We can’t, because gossip is evil.
Before you press “send;” before you make that phone call to tell what you have heard; before you sit around and listen to the latest gossip from around town; consider the Bride of Christ. Consider your Christian family. Consider the reputation of the church.
And leave the gossip behind.
AUTHOR: Adam Faughn
Photo background credit: S. Packwood on Creative Commons