The Bible makes it clear that we are not to gossip.
Verses like Ephesians 4:29 tell us “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.”
James 1:26 takes it a step further, saying that “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
I know how easy it is to gossip. I know how easy it is to start talking to a friend or sharing prayer requests and then slip into sharing about other friends or other situations in a way that isn’t healthy. I know how hard it is to control my tongue, but I know how important it is that I do.
I can think of several times I’ve sat in Bible study circles with other women where the time for sharing prayer requests ends up disintegrating into a time of sharing gossip. I can think of many coffee date conversations that have turned into times of sharing about the latest scandals and stumblings of others in our network. I can even think of times I’ve accidentally sent texts or emails gossiping about a friend to that friend herself…
It’s clear that I, like many, struggle with gossip.
Paula Hendricks Marsteller recently shared “Six Questions to Diagnose Subtle Gossip” for True Woman, and her list is a helpful place to start when working to curb our gossiping tendencies.
Here are the six questions she prompts us to think through:
- Has my friend given me permission to share this “prayer request” with others? Am I considering my friend before myself (Phil. 2:3)?
- How much time has passed between the time I learned of this need and the time I’m sharing it with others? Am I sharing it impulsively?
- If not a lot of time has passed, am I sharing this in a panic? Am I trusting in the Lord to act (Ps. 37:5), or am I trusting in myself to be the savior?
- How seriously have I prayed about this issue myself before reaching out to others? Have I knelt in prayer? How long did I pray over it?
- Do I believe that the earnest prayer of a single righteous person avails much (James 5:16)? Or do I think my prayers are not enough to move the heart of God?
- Could I be embarrassed at some point that I sent this text or email? (If so, I probably shouldn’t send it.)
As Marsteller writes, “it’s easy to think our intentions are good.” We think when we share about one friend to another, we’re really just trying to help solve whatever they’re going through. We think if we mention something about another person as a “prayer request,” then it’s acceptable to share details about their struggles or situations.
“Even if our base intentions are good,” Marsteller says, “we should always be on guard of having mixed motives. Love can often attach itself with the sinful desire to know other people’s stuff, to be ‘in the know,’ or to feel puffed up that our lives aren’t so messy.”
Lisa Brown Ross shared “5 Ways to Declare Your Life a Gossip-Free Zone” on iBelieve.com, and she says: “The Word of God also teaches us about accountability for every single word that comes out of our mouths! Matthew 12:36-37 (NIV) says, ‘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.’ Let’s use our words with wisdom and grace–-to inspire and lift someone up. Let’s share ideas and create a better world.”
When we are tempted to talk about others, let us instead use our words to talk about Christ and who he is. When we are tempted to make our prayers about the people around us, let us first pray for our own hearts and our own motives. When we are tempted to spread rumors, let us instead spread love and give grace.
Let’s use our words to build each other up, to build community, and to share God’s love instead of gossip.
Photo credit: Unsplash
Publication date: January 26, 2017