—I’m not making things up; this is the truth!”
A friend this week gave me this response when I told him that maybe I wasn’t being a help to his situation by listening to his deluge of gossip. Somehow he failed to recognize that God does not excuse gossip even if that gossip is true. Whether or not it is true is not the only issue. Our speech is still gossip (and still sin) when we degrade someone by discussing his faults with those who are not a part of the situation.
- Proverbs 16:28, “A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
- Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
We would do well to follow the advice of the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He listed many root causes for gossip. Let us make sure that these roots are not the motivation for our speech.
Gossips may be motivated by envy, jealousy and pride. Those tempted to gossip should look within themselves. What is the real truth? Are they genuinely hurt and concerned by someone’s wrong conduct, or is there a spirit of jealousy smoldering within? Do the victims of their gossip have advantages in life which cause jealous anger? Do the victims have a degree of acceptance and fruitfulness which arouses the envy of gossips, who proudly think they should have those blessings? Jealousy and pride make virulent gossips.
Gossips may be motivated by a general discontent with their lot, or may be suffering the result of personal failure, or under threat of loss. Instead of looking to God for help and drawing on spiritual comforts, some people develop a complaining, bitter spirit, hitting out at others through malicious gossip. The devil is always on the watch for dissatisfied and vulnerable people through whom he may mount a ‘moral’ crusade against others.
Gossip may be stirred by resentment. Perhaps at some time other Christians have brought necessary and kind words of reproof, but they rankle. To resentful people vengeance is sweet, and gossip is a ‘knife shaped for the back’….
Gossips are sometimes motivated by the absence of anything better to say. These gossips (unpleasant as it sounds) have empty heads. They cannot think of anything worthwhile to say. They never read or talk about anything of substance, and so, apart from commenting on the weather, all they can do is criticize others. They are too selfish to think of taking an interest in the circumstances of the people with whom they speak. They are too insubstantial to be anything other than retailers of distorted, hostile stories.
People so often become gossips because they are worldly in their tastes and outlook. After all, gossip is the stuff of worldliness. What are television soaps but dramatized gossip administered in massive doses for addicts? If Christians watch serialized television gossip, their attitudes and tastes are bound to be shaped by it. They will become highly inquisitive about the minute twists and turns of the lives of others and especially about their failings and faults. They will focus on the old life, rather than the new life; on earthly gain, rather than heavenly gain. The world of soaps is a world where human behavior is everything, and spiritual behavior is worth nothing. Here is the ideal mental training of a malicious gossip.
Gossips are produced by the old disease of self-righteousness. One might say that the Pharisee who (in the Lord’s parable) went into the Temple to pray, betrayed the marks of a gossip. He prayed with himself, denigrating the tax collector who stood nearby. By tearing down others, self-righteous people build up themselves. If others can be denigrated, they feel so much better. And by slandering people in the church, the self-righteous gossip succeeds in promoting himself above them. He effectively convinces himself of his ‘high standing’, and at the same time he attempts to convince those who listen to him. For self-righteous people, gossip is a ladder to self-satisfaction…
We would do well to consider these causes of gossip!