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.