We humans are social creatures. We like interacting with one another. In doing so, we like to be interesting and exciting. The desire to have something to bond with someone over leads us to want to share juicy bits of information with other people. “Did you here what happened…” instantly gets the attention of the hearer. It brings us together with them. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
The problem comes when our desire to tell someone about things includes information that should share. It is when our desire to bond and be interesting veers over into the land of gossip.
Gossip is defined as casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true. It is the whispering that takes place when people share things they have no business talking with people who have no business hearing it. Though churches have been stereotyped as havens for it, gossip is dealt with quite clearly in the Bible.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Romans 1:28-31
Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. Psalm 101:5
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…Matthew 12:36
Slander is a verbal statement shared about a person that is untrue and damages the person. These are just a few examples of what the Bible says about talking about gossiping. God takes our words very seriously and speaks strongly against talking about others. These are not verses that we want to put in Hallmark cards, are they?
So given our human nature and desire to share with others in the Body of Christ, how do we know if we are gossiping? How do we know if we are ok to share something with another believer? How can we tell if something we want to dish to someone is just the sort of gossip that the Lord detests? “We T.h.i.n.k.” about it.
Yes, it is kind of corny but the idea is to have a test to stick in our minds and help us when we are tempted. We T.h.i.n.k is a simple acronym to apply to judge whether we are getting in dangerous territory with our mouth.
We – Ok, the “We” is not an acronym but it fits. The first question to ask is whether the information we want to share involved either the speaker or the hearer personally. Not just generally involved. Are we actually involved in the issue that we want to talk about? This is the one that knocks out much of the gossip that gets spread around today. If the answer is no, there is a good chance that we are in the area of gossip. For example, if a child spills juice on someone’s brand new sofa and we are not the child’s parents or owner of the couch and we want to tell others about it, this falls into the realm of gossip. Generally, if we are not involved we should not be talking about it.
T – Truth, is what we are discussing true? If there is any doubt about the truth of information or there is no concern about the truth, we are in gossip territory again. For example, there is a stain on the new sofa and we don’t know how it got there. Yet, we want to offer the opinion someone’s child probably spilled juice, it is better left unsaid.
H – Helpful, is what we are saying helpful? Encourage on another and build each other up, right? Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen. Ephesians 4:29. What is the motive behind what we are saying? If it is not to help, to encourage or bear anothers burden a big stop sign should go up in our minds. STOP, we are not helping so we are hurting. For example, even if we did see someone’s child spilling juice on a new sofa, if the parents are aware of what happened there is no need to bring it up again. It is just not helpful even if telling others we saw the whole thing and knew it was coming makes us feel good.
I – Inspiring, is what we are saying inspiring? Similar to being helpful, our words should be spoken with the goal of moving others closer to Jesus. We should always be building other up in righteousness not tearing them down. If what we are discussing is tearing people down, we probably shouldn’t say it. If we are appalled that the child’s parents were not watching well enough to stop the juice spill, we really shouldn’t share that opinion with others. It reflects more upon us anyway.
N – Necessary, does the information need to be shared? Much of the gossip that the Lord has such strong words for never needed to be said. It is information that speaker and hearer have no involvement in, no real interest in helping with and can do nothing about. It is simply exciting and easy to share. If the information is not for any purpose and is simply said for enjoyment, this should create concern. If the Sunday after the child spilled juice on a new sofa we feel the desire to tell our bestie about it and the stain that it caused, this is gossip.
K – Kind, is it kind? This one is the simplest of them all and probably is the most helpful. Love is kind according to 1 Corinthians 13. Is what we want to share kind? Does it paint people in a bad light? Is it accusing someone outside of their presence? It is really easy to bring up our grudges, hurts and strongly held opinions about someone when they are not present. If we would not say the same thing to the subject of our discussion, we probably should not say it at all. If we think that the new sofa looks better with the juice stain because it was horribly ugly anyway, we really shouldn’t share it.
They are simple guidelies but following them may not be initially easy. Yet God is very clear that He dislikes gossip. He speaks strongly against it because it works to tear apart the unity in the Body of Christ. Jesus tore down the walls of enmity between people with the Cross. He paid for our love for one another with His blood. We don’t want to be working against that victory with our words.