When you find conflict in a group (family, business, church, or softball team), somebody is spreading gossip. They think they’re doing the right thing (Proverbs 21:2). “Well, it’s the truth. Somebody needs to be speaking up. If I feel this way, I’m going to say it. At least I’m honest.”
Where Do Christians Learn to Gossip?
Rarely do people come up with an original idea. My guess is they’ve heard others, and they’re imitating them.
It might be good to check with:
- Parents. Parents have speaking rules in their homes. Usually, family rules are unconscious, unspoken, but understood. They’re often learned by imitation rather than instruction. If mother and daddy talk about elders, preachers, song leaders, politicians, friends, associates, and others in a derogatory way, it would be normal for their children to follow their example. “What harm does it do?” A powerful statement I read made an impression on me. A lady was telling about hearing her mother and her friends gossip about each other: “Their behavior taught me not to trust anyone—especially people who were nice to my face. Instead, I trusted abusive people because I thought they were being honest. I ended up running with a bad crowd and found myself dating abusive men because I couldn’t trust polite guys.” Please take time to read the article: Gossip causes long-term damage, especially for children who hear it.
- Preachers. Preachers have been my heroes. But preachers aren’t perfect. If I spend time around a preacher or a group of preachers who are always talking about other preachers, about how ungodly and unfair elders are, and how brethren are mistreating them, it would be easy to imitate their behavior. After all, they’re “good, sound, faithful, gospel preachers.” Gossiping preachers teach “the truth” on every issue, except on how to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.
If a person criticizes his child who is Christian, a good response would be, “What did my son say when you talked to him?”. One thing my son resented growing up was a few people “telling on him” when he did something they thought was inappropriate, unwise, or wrong. He said, “Daddy, I’m seventeen years old, 6′ 3″ tall. I’ve been a Christian five years. Why don’t they talk to me first?” Good question. I wish I had had more wisdom and courage then and asked them to follow Jesus’ instruction.
- Elders. When elders think their job description is to fix every unhappy person in the church and attend to issues which aren’t their business, they may be examples of how not to deal with people the way Jesus taught. A good response when someone tells about someone who has mistreated them and want you to fix it is, “What they he say when you talked with him?” If the answer is, “I haven’t talked to him,” your response might be, “Jesus told me not to talk to him yet. You go first. If you and he agree I might be helpful, I’ll be glad to assist. You first—me second.”
When elders receive complaints about the preacher without holding members accountable for addressing their concerns to the preacher, they’re bypassing Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15. Jesus didn’t say, “Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone—unless he’s the preacher—then the elders can do your work for you.” The best way for the preacher to understand what “a lot of people are upset about” is for a lot of people to go to him, one at a time and explain it to him in a spirit of love. The volume of information will make an impression, whether it’s about his preaching, attitude, work ethic, or lack of attention to people who need his help.Jesus didn't say, “Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone—unless he’s the preacher.” Click To Tweet
Reasons People Gossip
- It’s easy. It’s easier to talk about somebody than to talk to the person of concern.
- Maybe someone else will get the other person straightened out. Gossip is often an invitation for someone to talk to the person(s) who is bothering me. If that person can fix it, I won’t have to.
- It’s exciting. Watching another “get what’s coming to them” gives people a rush. I may feel better when I can relate how another has done more wrong than I have, according to my accounting.
- Some people who don’t gossip listen to it. Without gossiping ears, there would be no gossiping tongues. Read South Central Bell’s solution to obscene phone calls: IT TAKES TWO TO MAKE A SUCCESSFUL OBSCENE CALL.
Why Not Gossip?
- It’s a sin. God said not to do it (Leviticus 19:16; Proverbs 26:20, 21). Mark 16:16 is red in my Bible. Jesus said it. I want to teach people how to be saved. Matthew 18:15-17 is red in my Bible. Jesus tells how to address those who have “missed the mark” with us. I am to go to the person who sinned. If that doesn’t work, take one or two more. If that doesn’t change him or me, I should involve more people to help.
- It helps no one. Everyone gets hurt.
- Individuals, churches, businesses, and other groups cannot function well with people addressing their concerns to the wrong people. Gossip, talebearing, divides churches, alienates family members, and harms businesses.
How do you prevent gossip in yourself and discourage it in others?
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