July 11, 2012
The Seven Evil Sides of Gossip
By Anthony Wade
A look at the aspects of gossip, which the Lord hates...
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. -- Proverbs 6: 16-19 (ESV)Psalm 101 says that God will destroy whoever slanders his neighbor secretly. This is and always has been serious business to God. Gossip is like a cancer that spreads silently. Perhaps the worst aspect is that once gossiped, the damage is done. It does not matter if the issue is later unproved. People will only remember the charge. They will only remember the gossip. It is like going to the top of Mount Everest and releasing 10,000 feathers into the sky because in order to undo the damage -- you would have to go pick up the 10,000 feathers which are now scattered to the four winds. The truth is that we are all prone to gossip. We simply underestimate the power of the tongue:
And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. -- James 3: 6-8 (NLT)
It is a whole world of wickedness! Restless, evil and full of poison. Not me you say? Check your pride! Finding excuses we think are acceptable to God is not an excuse for gossiping either. Prayer is not a reason to gossip. God already knows the needs, to properly intercede for someone you just need to lift them up to the Lord. When looking at the key verses today we see the seven things that God absolutely hates. He despises them. He loathes them. As such it would do us good to try our best to not be caught in the middle of what God hates. As I examined the seven I realized that they all are represented within the true nature of gossip; they are all sides of this evil.
Haughty eyes is first. Haughty is defined as being proud and arrogant in that pride. It is a sad statement that this often describes how we can act in the church. We take the righteousness of Christ and somehow start to think that we had something to do with it. We can laud ourselves over other people and start to think that we are somehow more spiritual than others. What does this have to do with gossip? They say that all sin can be traced back to pride and gossip is no exception. It takes a complete lack of humility to not consider the damage you might be doing to someone and their reputation when you start to spread gossip. Haughty eyes look upon people disdainfully in their heart. They pre-judge situations, take things out of context and seek to stir up trouble. Humility is to hold oneself in lower esteem. To think more of others than oneself. Paul teaches:
Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. -Philippians 2: 3-5 (NLT)
The second thing that God hates is a lying tongue. Here the correlation to gossip is clearer. So much of gossip is usually untrue on some if not all levels. Sometimes it is taken out of context to appear more malicious than it actually was. Sometimes it is altered just slightly with more emphasis placed on the alteration to make the morsel more appealing to our flesh. Either way, there is an element of deception within the vast majority of gossip. The original gossiper was Satan. The Bible says he is the father of lies and as far back as the Garden of Eden we see him doing what he does best:
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, "Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?" -- Genesis 3: 1 (NLT)
There is a shrewdness to gossip; a calculation. Here the enemy mixes just enough truth with something he knows is untrue and Eve falls for it. We see this happening today in churches as well. "Did the Pastor really say"?" "Mrs. Smith said this about the elders"" Remember the cardinal rule -- if someone is willing to talk to you about someone else than they are willing to talk to someone else about you. It is cowardice at the core. Willing to discuss someone behind their back but afraid to say it to their face. Such happenings are usually proof that the lying tongue that God hates so much is in action because if the cause was righteous, you should have no problem speaking the truth. Be very wary of people who swear testimony against others but refuse to do so openly. Cowards to the core, God will deal most harshly with them as Psalm 101 indicates.
The third thing God hates is hands that shed innocent blood. This is more of a philosophical stretch in that gossip does inflict wounds upon people. You may not see the blood because the bleeding is internal. An assassinated character still bleeds. Along with this comes the very real possibility of betrayal. In most cases the gossiper knows the person they are gossiping about and has earned a position of trust to have received any information at all. This is why God warns us:
A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. -- Proverbs 16: 28 (NLT)
One of the worst things we can suffer is the betrayal of someone we trusted. Jesus had to deal with it with Judas and we can expect nothing less. People will constantly disappoint us and the worst thing is the gossip doesn't even do it for 30 pieces of silver. They just do it because they are careless and do not care what damage they do to people. They most definitely have blood on their hands; innocent blood.
Fourth on the list is a heart that devises wicked plans. Realize here that God is reminding us that the nature of gossip is one of calculation. There is a scheme or a motive. There is an underlying plot when someone seeks to defame and slander. Perhaps there is jealousy involved. Perhaps they cannot even see the reasons. In many cases within the church they have justified their reasons in their own mind and wrapped the name of Jesus around their plan. We must understand that even if the person being gossiped about has committed some egregious sin -- that does not excuse us sinning by gossiping about it! Even if the egregious sin was committed against you!
"If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. -- Matthew 18: 15-17 (NLT)
Note the first step here outlined by God -- go privately. The heart of God is always that we be able to resolve our differences amongst each other. If both parties truly care only about the kingdom of God then they will be able to resolve whatever the issue is. It is only our stubborn pride that gets in the way and demands to not admit wrongdoing when we are clearly wrong. Either way, we need to recognize that there is usually an element of scheming involved when we deal with gossip. It is rare that gossip happens by reaction.
Fifth we see that God hates feet that make haste to run into evil. Realize beloved that gossip is evil -- pure evil. It serves no possible good and only seeks to tear people down when the Bible has instructed us that we are to do the opposite when it comes to each other:
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. -- Ephesians 4: 29-32 (NIV)
We see here that gossip actually grieves the Holy Spirit, as anything evil would. It runs contrary to the ways of God. It is only destructive by nature -- there is nothing constructive or edifying about it. I understand it is difficult in many situations because the flesh seeks retribution and the world glorifies revenge. But Matthew 18 implores us to win the person back to us.
Sixth, we find that God hates a false witness who breathes out lies. Interesting the usage of the word breathe is if the gossiper engages in gossip so easily that it is like a necessary bodily function such as respiration. If we are not careful that is how our spirit can become. The usage of the term false witness reminds us that gossip brings with it an element of judgment. The gossiper has already judged the person they are speaking about and in fact are seeking to persuade others to judge them the same way. Many times we do not even know the full story we might be tempted to gossip about. We may be privy to only a small portion of the story but we reach judgment on that small portion and proceed to assassinate the entire character of the person. There is a certain measure of unfairness to gossip because the person is not there to defend themselves. False witnesses are what lead to unfair judgment. The Pharisees sought false witnesses in order to condemn Jesus to die. We may not see the end effects so dramatically but quite often this is the end result of gossip. The majority of the time there is permanent damage done to that person's reputation. There is a reason why God so hates these things.
Lastly, God hates anyone who sows discord amongst the body of Christ. I know it is difficult to realize that this is what we are doing when we engage in gossip but that is the reality. We are creating strife and dissension where none previously existed. We are creating it no less where we live! Where we seek to have community and grow in Christ together. We use super-spirituality and religion where grace and mercy should be but what does the Book of James teach us?
If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. -- James 1: 26 (NLT)
Christianity is not supposed to be about a set of rules and regulations but rather the grace and mercy of God that saved us from them. Jesus warned the teachers of law about this:
"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law--justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won't accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! -- Matthew 23: 23-24 (NLT)
And the camel swallowing goes on today. We can attend church religiously. We can tithe correctly, serve and lead ministries and still on the most basic elements of grace and mercy we can fall short with gossip. We can get so hung up on the gnats that we do not even see the camel in our glass. Sowing discord amongst the brethren is serious business for God. As long as Christ is our unifying principle, God expects us to be unified.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, - Philippians 1: 27 (ESV)
We all have the same Holy Spirit of God if we are born again believers. The Holy Spirit as previously noted is actually grieved by gossip because He knows that it embodies all seven of the things that God hates. The Holy Spirit wants us striving together with one mind -- focused on Jesus. Standing side by side for the Gospel and the Gospel alone. I know how difficult this teaching is because like you, I have been on both sides of the gossip coin. I have been hurt badly by people I thought I trusted who have spread lies and inaccurate innuendo about me. I have also found myself saying more than I should because my mouth occasionally gets ahead of my brain. More accurately, my flesh gets ahead of my Spirit. Let us never forget what God Almighty hates and let us strive desperately to avoid the bitter poison of gossip for all of the reasons we have been warned about. In Jesus name, amen.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- July 11, 2012
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.