As we stood in the church foyer waiting for the ushers to open the doors for church service, I watched in amusement as one of our seniors went from person to person sharing the tragic news of another member. I was amused because I don’t think she was aware of what she was doing, and I know she wasn’t aware that I was watching her.
As she repeated the sad news to newly arriving members, after each announcement she visibly shuddered and reminded them that tomorrow is not promised. She reminded me of a town crier.
Her actions demonstrate how we sometimes gossip while disguising it as information, education or concern for others. By doing this, I think we try to make our sin more palatable or forgivable. This particular gossip was appropriately disguised as godly concern for someone else and a reminder of life’s brevity. But, nevertheless, because it was draped in other personal information that most people were unaware of, it was gossip
According to GotQuestions.org, the Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets; one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” A gossiper is a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it. Gossip is distinguished from sharing information in two ways:
1. Intent. Gossipers often have the goal of building themselves up by making others look bad or exalting themselves as some kind of repositories of knowledge.
2. The type of information shared. Gossipers speak of the faults and failings of others, or reveal potentially embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval. Even if they mean no harm, it is still gossip.
The ‘town crier’ was gossiping—right there in the church foyer. She had no business sharing the information, and probably without even being aware, she was positioning herself as ‘someone in the know.’ I’m sure she meant no harm, but she did not have the other person’s approval to share this information.
Christinyou.net gives some reasons why Christians should not engage in gossip (besides the fact that it’s sinful) and offers some suggestions for avoiding gossip.
Reasons why Christians should not gossip—It violates and dissipates ‘community trust’ in the body of Christ. It is destructive and divisive. It is sometimes done with subtlety under the pretense of prayer requests (note: you can pray for others without knowing the specifics).
We can all avoid gossip by remembering that love does not act unbecomingly (I Cor. 13:5), choosing our mind-set (Phil. 4:8; Col. 3:2), refusing to say anything about another person that we would not be willing to say to him or her directly.
We should respond to gossipers by refusing to participate, avoiding them (Proverbs 20:19), changing the subject, or confronting them.
Remember this old saying, “Who gossips with you will gossip of you.”
Visit a church in Hampton Roads Virginia