What the Bible Says about Gossip
Can gossip ever be godly? Certainly not by the standard definition of the word. Here’s a quick glance at some of the proverbs about gossip:
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. (Proverbs 20:19)
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered (Proverbs 11:13)
A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
What is so evil about gossip? It springs from a heart of competition; the gossiper desires people to think more of them than what they think of the person being gossiped about. Gossip is evil because it runs down those who are not present to defend themselves. Rather than speaking what is good for building up, it actually tears down. It gives us reason to think less of the person being talked about.
Could Gossip Be redeemed?
But what if the desire were reversed? And what if the effect was reversed? Could there be a godly form of gossip? Could we find a way to speak of those not present in a way that would honour their God and edify those who hear?
To redeem gossip we need to be clear about redefining the word. Our definition would have to simply be something like this: ‘Talking about someone who is not present.’ Godly gossip could then be defined as something like this: ‘Talking about someone who is not present in order to honour his God, esteem the person, and edify those who hear.’
Taking it for a Test Drive
The other week our small group gave this a shot. We’re in the habit at Grace Fellowship Church of identifying evidences of God’s grace in the lives of people in our small groups. We look for ways that God’s Spirit has been changing the other people in the group and where he has been using them and then we tell the individual of what we’ve seen. This is to encourage us to be on the lookout for good rather than fault (since we’re default to one rather than the other).
Our attempt at godly gossip was simply building off of our habit of identifying God’s grace in those in our group. But instead of talking about those in our group, we asked people in the group to speak about those who were not present — those who are not in our small group. We asked, ‘Where have you seen God’s grace working in and through the people of Grace Fellowship Church who are not here tonight?’
We were aiming to redeem gossip. We were talking about people not present for the glory of God.
An Antidote for Ungodly Gossip?
Our conversation was a success that night. We were all encouraged to think of how God has been at work in our midst. Our thankfulness to God for his grace in our brothers and sisters, and our love for others was increased. God received much glory. So that got me thinking: Could this be a practical way to help us steer others away from gossip?
You know that awkward moment when someone around you starts gossiping? I’m never sure what to do: Should I rebuke them? Change the subject? Listen but don’t encourage them to continue? Maybe the answer in some situations is simply to aim to redeem the gossip.
Maybe the next time someone around you starts gossiping you could take the initiative to glorify God in your speech about the other person. Why not start identifying evidences of God’s grace in that person’s life? It would honour God, esteem the person, and lovingly, subtly, and gently rebuke the one who was gossiping. It gives the offending gossiper a chance to remember that God’s image is borne by the person they’re speaking of. It also gives them a chance to repent and relent without being embarrassed or unlovingly challenged in front of others.
I think it’s worth a shot! Got any other ideas for helping to quash gossip while encouraging greater love for God and for the saints?