People do not think they are gossips. We are able to identify others who gossip but often think that our words are not gossip. We excuse our words thinking that if we are saying something factual, then we are not gossiping. However, the definition of a gossip in the scriptures is simply “a whispering.” Thus, gossiping is saying words about a person that we do not want that person to hear. Gossip is not determined by factualness of the statement. If we are not speaking the truth, then we are a liar and a gossip. Implied in the definition of “gossip” is that the words we are saying are hurtful. Therefore, we whisper the words to another person but do not desire that person to know that we are speaking words behind their back. The New Testament is clear that gossips and whisperings are sinful (2 Cor. 12:20). Christians are commanded to “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). Gossiping does not build up, but tears down. There is nothing gracious or kind when we choose to engage in gossip. The Proverbs give us wise instructions concerning the consequences of gossiping.
“A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer (gossip) separates the best of friends” (16:28). This proverb really shows the amount of damage that can be done by being a whisperer or a gossip. Even the best of friends will become divided if one of the parties is engaging in gossip. This is a comparative proverb. The perverse person is compared to the whisperer. Sowing strife is compared to separating the best of friends. The gossip never thinks of himself or herself as a perverse, evil person. Every gossip thinks the things he or she is saying is innocent and harmless. We are just talking about someone. We must remember that if what we are speaking is not useful, is not beneficial, and is not something we would want the other person to hear, then we are gossiping. Friends will split and marriages will fracture when we speak to others about things were entrusted to us in confidence. “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much” (20:19). Acting like a friend but speaking against a person to others is dishonest. We act like we can be trusted with sensitive information, However, to speak the trusted information given to us is also being a gossip. Gossiping destroys the trust that had been built in the relationship.
One area where gossip rages most is in marriage. Spouses will speak against their mate to others. Things spoken in confidence will be told to others rather than kept in secret. A wife may complain about her husband’s actions to other women. A husband may complain about his wife to other men. Rather than speak to our spouse about the problem or issue, we have the tendency to speak to everyone else. This gossip does not solve the problem and is the cause for a deteriorating marriage. It is difficulty to be a loving spouse when your mate is speaking against you to others.
“Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops” (26:20). Just as wood is fuel for the fire, so also is gossip fuel for fights. Strife, quarrellings, and relationship problems are guaranteed to come when there are whisperings and gossip. But Solomon tells us how we can have problems stop: stop gossiping. If brethren would apply this proverb we would see a lot less contention and strife in local churches. Unfortunately, many times the preacher is one of the greatest violators of God’s command concerning gossip. Preachers often think they are immune from this rule and are allowed to speak to other people and other brethren about what another preacher is doing. The preacher is entirely unwilling to go to the person who he has fault with to try to bring about repentance or a mutual understanding. Rather, the preacher simply whispers to any person who is willing to listen. Friends, no one is allowed to be a gossip. Preachers must not gossip about other preachers or members. Brethren must not gossip about other brothers and sisters in Christ. Solomon tells us that if our gossips would cease the quarrels and contentions would also cease.
“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (18:8; 26:22). This proverb is stated twice by Solomon and describes two problems with gossiping. First, the pain of saying hurtful words reaches all the way down into the inner parts of the body. We underestimate the amount of emotional damage we cause others by gossiping about them. But the other point, which is the key point Solomon is making, is that we want to listen to the words of the gossip. A gossip’s words are like delicious morsels. We want to listen to the words of a whisperer. We desire to hear the dirt on another person. If the gossip had no one to listen to him, there would not be any whisperings. We are condemned for listening to someone speak about another person. The sin not only rests upon the one gossiping, but also upon the one who joyfully listens.
“An evildoer gives heed to wicked lips; a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue” (17:4). Solomon makes this point even clearer, calling those who listen to such wicked lips as an evildoer and a liar. We want to blame the one speaking the gossip. Certainly the gossip is condemned. But Solomon spends more time condemning the person who is listening. We are the ones who must change the subject. We are the ones who must walk away from the person speaking with wicked lips. We are the ones who must tell the other person that it is not that person’s business and should not be speaking gossip. Otherwise, we are evildoers because we are joining the gossip. The next time someone begins to talk about another person about things that are secretive or slanderous, please tell the person that this is gossip and stop the conversation. Perhaps is the listener embarrassed us enough by calling us out every time we started to gossip, we would do better at preventing gossip from coming out of our mouths.
The world is full of people willing to betray confidence and gossip about others. As a disciple of Jesus we must show ourselves to be different from the world. How awful to see a Christian engage in gossip with an unbeliever! We surely discredit our Lord and do not display the love and self-control of the tongue that our Lord exemplified.