This kind of gossip is the particular domain of the church’s “Nosy Nellies” and the Internet’s self-authorized “watchbloggers.” You will notice that the sharing of actual sins, assumptive accusations, and out-and-out speculation has really nothing at all to do with edifying the person in question. This gossip is clearly malicious, but it’s also something else—it is served up as entertainment, as a delectable morsel to delight, intrigue, or otherwise stir up other critical spirits against the person in question.
Some people, frankly, just like entertaining themselves with “juicy” details at the expense of other people. Paul warns about these types of gossips when he instructs his young protégé to beware of “idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Tim. 5:13). The connection of idleness with gossip is significant, as the kind of gossip Paul has in mind here doesn’t even pretend to be helpful to anyone. It only serves as self-oriented curiosity. This is the kind you see on tabloid magazine covers and, unfortunately, hear in many church hallways.
Pride or Envy
This is the kind of gossip, driven by malice, that is aimed squarely at making oneself look better by comparison. Paul has this kind of gossip in mind in 2 Corinthians 12:20 when he names this sin in conjunction with jealousy, slander, and conceit.
This kind of gossip is usually prompted when we hear something good said about a person whom we dislike or distrust. When a friend tells you about the excellent work of a coworker with whom you think of yourself in competition, and you reply, “Maybe. But he always comes into work late, and I heard he got fired from his last job,” that’s the gossip of envy.
All of these varieties of crooked speech can catch fire in a church community and create the kind of quarreling, suspicion, and division that Satan loves. So, how do we avoid gossip and confront it? Here are three tactical steps to do battle against this pernicious sin:
1. Don’t say anything negative about someone that you wouldn’t say to them.
Simply put, if it’s a matter of enough concern to share with another, it’s a matter of concern to share with the person in question. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be shared.
2. Redirect others’ gossip with a gentle query about the intent.
“Have you spoken to them about this concern you have?” is a great way to nip gossip in the bud. “I don’t think you should share this with me if you’re not prepared to share it with them.”
3. Rebuke repeated gossip and discipline unrepentant gossips.
Name the sin directly to the person involved. Not angrily or in a spirit of judgmentalism, but as a loving confrontation of something no one should make a regular practice of. Paul is pretty clear on this sin. It is not to be tolerated because it can be so destructive to Christ’s body. And when direct confrontation doesn’t work, it is likely that unrepentant gossips must be handled according to the biblical instructions on church discipline.
If we care not just about the reputations and well-being of our neighbors, but also the reputation of Christ’s body and the well-being of its members, we won’t give crooked speech an inch, because it will always take a mile. Shoot straight with all so that the line between Christ’s grace and our brothers and sisters will not be interrupted.