Christian Gossip: Is There Such A Thing?

“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” (II Timothy 2:16)

Recently at church, an old friend of mine came to visit. It was the strangest thing. My wife and I were just talking about him. He was out of work and we just felt so sorry for him.

As I watched him take his seat, I couldn’t help but wonder how he was handling his crisis. I’ve been out of work before and I haven’t forgotten the fear that sets in when your future is not so clear. He needed a dose of good, old-fashioned Christian love.

By the way, I not only heard about his misfortune. But I also had the not-so-rare pleasure to hear several conflicting accounts about what had happened. Frankly, I didn’t know what to believe. Maybe some of these “accounts” were wrong and it really wasn’t all his fault. After all, I remember when I was in high school, my church once talked about how my dad frequently fell asleep during our pastor’s sermons. What they didn’t know was that he had recently been diagnosed with diabetes and would occasionally doze off because he had not yet learned how to balance his diet with his medication. You know, he stopped going to church for a long time until our family’s pastor finally told him, “You come back and feel free to sleep during my sermons anytime. At least your eyes are closed”.

Paul Scott, in The Day of the Scorpion wrote, “Ah, well, the truth is one thing, but in a way it’s the other thing, the gossip, that counts. It shows where people’s hearts lie.” Boy, isn’t that the cold, hard truth?

Gossip is a frequent topic in the Bible. Obviously, God knows that it’s going to take a while before his opinion about it sinks in. He’s right.

Jesus’ half-brother, James, once wrote, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
You see, James understood the danger of gossip better than any of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus spent his entire life with James, so James probably knew Jesus better than anyone, including his own mother. He also knew that gossip helped to perpetuate the hatred and envy that destroyed his brother.

I think that’s exactly why James devoted a portion of the Book of James to teach us about the nature of gossip. He saw firsthand what can happen when the flames of hatred are fanned by gossip, which I think is why he also said, “…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” (James 3:5)

What probably bothered me most about my friend’s visit was just as were singing praise choruses, someone turned around to me with a “Well, what do you know” look on her face”. I didn’t know what else to say except, “He lost his job, you know?” “I know,” she said. “That’s the best Christmas gift I ever got.”

I was stunned by her comment. But I realized as I stood there that I was as much a part of the problem as she was. For all of us, James has something to say about that, too.” With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.” (James 3:8)

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