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Idle, useless or malicious tales, often told about others behind their backs-this is gossip. Avoid it at all costs. Don’t gossip yourself and don’t listen to others who do. Your intention is the key-make sure you only tell news to be helpful.

Joshua 22:9-34

After helping the 9½ tribes to take over their allocated areas on the western side of the Jordan River, the 2½ tribes from the eastern side had returned home. On the way they had built an altar and the word was passed around. As is often true with gossip, the facts were quite correct, but the motives were ei­ther wrong or not reported. Hearing of the report, the western tribes gathered to make war with the eastern tribes, believing that they were abandoning the worship of God. Thankfully, they took the time to ask before they declared war and the motives of the eastern tribes were revealed.

1. Why were the western tribes con­cerned when they heard about the altar?
2. Was the report they heard correct? Was it gossip?
3. Was the response of the western tribes reasonable?
4. How could the eastern tribes have made sure the entire confrontation was avoided? Should they have done so?
5. What can we learn about how to treat reports we hear that may be gossip?

From this we learn two lessons about gossip:

(a) the known facts are not always the whole story; and
(b) verify stories before you act on them or repeat them.

What is gossip?
Gossip is the telling of idle, useless or malicious tales. Normally gossip involves telling such tales about others behind their backs. The retelling of news is not gossip, but sometimes there is a ?ne line between retelling news and gossiping. Gossip is a problem for everyone because we all like to hear news and tell it to others-particularly “juicy” news.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. (Proverbs 18:8)

What does God say about gossip?
God says nothing good about gossip. In Proverbs, Solomon tells us

. . . a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

Paul, in Romans, groups it with many other sins to deliver a clear and serious message to those who reject God:

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. . . . They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; . . . they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them. (Romans 1:29-32)

Yes, gossip can keep us out of the kingdom. If we love our neighbour, we will not tell stories about them or betray their trust. Jesus told us to do to others the things we would like them to do to us. Matthew 7:12 That immediately demands that we stop gossiping. No-one likes to be the subject of gossip or rumours.

How to avoid gossip

When recounting information about someone else, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Am I certain the facts are correct? If not, do not pass it on, particularly if it isn’t complimentary or helpful.
2. Have I checked with the person (or people) involved? If not, you may have the facts correct, but not the motives or intentions. Your understanding of the details may be incomplete. Do not pass it on.
3. Was this information given in confidence? Confidences must remain confidences if friends are to remain friends.
Do not pass it on.

4. Am I recounting this story or information to help build others up in Christ? If not, don’t continue. Ephesians 4:29

When listening to stories about others, you may also need to ask people to stop the stories. Asking the questions above may also be appropriate before allowing the details to come out. If you have heard information about other people or groups of people, you may have listened to helpful news or damaging gossip. Never pass it on until you are sure it is helpful news.

A good test of most gossip: Would I be happy to tell this story if the person who is the subject of the story was listening also?


Useless, indiscreet or deliberately hurtful stories are gossip. God says that gossip destroys friendships and damages fellow­ship. He also forbids it, linking gossip with many other sins and saying that it can lead only to death.

We can help with the problem of gossip by making sure we never listen to gossip or pass it on. Check facts carefully and do not try to assign motives to others without talking to them. Remember that facts alone are often not the full story.

Case Study

Ned and his friend Andrew were talking together at a dinner party. Ned was explaining a problem which had arisen at the shop where he worked. One of the other employees had been taking money from the till. “As the manager, I was counting the money we had taken for the day when I noticed that there was less than I had seen earlier in the day. I spoke to the owner who told me to call the police. I did so and then had to stay around until they arrived. About 20 minutes later . . . ”, he paused as a mutual friend, John, walked up, “. . . I was just taking the rest of the money out of the till and putting it into my bag when the police came in. Then I had to try to explain to them what was going on . . . ” At that moment, the host came along and asked them to sit down for the meal and the subject was not mentioned again. At least, not there.

Three weeks later, Ned was approached by another old friend who asked him quietly if he needed any help with anything in relation to his being caught stealing by the police! Ned was very hurt and upset-it seemed that everybody had heard this rumour and believed it. Only one person had come to check the facts.


1. What examples of gossip, (the telling of idle or malicious tales) are found in the Bible? Can you find any examples of people who were gossips and changed?
2. Can information given in confidence ever be passed on to others? For example, if someone tells you they are experimenting with illegal drugs should you tell anyone else?
3. What should we do if someone tells us something we suspect is gossip?


1. Have you ever been guilty of gossiping? If so, how can you make sure it doesn’t happen again? Find some Scripture verses that may help.
2. You find it hard to believe the stories that someone begins to tell you about someone else. What should you do?
3. Imagine you hear two unpleasant stories; one about a good friend of yours and one about someone you do not get on well with. Will you react the same way to each? If not, why not?
4. Look up all the words related to gossip in a concordance (e.g. gossip, gossips and gossiping in the NIV). What damage can gossip do to our lives now and our hope of eternal life?


• He healeth all thy diseases, Chapter 11 (4 pages), by Dennis Gillett (published by The Christadelphian, 1989).
• I want happiness now!, Chapter 6 (18 pages), by Henry Brandt and Phil Landrum (published by Zondervan, 1978).
• BBB Study 10.4.1


55. The law of love
63. Friends

 
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