An all-too-common phenomenon in the conservative Christian community is that of sharing prayer requests or concerns about an individual in a way that is actually gossiping.
Prayer meetings, luncheons, fellowships, and potlucks have become breeding grounds for “corrupt communication” about other believers. Even genuine concern for others can be a cover for harmful speech.
What should we as Christians do to avoid this dangerous epidemic of gossip?
First, we need to recognize gossiping habits in ourselves. Possibly the most dangerous talebearing is when such ungodly speech sneaks its way into our everyday conversation. It has become very easy to justify in our minds talking about a fellow believer.
God has much to say about the power the tongue can wield. According to Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
We have so much influence with our speech that it can give life to people, or it can tear them down. We can ruin reputations, or we can help other believers thrive and grow closer to God.
Simply because we may have been given information about someone that spikes our interest or makes us feel like we have “the inside scoop” about a situation does not mean it is the wisest to disclose that information to anyone else.
Proverbs 17: 27-28 admonishes, “He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.
“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Knowing when to speak is a mark of a mature believer and of someone who recognizes the power of the tongue.
The struggle with controlling our speech and recognizing when we are gossiping can be difficult. Rather than try to control the little “rudder” in our mouths ourselves, we ought to turn to God.
David prays in Psalm 141:3, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”
Second, we ought to appropriately respond to others when they begin to gossip to us. Although it may be uncomfortable to confront someone as they begin to share hurtful information, the Bible calls us to lovingly rebuke our brothers and sisters in Christ. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
One way to quickly address gossip is to stop the conversation before it continues and ask the person “Have you talked about this with so-and-so?” Gently remind them that spreading rumors and harmful speech is gossip.
Most important, when we are faced with gossip, we ought to redirect the conversation to Christ. Make sure that the motives for our conversations are pure and centered on building up other believers.
It is easy to be passive about harmful speech and let it spread. We as believers are called to love one another, and that love is visible most in the way we talk about one another.