Taming the tongue: gossip is wrong, no matter what the experts say

By Liz Johnson, Richmond News Staff Writer

We’ve all done it. Gathered around the water cooler and talked about this person or that person. When we were in school, gossip prevailed, whether we dished on what our least favorite cheerleader was wearing that day or had something thrilling to say about who was dating whom.

As a somewhat mature adult who is closing in on 60, I am still amazed how difficult it is NOT to gossip about others.

I recently challenged other women in a ministry group to which I belong to read the entire book of Proverbs during the month of April. As I’ve read through the first half of Proverbs, I’ve found that one of the prevailing messages and perhaps the most profound to me is the order to avoid gossip.

Gossip is so commonplace in today’s society that many of us don’t even realize that we often are gossiping when we think we are not.

The ninth commandment in the Bible states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Exodus 23:1).

There it is, in black and white, the biblical commandment. Do not gossip. Gossiping is a theme found throughout the Bible and emphasized by Jesus. Gossip hurts others and it hurts the person doing the gossiping. In Matthew 15:18-19, Jesus tells us that false testimony comes from a sinful heart, thus making you unclean.

Gossip is so commonplace in today’s society that there are some who believe gossip is a positive attribute. Social scientists have actually researched gossip and, according to a report in Psychology Today, researchers say, “In the vast majority of cases, they contend, it’s beneficial. Gossip serves important social and psychological functions; it’s a unifying force that communicates a group’s moral code. It’s the social glue that holds us all together,” (“The Real Slant on Gossip,” July 1, 1996).

I believe the justification of gossip is just a spin contrived to allow the continued destruction of others through spreading stories.

Yet, gossip can be addicting. Many find their own self-worth wrapped up in the spreading of stories. Proverbs 11:13 tells us, “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”

Gossiper, slanderer, talebearer, perversity, bearing false witness, maliciousness, deceitful – all these words are in the Bible and describe one who gossips.

A person who spreads gossip implies he/she is superior to the person about whom he/she is speaking. The target of gossip is described as flawed, inferior or unworthy. The judgment of others is the epitome of a gossiper.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, gossip means, “A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others,” as well as, “rumor or report of an intimate nature.”

It is believed that King Solomon wrote the first 29 chapters of Proverbs, penned around 900 B.C. In Proverbs 20:19, he says, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets. Therefore, do not associate with a gossip.”

Those who gossip enjoy spreading embarrassing details about friends, family and co-workers. There is no denying the fact, we have all gossiped at some point or another in our lives. Perhaps we’ve felt our subject deserved our spitefulness, or we found satisfaction in the cutting down of another in front of others. No matter the reason, it’s still wrong.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, chastises those who gossip and call themselves religious in James 1:26, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”

There is no doubt that gossip is a sin and all sin results in death: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 6:23).

God ranks the sin of gossip right up there with other evils such as sexual immorality, evil-mindedness, murder and unrighteousness.

When you catch yourself itching to spread a little gossip, to judge someone else, to whisper a few innuendoes – stop and think about what you are doing and who you are hurting. In the end, you aren’t just hurting someone else – you are heating up the waters of your own salvation.

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