Do church members gossip? Do they gossip about each other? I think we know the answer. And I think we know that all of us have been guilty of gossip at some time. But we also know that gossip is a horrendous habit that can assault, crush and destroy even the strongest believer.
Gossip is particularly damaging in the local church because people are often more open with fellow Christians about their weaknesses and needs. And because those weaknesses are out in the open it may be that gossip is more common in the church than anywhere else. A frightening thought wouldn’t you say?
Just think for a moment. How many people have been the target of gossip from within the church? How many have been hurt, even mortally wounded by the careless comments of another? Too many I am sure.
Gossip Is A Real Problem
Regardless of why, loose talk hurts. Victims of the gossipers tongue first of all feel embarrassment that their problems are now public. No one wants their dirty laundry tossed about before others.
After the shame the victim feels betrayed or let down by the person in whom they confided. We imagine how Jesus felt when betrayed and denied by Judas and then Peter. We also remember our own pain when someone betrays us. It hurts – badly.
Gossip destroys influence. Even strong, mature Christians deal with serious shortcomings daily (Romans 3:23). Revealing private details of their struggles can harm others looking to them for strength.
But most of all, gossip is a problem because it is a sin. It violates the Gold Rule of Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. It violates our Lord’s command to love one another…” (John 13:34; Romans 12:10; 1 John 3:11). Often the gossip is untrue which adds to its sinfulness. Gossip is simply wrong (1 Timothy 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:11;).
Gossip In the Church
Well, we expect gossip at the office. We expect it at the ballpark. We even expect it at a PTA meeting or during a telephone call with a friend. But we do not expect it at church.
Gossip seems to occur in the church for several reasons and not all of them are bad. In fact the motive may be noble but the outcome is still sinful.
Stop Gossip Intended to Help
Sometimes, people think they are helping by telling another about someone’s problem.
“I was sure glad to see Sandra at worship this morning.”
“Me too. I know she’s been struggling recently,” came the reply, which unfortunately did not end there. “Sandra and Bill have been fighting a lot. I heard he was a bit too friendly with a girl at work. Of course Sandra has been busy with her new job. I guess she just needs to spend more time with him.”
Now probably, our speaker really thinks she is helping by “briefing” another Christian on how to help Sandra. After all, the church is a family and we all work together to encourage and exhort one another. But there was very little help here. Even assuming that what the speaker said was true, this did nothing to encourage or assist Sandra. Instead, both she and Bill are objects of curiosity and, in the case of Bill, scorn.
Stop Gossip Intended to Apply the Lesson
Every preacher has experienced it. It usually occurs at the door of the church where people are speaking to the preacher as they leave the assembly.
It goes like this:
“That was a fine lesson on watching your language. I know certain people have a problem with that,” he says while nodding toward a brother in Christ.
Some take the lesson and use it to hammer someone else. It’s concerning to me that the message means so little to the hearers and that they can so quickly brush it off and point it at someone else.
Anyway you cut it and whatever motive you attach to it, it is still gossip.
Stop Gossip That’s Just Plain Gossip
Of course the old reasons for gossip are still present even in the church. Envy, covetousness, malice and jealousy cause gossip in and out of the body of Christ. Paul told the Galatians that these things are “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). They have no place in the life of the Christian. Gossip is but one outcome of such characteristics. With God’s changing power we can eliminate such from our lives.
Idle talk is perhaps the single most common cause of gossip. We don’t intend to hurt anyone and we would never knowingly gossip about a brother or sister, but we do. I guess we assume the information is known or that the person we are speaking to is close enough and dear enough that we can talk about things with them. Such an assumption is usually wrong.
Whatever the reason, gossip is wrong and we must do all we can to stop gossip.
Stop Gossip by Tightening Loose Tongues
Here are five ideas to help but the brakes on waging tongues. As always, start with self first.
- Make a conscious effort to monitor your own words. Actively listen to yourself. Make careful note of what you talk about, who you talk about and precisely what you say. Ensure that your words are Godly words that directly build-up, not tear down.
- Make a conscious effort to monitor your own hearing. What ever comes into your mind makes an impression. Don’t listen to the juicy details about someone you know. Either move the conversation to a new subject or move along yourself.
- Speak out to stop gossip. There is no need to be nasty but just let people know you will not be a party to gossip. It might be easier to tell your close friends before gossip begins that you are trying to break a bad habit. When the talk starts, interrupt and remind people that you’d rather not talk about other people.
- Assume unflattering stories are false. When you hear something tawdry about someone do you assume it is true? What if we all just assumed that the gossip was false? Would that slow things down?
- Let gossip end with you. What if every piece of gossip depended upon you? Would it live or die? Slay gossip by refusing to repeat it. Keep count for the next week. How many pieces of gossip did you kill? You might be surprised.
Gossip is incredibly common and incredibly destructive. There is no place for gossip anywhere but especially in the church where are brothers and sisters and servants of the Most High. Do your part to squelch wagging tongues!
As always your comments here on the blog are welcomed. Please share your thoughts.