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by Barbara Smith

One humorist explained gossip as "something that goes in one ear, out the other, and over the back fence." John Brantingham winked at gossip saying, "There's so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it little behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us."

Though Christians may chuckle sympathetically, we know gossip fuels so many daily conversations. And we know Scripture doesn't wink at gossip, or the bearer of careless tales: Solomon condemns those who betray a confidence, calling him, or her, perverse! He says a gossip separates close friends. ( Prov. 11:13, 6:28) Gossip goes deep into the heart of those who hear it, and fans the flames of quarrels. ( Prov. 18:8, 26:20)

George Eliot described gossip as "a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it; it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker." (_Daniel Deronds_) What a portrayal of too many of our conversations, even those among Christians!

When we choke on the putrid air of gossip, how can we throw open a window and freshen stale conversations? How can we squelch this passion to repeat and listen to unwise words we readily confess?

  1. Confess that we are part of the problem. We have unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips! We all have gossiped, deliberately, accidentally. Scripture calls anyone a gossip who spreads rumors or idle, fruitless tales. Solomon counsels the godly, "avoid a man [or woman] who talks too much." (Prov. 20:19) The apostle Paul described some early believers as "not only idle but gossips [tattlers, KJV] and busybodies." (1 Tim. 5:13)

  2. Remember the origin of gossip: understood the origin of gossip: "And there 's a lust in man no charm can tame Of loudly publishing our neighbour's shame; On eagles' wings immortal scandals fly, While virtuous actions are but born and die." (Stephen Harvey circa 1627 Juvenal, Satire ix)

  3. Remember the One who hears every word. Gossiping grieved the Lord and Jesus warned, "For every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment." (Matt. 12:36)

When we are tempted with chatty talk, "Remember, every time you open your mouth to talk, your mind walks out and parades up and down the words." (Edwin H. Stuart) What we say, shows who we are: "Language is the apparel in which your thoughts parade before the public. Never clothe them in vulgar or shoddy attire." (George Crane)

The Talmud advises practical discretion when we encounter friends who eagerly repeat rumors or reports of intimate nature. "The friend has a friend, and thy friends' friend has a friend: be discrete." If discretion won't restrain the folks dying to dish the dirt, perhaps common sense will. A gentle reminder that "Who gossips to you, will gossip of you," might end unkind conversations.

Love in Christ,

© Barbara W. Smith 2000, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

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