I’ll just cut to the chase: Another person’s story is not yours or mine to tell. That’s gossip, and it is sin. Truth be told, we’ve all been both offended and offenders when it comes to gossiping. Although it may not be the character of some, there are those who just can’t seem to resist the temptation to share the latest “prayer request” they’ve heard, or an juicy story that may or may not be true. Regardless, gossip dishonors, defames, and hurts the character of the one gossiped about. Ironically, those who sow the seeds of gossip reap a character and reputation that exposes the woundedness and brokenness they seek to mask by speaking hurtfully about others. Know this: your candle doesn’t burn brighter just because you blow someone else’s out.
Within the church, gossip becomes the demonic weed that chokes out unity within the body of Christ. As believers in Christ, we should seek to pull the weeds in our own garden rather than pointing out the weeds in someone else’s garden.
I’ve heard it said, “gossip attacks the image of God in another person.” Whether they are believers in Christ or not, they are still created in the image of God. That kind of assault God does not take lightly. As a matter of fact, God’s word is not unclear about those who gossip, and the damaging words that often flow freely from their lips.
“Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.” Psalm 101:5
“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” Proverbs 20:19
Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
And those are just a few verses, among many, where God’s word addresses how seriously He takes the damage caused by gossip. It reminds me of a story that speaks to the heart of the issue.
Once upon a time a man said something about his neighbor that was untrue. The word spread around town as one person told another. But soon the truth came out—what could the man do? He went to see his pastor and his pastor gave him some odd counsel. “Take a bag full of feathers and place one feather on the doorstep of each person who heard the untrue story you told. Then tomorrow, go and collect all the feathers you placed, and bring the bag back to me.” So the man did as the priest said. But when he went back to pick up the feathers nearly all of them were gone. When he went back to his pastor he said, “I did as you said, but when I went back the wind had blown the feathers away and I couldn’t get them back.” And the pastor replied, “So it is with careless words. Once they are spoken, they can’t be taken back. You may ask forgiveness for what you said, but you can’t take your words back. The damage has already been done.”
Because we know how God views gossip, as a follower of Christ our desire should be to not allow, initiate, or participate in gossiping. A couple of questions that we need to ask ourselves might be:
1. Am I the kind of person that people would feel comfortable gossiping to, or am I one with whom it is known that gossiping is not permitted?
2. Do I honor the one spoken about, regardless if I know them or not, by reminding those who gossip that it is not their story to tell? In other words, are you willing to have the courage to put a stop to it, or walk away from those who persist?
Let God’s word remind you of how you should speak: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
And finally, keep your feathers in your bag.