It’s both a verb and a noun. We’ve certainly all heard it, and perhaps we’ve all done it. Maybe we’ve even been the butt of it.
“It” is gossip – and it’s destructive to a church. Here’s why:
- It’s evil. How else would you describe an act that’s so often included among lists of sinful acts in scripture (Rom 1:29, 2 Cor 12:20, 1 Tim 5:13)? In fact, “gossip” is sometimes included as a marker of lostness – not Christianity.
- It’s idolatrous. Gossips love having information, even if it’s wrong and harmful. They even get angry if others have information they don’t have. Having “the dirt” becomes their god – and that’s idolatry.
- It’s self-centered. Those who gossip put themselves in the middle of everything. And, if they’re not in the middle, they talk about those who are so they draw attention back to themselves.
- It’s divisive. Talking about other people behind their backs never promotes unity, especially when the conversations take place in the back room or the parking lot.
- It’s often deceptive. Sometimes the “reported” information is cloaked in a prayer request (“now I don’t want to spread rumors, but we need to pray for _________ because ________”). That’s gossip, and it’s a lie to call it anything else.
- It harms reputations. It takes only one rumor to harm a brother or sister, and it’s tough to recover once the rumor’s out. We only weaken the family of God through gossip.
- It destroys trust. Here’s where gossips are often so focused on spreading their news that they miss their own foolishness. Gossips may be trying to hurt others, but what they prove is only that they themselves are completely untrustworthy.
- It’s a stumbling block for others. By “others,” I mean those who listen to the gossip—particularly, those who find themselves listening with zeal and anticipation. In those cases, the gossiper leads the “gossip hearer” down the road toward sin.
- It’s addictive. Gossips don’t start out as gossips. They gossip one time, find a strange pleasure in it, and then do it again . . . and again . . . and again. Gossip becomes a demonic stronghold in their lives.
- It’s hardly good news. We believers have the privilege and responsibility of telling the gospel, but gossips are usually focused on destruction rather than redemption. They usually gossip about only those things that would hurt someone.
- It indicates hypocrisy in the church. James puts it this way: the tongue is a “world of unrighteousness” (3:6), a “restless evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8). When the same tongue blesses God and curses others—including through gossip—hypocrisy is in the room (3:10-12).
- It risks God’s judgment. Jesus told us that we’ll answer for every word we say (Matthew 12:36-37). Gossips who continue in their pattern (and most gossips do) are inviting judgment – and judgment on one member affects the entire church.
So, what do we do? If you’re a gossip, stop talking. If you like to hear gossip, you’re also guilty. Stop listening. And, if gossips continue to talk and create turmoil, it’s only loving to confront them and call them to repentance. To do anything less is to give the enemy a foothold in your church.
What are your thoughts?
You made great points. I’m in a situation where I know in the last couple months there is gossip circulating about me, but I don’t know what it is or how it started. Up until then people were friendly to me and I felt part of the group (I belong to a group of greeters). Now those I was getting close to seem distant and cold, and I’ve noticed them whispering and glancing back at me, then laughing. Before, I could sit by anyone in church and feel okay about it, but now I’m merely tolerated instead of welcomed. I know I’m not imagining this. It’s something I never saw coming and never expected. Even the pastor who would greet me warmly before now avoids me and barely says hello. I love my pastor and respect him, but I can’t help but blame him if this continues. It’s obvious he’s heard these rumors, whatever they are, and he could put a stop to it, but instead chooses to participate in it, without even talking directly to me. There’s very seldom a sermon on why gossip and spreading rumors is dangerous to a church, when it’s obviously a problem there. He’s very concerned about the image of the church, but what about the image and reputation of the individuals that attend there? The church is made up of individuals and in Gods eyes no one is more important than anyone else. If one part of the body suffers, ultimately every part suffers. The eye is not more important than the hand, and vice versa. I’m hurting and find it hard to remain in the group because it feels like I’m the last to know what’s going on, even though it’s obviously about ME. I can’t say I trust anyone enough to confide in them, since they’re all a part of it. I really need prayer.