Monday, January 30, 2006

Gossip: The Sin No One Confesses

Almost every sin imaginable has been confessed to me during the 35 years I have been a minister: stealing, lying, adultery, and even murder. But I do not recall that anyone has ever confessed to me the sin of gossip. Yet gossip is surely one of the most prevalent sins of all, and one of those most severely condemned in Scripture.

Perhaps one reason so few people feel guilty of telling about another person’s faults is because we have developed such clever ways to disguise what we are doing. Much of the worst slander is prefaced with a disclaimer such as, “I don’t mean to be spreading rumors, but ….” That is an absurd statement. Anyone who ever makes it should immediately just shut up, or at least change the subject.

Gossip may be disguised as false sympathy: “Isn’t it too bad how Joe beats his wife.” Some gossip is even passed off as a prayer request: “Now I’m just telling you this so you can pray about it.” Then there is the person who as a question: “Is it true that George and Alice are getting a divorce?”

We also gossip just by listening. If the receiver of stolen goods is as guilty as the thief, is not the person who provides a willing ear the accomplice to the one who bears the tale? I personally consider it an insult when a person brings me a bit of malicious gossip. In so doing he is passing judgment on me, assuming I am the kind of person who delights in hearing such slander.

A gossip may argue, “But I am only telling the truth.” The fact that a slanderous story is true does not necessarily justify its being told. If one man sins and another tells about it, the talebearer may have committed the worst sin of the two.

For example, Genesis 9 tells how Noah became intoxicated and lay naked in his tent. It’s a shame for anyone to get drunk and indecently exposed, especially a preacher.

One of Noah’s sons, Ham, discovered his father’s drunkenness and couldn’t wait to go tell his two brothers about their old man. All he told was the truth. But Shem and Japheth refused to look upon their father’s sin; instead they covered him.

The sons who would not listen to or spread the gossip were blessed and they prospered. Ham, because of his gossip, was cursed and condemned to a life of servitude. Like all sinners who repent, Noah was forgiven. In the New Testament he is later listed in Hebrews 11 as one of the great men of faith and righteousness.

In this scenario God’s judgment against one who gossips was even more severe than it was against the man guilty of drunkenness and indecent exposure. That’s something to think about the next time you hear yourself say: “I don’t mean to gossip, but….” The Living Bible says: “Anyone who says he is a Christian but doesn’t control his sharp tongue is just fooling himself, and his religion isn’t worth much.” James 1:26


Phil Hoover, Chicago said...

Brother Steve,

One thing about the "power of words..."

Once they have been released, they can never, ever, ever be recalled.

Recanted yes, but never recalled.

Great post.

Libby said...

I agree with you. Although, I think sometimes we don't even realized perhaps we are gossipping! When is it a matter of prayer and when is it gossip. I generally ask the person telling me their concerns, "Can I share this or do you just want me to make a general prayer request for you?" Suprisingly, I get more, "Please tell people so they can be specific in their prayers!" My husband and I have a policy that we do not share with each other any counsel or requests unless the person specifically asks us to tell the other. I am not referring to someone calling in and saying, "Pray for Mom. She's in the hospital." I'm referring to things of a more sensitive nature. There have actually been times people have gotten down right angry with one of us because the other one didn't know of the concern! I now make it a practice to ask if I can tell my husband. Most people respond that they just assumed I would! It seems to me that gossip is almost what people expect anymore!

I do confess that I have gossipped (sp?). (Now you have a confession) It is difficult to keep the tongue under control, especially when you have been hurt, but the Holy Spirit seems to always let me know when I have crossed the line.

arensb said...

The fact that a slanderous story is true does not necessarily justify its being told.

If something is true, doesn't that ipso facto mean that it can't be slander?

Anonymous said...

Just searching the web and stumbled upon this. I have been gossiping about a friend and only recently have felt condemned about it. Do I need to confess to the one I have gossiped about I have gossiped about her and what I said and all the people I have talked with about her?