Choice Morsels

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”

Proverbs 26:22 NIV

Writing devotional thoughts from every chapter in Proverbs means sometimes hitting the same themes more than once. And, since gossip is a major topic discussed throughout the book, it’s no surprise that here in chapter 26, gossip comes up again. As I’ve written before, one of the best definitions of gossip I’ve come across is this: gossip is sharing sensitive or confidential information with someone who is not part of the problem or the solution.

One of the biggest challenges with finding victory over the sin of gossip is that it can often be hard to identify. Of course, there’s the really obvious gossip that is clearly wrong and everyone knows it. “Did you hear about so and so? Let me fill you in…” But, there’s another kind of gossip that’s much more subtle. It’s described in Proverbs 26:22 as “choice morsels” that “go down to the inmost parts.” It’s gossip that doesn’t look or feel like gossip. It’s disguised as a prayer request or expressing concern for the well-being of a friend who’s headed down the wrong path. It’s sharing inside information that may seem harmless, but is still confidential and shouldn’t be shared.

Choice-morsel-gossip doesn’t feel sleazy like blatant, obvious gossip. We’ve all had those conversations where we knew we were gossiping, did it anyway, and left feeling like we just swallowed a rock. Choice-morsel-gossip is different. It feels good at first. We’re helping someone pray for a friend in more specific prayers. We’re bringing someone into the know so they won’t be caught off-guard when they find out the news. Doesn’t it feel good to have knowledge someone else doesn’t, and then to share that knowledge in a way that encourages that person to pray more? Not only am I helping the person who needs prayer by recruiting more prayer partners, but I’m also helping the person I gossip to spend more time with God! How can that be wrong?

Gossip is a sin. No matter what motivates it, it’s a sin. Even when I gossip with good intentions, I sin. Sooner or later, those “choice morsels” turn into rocks in the pit of my soul. Thank God for His continued grace! My prayer this week is that God will nudge us with conviction as we are about to share a choice morsel, and we will hold our tongues.

Don’t Be a Gossip

“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.

Hold Your Tongue

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19, NIV)

Have you ever been in a discussion or an argument with someone and you can feel yourself getting close to the line of saying too much? You know if the conversation continues you will end up saying more than you want to, and the outcome of that is almost always sinful.

The temptation to say too much attacks me primarily in two ways: gossip and angry words. Sometimes when Corinne and I argue (yes, we argue, too), I can feel my temper start to rise, and I know if I don’t back out I’m going to say something I will regret later. It’s like I can see myself driving closer and closer to the side of the cliff, and if I don’t turn the wheel, I’ll go right off the edge. I need to stop my words before I get to that point! It’s always better to call a timeout and work through the conflict later after we’ve both cooled off than to keep pushing until we explode.

Gossip, on the other hand, is typically more subtle. It sneaks up on you, and you don’t realize you’re gossiping until you’re in the middle of whatever story you were sharing. Sometimes you don’t recognize the gossip until after the conversation is over, as you reflect on what was shared!

Either way, whether it’s in the form of angry words or gossip, sin is not absent when we flap our jaws too much. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to keep our tongues in check, and those of us who belong to Jesus have that power dwelling within us. We really have no excuse for allowing our runaway mouths to lead us into sin!

My prayer this week is that God will give us the wisdom and the power to hold our tongues and avoid the sin that comes from talking too much.