Gossip! Gossip! Gossip!

One summer day four friends head out to the woods for a camping trip. That evening they decided to share each others weaknesses in order to pray for one another. The first said “I have serious trouble with lust.” So they prayed about it. The second friend said “I have serious trouble with telling the truth.” Again, they prayed about it. The third said he had trouble with gambling. As before they all prayed about it. At this the fourth friend stood up and put his jacket on to leave. The other friends protested “you have not told us your weakness so we can pray for you.” “ahhh” said the final friend “my greatest weakness is gossip. But don’t worry, I’ll be right back after making a few calls.”

During the time of Jesus, gossip was a serious matter listed with murder and other outrageous sins. It was taken seriously because gossip in this day could indeed get you murdered, killed or put in prison for a very long time. Thus we are warned against it many times in the New Testament. However, not just in the New Testament. In Leviticus 19.16 (KJV) we are told “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people.” I used the King James Version of the Bible here for one word, you probably guessed it, a “talebearer”. A talebearer is someone who tells tales. They may be truthful, but are distorted. Or they may not be truthful at all, rather being outright lies.

Yet, what exactly is gossip? Gossip is telling or listening to something uncomplimentary about another with an attitude of entertainment. When we gossip or listen to gossip, it is not because we are truly sympathetic and want to help. It is because we want to hear the juicy facts (or tales) at someone else’s expense. At times, we want a good laugh or to smear another’s weaknesses. But what does gossip do? In a nutshell, gossip builds upon, spreads, perpetuates, continues, maintains or prolongs hurtful or embarrassing words that should have died long ago. It makes others’ lives miserable and if you are a gossip, many will be miserable by simply being in your presence.

Have you ever played the game “telephone” with your friends or at a get-together? You whisper something into a person’s ear who then passes it on to another and to another all the way down the line. If you have, you know by time the message reaches the last person, it is completely different than what was originally told.

It is the same in real life. Gossip assassinates character, it makes the innocent suffer, it ruins a good name and it destroys the work of the church. Gossip is normally one sided, biased, prejudicial (Prov 18.17) and it reveals a lack of love. Gossip destroys friendships (Prov 16.28) and can inflict lasting harm on most all relationships. Seeing this, let us refrain from gossip and follow Ephesians 4.29 (NIV) “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Nathan Greene is minister of Barlow Vincent Church of Christ. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Christy Hudson at 376-5446 or chudson@mariettatimes.com. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer’s convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.