Monday, 27 July 2009
How do you feel about gossip? Harmless fun? Juicy details? Sensational news?
Maybe you don't ever gossip...Let’s begin by defining gossip. What is gossip? Here are a few definitions that I found: (1) Rumour or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature and (2) idle talk, usually about other people's private lives, especially of a disapproving or malicious nature.
Gossip isn’t defined very nicely, is it? It is destructive. Sometimes it is very subtle and hard to recognise.
So, what does God’s word have to say about gossip? The book of Proverbs has some pretty specific things to say about gossip.
Proverbs 11:13 says: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”
Proverbs 16:28 says: “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”
Proverbs 20:19 says: “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”
Proverbs 26:20 says: “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”
Two different Hebrew words are used in these verses BUT they both mean the same thing – tale tellers. People who specialize in talking about other people’s lives.
The book of Psalms has a lot to say about the tongue as well. The language in the book of Psalms is really interesting - it uses language that typifies a violent scenario. It uses words like daggers, and swords, and poisonous tips, arrows, and death, and destruction, and things like that to describe the tongue. If you get a chance and you have a concordance take the time to look up how the word tongue is used in the book of Psalms – it is very eye opening. The tongue has the power to destroy lives.
As I was thinking about all the various ways that the tongue is described in the bible I began to wonder: “What kind of language would God use today to really explain the destruction that the tongue can bring?” Maybe He would say something like: “The tongue is like a suicide bomber walking into a shopping centre full of thousands of people and innocent children.” We all know the images of destruction that brings. Or maybe, “The tongue can be like a sniper who puts on a silencer and hides himself a safe distance away and then kills from long distance so that their victim never knows what hit them.” The reason that God uses such vivid description in imagery is because, rarely do we think about the destructive path that our tongue leaves behind.
Have people been hurt by your words – by your gossip? Maybe you are the one who’s been charred by someone else’s words, and I want you to know that God loves you so much. He knows how fragile your heart is and He cares about you.
The question we need to ask is: How do we move on from here? We know that the tongue can leave a path of destruction. We know that gossip hurts and maims. How do we change things? How do we raise the bar spiritually? How do we say, “Okay, I am not going to live my life like that anymore,” and, “I want to move forward and I want to change the way I live life.” How do you begin to do that? How do we overcome gossip? Maybe it's as simple as: Stop talking ABOUT people and start talking TO people.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” I love the last part of that verse. It says, “Building others up according to their needs.” We need to ask the question, “What are this person’s needs?” What is it that is going on in their life right now? What is the hurt? What’s the pain? What’s the joy? What’s the passion? What happened this morning at work before they even got here? What is it that’s going on in their life? And what we need to begin to do is to start asking these questions. And once we know and understand that, then we can intentionally begin to craft our words to speak into their life words that will build them up and not tear them down. Let’s stop talking about people and let’s start talking to people. That is one of the things we can do to start to move forward and say, “I’m going to live my life differently. I’m going to do things different.”
Let me finish by sharing this poem I found on gossip...
My name is Gossip.
I have no respect for justice.
I maim without killing.
I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.
I topple governments and wreck marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartaches and indigestion. I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip.
I make headlines and headaches.