READY TO GIVE AN ANSWER (GOSSIP)
Passages that will help you respond when people say…
As I write these words, I am seated at my desk, fully armed. I’m not expecting any trouble, it’s just that my weapon is with me at all times, even when I go to church. It’s so much a part of me that I never even think about putting it on. The only effort involved is in putting it away. The weapon has nothing to do with a license to carry. It has everything to do with the kind of heat we sinners pack each day.
The tongue, which was created for blessing and good, has become “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” You can read about this in James Chapter 3. Relative to the rest of the body, the tongue is a very small member, just as a rudder is a small part of a ship. But that small piece wields a disproportionate amount of power and control.
The tongue is “a fire, a world of iniquity.” (verse 6) South Dakotans may remember the Jasper Fire of 2001. An arsonist had dropped a single match on some dry grass in the Black Hills. Flames multiplied so quickly that the fire consumed as many as one hundred acres per minute. When the last ember was extinguished, 130 square miles of scorched earth were left behind. And the tongue? It “defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire by hell.” (verse 6) One way it does that is through gossiping.
Our neighbor’s reputation is tilted by what we hear and see about him, good or bad, true or untrue. The Information Age has taken this to new levels. Today we hear and see more than ever. A simple email, text, or post can broadcast this information with almost no effort at all. Once the Send button is pushed or the Submit button is clicked, the arrow leaves the bowstring. You can watch it travel, but you can’t reroute or stop it. Likewise, gossip shared cannot be retracted.
Even Shakespeare understood the impact of gossiping. “Who steals my purse steals trash. . . but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.”
The Bible tells us, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)
Because you are a Christian, your tongue can work for good or evil. It can edify and encourage, or tear down and destroy. The latter comes naturally. Juicy gossip begs to be shared. Dirt that harms another’s reputation is eagerly consumed. The fact that we could delight in harming our neighbor’s good name speaks to the depravity we have by nature.
By contrast, Christian love “thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:5-7) Flip those around: “thinks no good; rejoices in iniquity. . .” and see what gossip does. Read Romans 1:29-30, where “whisperers” and “backbiters” are used in the same sentence with “haters of God.” Gossiping is a very big deal.
How do we overcome our sins of the tongue? By kneeling at the cross and confessing our wickedness. There we see the only One Who has ever lived and died without a single evil word crossing His lips. In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of all sins. By faith, His perfect life became ours. This amazing fact empowers us to stop gossip in its tracks, put our weapon down, and protect our neighbor’s good name.
James Albrecht is pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Okabena, Minnesota.