Who am I? I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cruel and malicious and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted, the more I am believed. I flourish at every level of society. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I’m nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same. I topple governments and ruin marriages. I destroy careers and cause heartache and sleepless nights. I wreck churches and separate Christians. I spawn suspicion and generate grief, make innocent people cry on their pillows. Even my name hisses. Who am I? I am gossip.
The book of Proverbs warns all of us – not just the women but also men – of the deadly allure of gossip as well as its deadly effects over and over again. Proverbs 18:8 says, A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being. Whether we admit it or not, we have a fascination with gossip. That’s why talk shows and and things like TMZ are so popular. Proverbs says gossip is like a tasty morsel that we like to savor. Gossip is like a hot fudge sundae or like peach cobbler with whipped cream. Gossip is like steak and lobster. How is it like these, because we can’t get enough of it. Our society is one that craves gossip. Gossip has been around as long humans and it has been creating problems the whole time.
Here is the thing, not only does Proverbs warn us about having a perverse attraction with gossip. Proverbs also warns us of the corrupting effect of gossip. When we listen to gossip, it goes to our “innermost being.” Gossip sinks its teeth into our hearts, souls, and minds and corrupts us like a fast spreading cancer. It ruins us and others – bit by bit and piece by piece.
Here is a funny thing, we know what gossip is when we hear gossip or when we speak gossip, but we rarely take time to think about gossip. We know that the Bible speaks against it but do we take the time to really look at it and think about it? Do we really ever consider gossip? Let’s take a some time this week to consider the meaning of gossip and its effect on us and others.
The New Testament Greek word for “gossip” is literally “a whisperer” – a person who whispers behind your back with the intention of hurting you. The Greek scholar Godet describes a gossiper as someone who pours out his poison by whispering in our ears. I love the imagery that is seen in that – someone pouring poison in the ear that will slowly kill and destroy us and others. Today with the telephone, email, Facebook, texts, and all the other possible ways to communicate, we do not even have to whisper behind people’s backs we do it electronically. We just badmouth them over the phone without their knowing, or send emails or text or simply just post something on Facebook. What you have with computers and telephones is the ability to gossip without being behind the person but really shows that there is not a whole lot of whispering that goes on these days but there is whole of damaging gossip happening all the time.
The Bible links gossip and slander together in Proverbs and it also shows up as sister sins so to speak in Roman 1:28-30 which says, And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents. Now this is quite a list but notice that gossip and slander are linked together in it.
The New Testament word “slander” means “to speak evil of someone.” When we gossip, we speak evil about people; we badmouth them. The King James Version describes people who gossip and slander as “backbiters” which gives a pretty good image of what is happening when gossip and slander are thrown about. When we badmouth someone with gossip, we bite them behind their backs, whether the gossip is true or not. All too often we can be like Dennis the Menace who whispered in Mr. Wilson’s ear, “Now listen good. I can only tell you this once ’cause my Dad told me not to repeat it.”
Do you see gossip as a problem? Have you ever struggled with gossip? What is one why that you have seen people try to make their gossip – not sound like gossip?