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.
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?
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?
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”
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down
to a man’s inmost parts. (Proverbs 18:8)
does God say about gossip?
God says nothing good about gossip. In Proverbs, Solomon tells
. . . a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
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.
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
on, particularly if it isn’t complimentary or helpful.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
The law of love