What does the Bible say about gossip?

Question: "What does the Bible say about gossip?"

First and foremost, God considered gossip to be such a serious matter that He included the avoidance of it as one of the Ten Commandments. "Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20). When you repeat something you heard from someone else, or share a story where you're not 100% certain the facts are correct, or even share information about another person that will only bring them harm and not good, you are bearing false witness against them. Since the second greatest commandment is "Love your neighbor as yourself," you would be breaking that one as well by gossiping. Would you gossip about yourself to others? If not, then why commit that act against your neighbor?

In the book of Romans, Paul reveals the sinful natures and lawlessness of mankind, stating how God was pouring out His wrath upon those who were rejecting His laws. Because they had turned away from God's instruction and guidance, He gave them over to their sinful natures. "They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 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 practice them" (Romans 1:29b-32). God still does the same today. Many reject Him and His word, so He allows them to be ruled by their sinful nature and depraved minds.

Another group who was and is commonly known for indulging in this sinful behavior is widows. Timothy cautions widows against entertaining the habit of gossip and of being idle. "Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to" (1 Timothy 5:12-13). Because women tend to spend a lot of time in each other's homes or working closely with other women and getting involved in many people's lives, they hear and observe a variety of conversations or situations which have the potential to become distorted, if what they see is not kept private. Timothy stated that widows get into the habit of going from home to home, looking for something to occupy their idleness. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, and God cautions against allowing that sin to enter our lives.

Now, women are not the only ones who have been found guilty of this sin. Anyone can engage in the act of gossip simply be repeating something heard in confidence. The book of Proverbs has a long list of verses that cover the dangers of gossip and the potential hurt that results when care is not taken to think of the other person and how he/she might react if something they wanted kept private is revealed. "A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret" (Proverbs 11:12-13).

Many times, people are asked to keep a secret, but they find the secret too good *not* to share. So, they tell just one person, thinking it'll be all right if only one other person knows. But, then that one person tells one who tells another who tells someone else, etc. Before long, what was originally repeated has become distorted and barely resembles the truth it was at the start. The problem began when the person who agreed to keep a secret, didn't stick to the promise made. There's a saying that states, "Two people can keep a secret, if one of them is dead." That saying didn't just become known without a significant measure of truth in it. "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends" (Proverbs 16:28).

Think about a time when you witnessed the destruction of a friendship over a misunderstanding that started with gossip. Those who engage in this behavior do nothing but stir up dissension and cause strife among friends. There is nothing honorable in their actions, and their own struggles or shortcomings are covered up by their desire to bring someone else down rather than focusing on the areas in their own lives which need work. Some people thrive on this and look for opportunities to destroy others. And when people like this are confronted, they deny the allegations and answer with an excuse for why they've done what they have. Rather than admit their wrong, they blame someone or something else, or attempt to make it sound like the sin committed isn't so bad. "A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts" (Proverbs 18:7-8).

Gossip usually hits deep. The topics that are "too good not to share" are generally ones that end up inflicting deep and cutting wounds to a person's inner being. And the betrayal almost always comes from someone close to the person affected. Gossip is bad enough when it comes from someone who is simply looking for a source of information they can share. But, when it begins with a trusted friend or someone who has been taken into a confidence, the betrayal cuts deep to the soul, making it even harder for the one on the receiving end to forgive. "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much" (Proverbs 20:19).

Those people who are considered "busybodies" are easily spotted and are usually in the center of the action, flitting from one situation to the next, seeking out a tidbit of information they can use to spread to others. They'll talk to just about anyone, pretending to care or be genuinely interested in what is being said to them, when all the while, their minds are racing ahead to the first person to whom they can repeat their conversation. Gossips are only in it for themselves and the perverted pleasure it brings them to tear others down.

But, God promises light at the end of the tunnel. "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will [perish] not go free" (Proverbs 19:5). The righteous will overtake the house of the wicked and bring them to ruin (Proverbs 21:12). Those who guard their mouths and tongues keep themselves from calamity (Proverbs 21:23). So, guard your tongue and refrain from the sinful act of gossip. Surrender your natural desires to the Lord and allow Him to help you remain righteous. Love your neighbor as yourself and don't sin against them in any way that you wouldn't also do to yourself. God rewards the just and the righteous, so strive to remain as such.

Recommended Resource: The Quest Study Bible.

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What does the Bible say about gossip?