Sunday, May 19, 2019

Tame Your Tongue: Repenting of Gossip Guest Post by Lieutenant Crystal Sherack




The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.


The topic of gossip has been on my mind for quite some time. As an introvert, I spend a lot of time observing people and I’ve been observing a lot of gossip, especially masked as prayer requests.  People are quick to share information without knowing if it is even true. And in some cases, gossip and rumors ruin lives and relationships. I can’t think of a single example of a time that gossip or rumors have been helpful to anyone.  We’re constantly surrounded by it and we accept it.

    How gossip happens
Proverbs 10:18-19 He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

The more we talk, the greater probability we have of saying something that is not true or is incorrect. The desire for continuous conversation often leads to exaggeration, breaking confidences, and associated sins (MacDonald, 1995, p 815).

Proverbs 11:12-13 A man who lacks judgement derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

A man without wisdom belittles those around them and insults God. But a man of wisdom doesn’t say anything if he can’t praise or edify the other person. Some take malicious delight in spreading scandal, informing about others, and breaking confidences. They don’t hold anything back and they tell everything they now. A faithful friend knows how to keep confidences and refrains from talking (MacDonald, 1995, p 817). Gossip is one of those sneaky sins. We’re often apart of it without realizing it. In church or small groups we call it prayer requests. Don’t misunderstand, it is important to pray on behalf of others, but we don’t need to share all of the details with everyone that we know.  Both passages from Proverbs talk about what happens when we talk without having wisdom. When we lack wisdom, we might have the desire to talk continuously. And generally, when we talk non-stop it leaves room for exaggeration, betraying the trust of others, gossip, and slander. When we talk without wisdom, we also belittle those around us, which then insults God. Since we are all made in the image of God, if we cut down others, we are insulting God at the same time.
But the passages also let us know that those who have wisdom, choose not to say anything if they can’t praise or uplift people. It’s like that saying that they used to teach in elementary school, “if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all.”
James 3:5-10 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

     What Gossip Does
The tongues is a relatively small part of our body but it is a powerful one. The tongue can set the heart aflame with fury, patriotism, courage, love, and hate; it can also inflict damage for generations (McCartney, 2009, p 184-185). In James 3, we see the tongue compared to a fire and can easily destroy a forest. The tongue, when not tamed, can destroy the entire body; it pollutes personal life and other activities as well. I think fire is an appropriate illustration to use to describe what the human tongue can do.
Fire starts small and grows but it also creates heat. Words said out of anger or malice can destroy a home, a Sunday School class, and a Church. Jesus Himself faced gossip. He was called a glutton and a drunk (Matthew 11:19). When he performed miracles, He was accused of being in league with Satan (Matthew 12:24).
Because of the Fall of Man, we have lost control over our tongue. Our human nature can’t control it and only God can bring it under control.
When gossip isn’t stopped right away, it acts like a forest fire. Fire defiles. Fire burns. Fire hurts. Just like our words. Gossip, just like fire, spreads when we add more fuel to it (Wiersbe, 2008, p 359). Like fire, gossip damages and destroys. It destroys trust, relationships, and in some horrific cases, it can destroy businesses and churches.
The tongue is difficult to control by ourselves. We need the power of God that lives in us through the Holy Spirit to tame it. When we claim to be followers of Jesus, we should be transformed by the Spirit and that transformation should manifest wholeness and purity of heart. If we bless the Lord with our tongue in one moment but tear someone down in the next, we are need in of spiritual renewal.
     Remedy to Stop Gossip
There are two parts to the remedy of gossip. 1) the gossipers and 2) the listener of gossip.
1   The Gossipers
a.     Pray daily that the Lord would keep you from gossip.
b.     If you have an issue with someone, go to them directly. Don’t talk about them to another person, that doesn’t solve the problem.
-        Matthew 18:15 If your sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
-        Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, but if he repents, forgive him.
c.     Try to see Christ in others instead of magnifying their flaws.
d.     Ask yourself is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
e.     Most importantly, ask God to forgive you for gossiping.


Pray this passage daily if you find that you struggle with gossiping:
Psalm 141:3-4 – Set a guard over my mouth, o Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.


    The Receivers of Gossip
     If someone comes to you and says “I need to talk to you.” Ask them, “about someone or something.” If they want to talk about someone, politely ask them if they spoke to them yet. If they haven’t, they need to do so. Politely end the conversation with that.
b. Like a fire, we need to stop gossip before it gets out of control. 
- If you find yourself in a conversation that suddenly turns into gossip, you need to ask them if what they are saying is even true.
- Show them what the Bible says about gossip and its destructive power.
- Encourage them to go to the other person in humility to apologize for sharing information about them.
c. Pray that the Lord would keep them from gossip and that He’d guard their mouths when they are faced with the temptation to do so. 

Ephesians 5:1-4,8-11 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurty or greed must not even be named among you, as in proper among the saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving thanks…for you were formerly darkness, but you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of the darkness, but instead even, expose them.

It should bother us that gossip is so readily accepted in the world around us. This is not an easy topic to talk about in the church. However, it is one that we need to talk about. If we want a healthy church, we need to address issues that keep us unhealthy. Gossip is in the world around us. It’s in our friend groups. It’s on nearly every magazine cover in the checkout lines at the grocery store. Gossiping, just like any other sin, separates us from God. It’s difficult to proclaim the gospel and share God’s love with someone when you spent several minutes tearing down another person. God is not honored when we tear each other down.
We might participate in gossip because we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. But we aren’t helping them. We’re only encouraging their continued separation from God. If you want to help your friend, encourage them to go that person and discuss what’s wrong or even to apologize to them for sharing information about them. It isn’t easy to discipline people we are close to or correct them. But it’s what we are called to do as followers of Christ.
Maybe you are really good at avoiding gossip and if that is the case, don’t be afraid to share that wisdom with others. Gossip is a little different than other sins, it’s sneaky. And we have to be on guard. Pray to God and read His world daily.


Citations and References

All Scripture references are from the New International Version.
MacDonald, W. (1996). Believer’s bible commentary. Thomas Neslon: Nashville.
McCartney, D. G. (2009). James. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids.
Wiersbe, W.W. (1989). The bible exposition commentary: new testament volume 2. David C Cook: Colorado Springs.  




Bio: Crystal Sherack has been an Officer in The Salvation Army since 2014. She currently serves in the Western Division in Rapid City, SD.

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