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-Is gossiping a sin?

QUESTION: Is gossiping a sin? If so, why do so many Christians engage in it, especially when one of their leaders is alleged to have fallen? ANSWER: The Bible says very little about gossiping, but what it does say certainly does not commend the practice for anyone. The word is only used once in the New Testament, in connection with younger widows in 1 Timothy 5:11-15. There we have God’s instructions regarding younger widows, definitely those under sixty years old and evidently those of childbearing age. They are encouraged in verse 14 to “marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” Among the reasons given for these instructions is their tendency to grow wanton against Christ, “to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not” (5:13). From this verse it is clear that gossip is a sin in God’s eyes, one that He wants His people to avoid. God is no respecter of persons. He does not operate on a double standard, so gossiping is by no means merely a sin for younger widows to avoid, but a sin for every one of us to avoid.

But let’s not just look at the one verse that directly uses the word “gossip”; let’s broaden our outlook to some other verses that give us directions about the use of our tongues. The Old Testament book of Proverbs abounds with such verses. Most of James 3 is devoted to the proper use of our tongues. The Lord Jesus tells us in both Luke 6:45 and Matthew 12:34 that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If we follow the instruction of Philippians 4:8 our full hearts will cause our tongues to speak positive things. We read there, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”

Ephesians 4:17-5:21 gives us very practical instructions too. We are told to put off the old man and put on the new man, to put away lying and speak the truth with our neighbor. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers … Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (4:29,31 NKJV). There are things that are appropriate for saints, and many things that are not. We are to find out what is acceptable to the Lord, and do it. “The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth” (5:9).

Certainly, if a church leader has fallen and is guilty, this ought to humble us deeply. Where sin must be dealt with, let it be done in a godly and upright way. Both James and Peter remind us what we already find in Proverbs, that “love covers a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:20; 1 Pet. 4:8; Prov. 10:12). Love certainly doesn’t gossip about them. Gossip never has the best interests in mind of the one gossiped about. Whether deliberately or subconsciously, gossip seeks to build up the image of the gossiper at the expense of the one gossiped about.

Knowing, not merely surmising, that Peter would deny Him that same evening, the Lord Jesus both warned him and assured him that He had prayed for him that his faith fail not. After His resurrection the Lord privately and publicly restored Peter. Never again in God’s Word was Peter’s failure brought up, either by the Lord or by Peter’s fellow apostles. May we learn from this and put into practice what we learn.

Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org

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