Proverbs 18:21 (NIV) says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Words are extremely powerful. Gossip is destructive and it hurts. Hateful words travel to the heart and pierce the soul. Sometimes it hits the brain like shrapnel and can take a lifetime to dislodge. I know firsthand how hurtful gossip can be, how fast gossip travels and how it can destroy one’s self-confidence. I have been the target—by both family and those I’ve held in the high esteem of ‘friend.’
When I was young my mother would say, “If you can’t say nothing good about a person then you should say nothing at all”. I think women are more guilty of gossip than men, however some men like juicy gossip as much as the next woman. I saw a sign once that read, “No Gossiping Allowed. If You Want to Talk About Someone, Talk About Jesus.” Ask yourself, “What good may come of what I am about to say?” If the answer is ‘nothing,’ it probably shouldn’t be said.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to build each other up not tear each other down. Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I think it is more hurtful to have someone who worships the same God as you do hurting another sister or brother in Christ with words and actions than someone who is lost.
Instead of surrounding yourself with people who talk about others and other people’s business, surround yourself with those who talk about ideas and who are interested in solving problems. Ignite rich conversations that illuminate and enlighten rather than tear people down. My mother also said “Any dog that brings a bone, will carry one. ” So be clear that anyone who is gossiping to you is also gossiping about you. Proverbs 20:19 ESV tells us to stay away from someone who is a gossip “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.”
The Bible teaches us that we are accountable for every single word that comes out of our mouths! Matthew 12:36-37 (NIV) “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.”
If you are one who gossips you should stop it. God is listening and he does not approve of your speech. Titus 3:2 says, “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Proverbs 16:28 ESV says “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Gossip causes strife and separates people. Even if what you are saying is true. Stop justifying why you are talking about someone else negatively. It is wrong no matter how you try to justify it to yourself.
The next time you begin to speak someone’s name, ask yourself if what you are going to say after their name is building that person up or not. No in-between answer. It is either yes or no. If no, STOP and don’t say it. Instead, ask the Lord to remove the gossip from your mind and your speech. James 3:8 says “Yet, no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil filled with deadly poison.” Gossip is something that the flesh can not control alone. We MUST rely on God to help us tame our tongue.
If you listening to gossip, stop it. Proverbs 26:20 “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.” If you listen to it then it keeps the fire (gossip burning) If you stop listening, then the fire will go out. Proverbs 26:22 says, “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. It may feel good to listen and be in the know, but sin often feels good, when it is actually bad.
Maybe this scripture speaks to where you are right now. Psalm 109:2 “For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.” So how can you be encouraged? I love Spurgeon’s metaphor: “A great lie, if unnoticed, is like a big fish out of the water—it dashes and plunges and beats itself to death in a short time.” When (not if) your reputation suffers an undeserved injury, your quiet integrity over time will say all that needs to be said. Pray for the one talking about you and choose to forgive them.
I will close with this wise quote by George Whitefield:
Let the name of Whitefield perish, but Christ be glorified. Let my name die everywhere, let even my friends forget me if by that means the cause of the blessed Jesus may be promoted. . . . I am content to wait till the judgment day for the clearing up of my reputation; and after I am dead I desire no other epitaph than this, “Here lies G. W. What sort of man he was the great day will discover.”
Amen. May the Lord who sees and judges everything give us such a spirit.