“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:13, NIV)
Gossip is a sneaky sin, and I don’t think anyone of us is immune to it! Christians are often quick to point out the obvious, flagrant sins in others–pornography, adultery, addiction, etc. Yet, in my experience gossip is one of the most prevalent and widespread sins in the church. In fact, I’ve seen gossip more often in churches than in the world. For some reason, we overlook this dangerous sin in our midst that wreaks havoc and devastation everywhere it exists. We are experts at disguising gossip, at putting lipstick on this pig that invades our lives.
One very common (so common that it’s become the subject of many jokes) form of Christian gossip is prayer requests. “Pray for Susie. Her husband’s being a huge jerk right now. Their marriage is in really bad shape.”
Or it may be offered in the guise of a friendly warning. “Hey, I heard you went out for coffee with Bill. That’s great you’re getting to know him! I just want you to know that his marriage ended because of infidelity. Not that you shouldn’t spend time with him, just go in with your eyes open.”
Gossip is often shared in the context of asking for advice. “Hey, Bill and Susie are struggling with their marriage after Bill almost cheated on her. I really want to help them work through this issue, but I’m not sure what to tell them. Do you have any advice for me?”
In the church, there are structures in place to give us safe people to confide in, ask for prayer, and get advice. These safe people are the elders and pastors. They are spiritually mature leaders who have met the qualifications in Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:2-4. They don’t break confidence but are trustworthy with sensitive information. Their role is to shepherd, pray for, and give wise counsel to those in need.
We should be very careful what we share, when we share it, and with whom. I’ve found Andy Stanley’s definition of gossip to be very helpful in guiding my own conversations over the years.
Gossip is sharing sensitive information with someone who is not part of the problem or the solution.
No matter how good our intentions are, we can fall prey to gossip if we don’t intentionally guard our mouths. My prayer for the week is that the Holy Spirit will nudge you when you’re about to share sensitive information with someone who isn’t part of the problem or the solution, and you’ll realize the sneakiness of this sin which infects us so subtly.