There was a time when I was a naïve Christian. I found it hard to believe there was such a thing as gossip in the church. Yet, sadly it exists. One website I came across refers to it as Christian cancer.
What effect does gossip have? It breaks down relationships. Exodus 23:1, TLB. “Do not pass along untrue reports. Do not cooperate with an evil man by affirming on the witness stand something you know is false.”
Gossip is as harmful and lasting as physical wounds. Proverbs 25:18, TLB. “Telling lies about someone is as harmful as hitting him with an axe, or wounding him with a sword, or shooting him with a sharp arrow.”
Gossip wastes valuable time. II Thessalonians 3:11-12, TLB. “Yet we hear that some of you are living in laziness, refusing to work, and wasting your time in gossiping. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we appeal to such people—we command them—to quiet down, get to work, and earn their own living.”
Gossip can ruin friendships. Proverbs 16:28, TLB. “An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends.”
Gossip is based on rumors. Proverbs 11:13, TLB. “A gossip goes around spreading rumors, while a trustworthy man tries to quiet them” (http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/gossip).
King Solomon had this to say about the matter, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much” (Proverbs 20:19, NIV). I can personally attest to this. A friend of mine told an elder at the church that he was divorced. He told her this in confidence but then she went and told another church member who in turn told the woman my friend was interested in. Needless to say, the woman he was interested in was upset but thankfully she did not dump him. Solomon was a wise man and was right when he warned that we should stay away from people who talk too much. Just as they talk about others behind their backs, it would come as no surprise that they may be talking your name behind your back. There are certain people who should never know your personal business.
I read a funny story of how one church member handled the church gossip. Mildred, the church gossip and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, has been sticking her nose into other people’s business. Many members are afraid of her and don’t say anything when Mildred speaks out.
Mildred accused Frank, a new member of the congregation, of being an alcoholic. She went on to say she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one afternoon and emphatically told Frank, along with several others, that every one knew what he was doing.
Frank, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny. He just said nothing.
Later that evening, Frank quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred’s house…. walked home…. and left it there all night. I would love to see Mildred’s face the next morning. I’m sure this cured her of gossiping.
A gossip says things that are inappropriate, unflattering, embarrassing, hurtful or humiliating about a person. Some people think that because the information is true that it is not considered gossipping if they share it with others. But, in my opinion it is. In my situation it was true that I was pregnant and unwed but what wasn’t true was the supposition that the father of my unborn child was a church member whom I considered to be a friend. He told me that some of these people wanted blood. I ended up leaving that church.
Gossip is destructive and should have no place in the house of God. Those who profess to be His children and followers of His Son should not be indulging in this kind of communication which would tear down relationships instead of building them up.
How do we handle gossip? Here are some tips for ministers and church members:
1. Avoid association with persons who gossip (Prov. 20:19).
2. Expose works of darkness by reporting gossip to the pastor that he may confront and offer correction. Gossip should be treated as any other vile sin (Eph. 5:11).
3. Ask yourself the question, Am I a part of the problem or a part of the solution? If not, you don’t need to hear the information.
4. Ask the accuser if you can go directly to the person of whom is being spoken and use their name so that the problem can be corrected.
5. Don’t believe everything you hear. Members may come to the preacher with information which accuses others that may or may not be true. Go to the accused person first to hear their side of the story.
6. We must make certain our facts are accurate.
7. We must be certain our motives are pure.
8. Periodically preach on the destructive nature of gossip
9. Build a strong coalition of church leaders who are loyal to you and will help maintain the integrity of the church.
10. Become proactive. Constantly be upbeat of others accomplishments and speak highly of the unity of the church.
11. If necessary, exercise church discipline when a person refuses to head godly warnings.
12. The preacher and his wife must both learn to keep every confidence private.
13. Most who gossip are reluctant to admit to gossip, therefore it is necessary for the preacher and church leaders to hold the standard high and refuse to allow gossip in the church (http://bcpm.org/2009/12/dealing-with-gossip/).
Don’t encourage gossip. If someone tries to tell you something about someone else, excuse yourself and walk away or tell the person “I have a lot of respect for you but I don’t want to sit here and listen to this” or “I don’t like gossiping.” The person might not take too kindly to this but remember, you are doing what is right in God’s eyes and that’s all that matters. You’re a God pleaser not a people pleaser and there is nothing pleasing about gossip. It’s a cancer that you don’t want to get into your system.