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Gossip looks really good in church clothes. Maybe more than any other sin, it cleans up nice. It can present itself in a number of Sunday outfits. It can dress up like heartfelt concern for others. It can seem like a personal invitation to confidentiality and closeness with the one receiving the gossip. It can even put on the clothing of a prayer request.

Gossip is mentioned in a few lists of interpersonal sins, grouped with things such as strife, quarrels, deceit, and slander (Rom. 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20). It is linked to the primal sins of idolatry and ingratitude. Perhaps the most colorful depiction is found in Paul’s advice to Timothy on a problem in the church he was pastoring. Young widows were using their time and energy not for the building up of either the household of faith or a household of their own but rather “to be 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).

Gossip is our attempt to negatively shape people’s opinions of someone for his harm and our gain. Our gain may be as simple as the thrill of being the person in the know. Or it could be something more sinister, such as the moral superiority of knowing about a scandal but not being involved in it. Or even worse, it could be intentionally ruining the reputation of one of our rivals. Those gains are the selfish motivation for gossip.

Paul’s words to Timothy also give insight into another aspect of what makes gossip sin: It is a failure to mind our own business and instead involve ourselves in others’. It rejects our own calling to work faithfully at the tasks God has given us because it’s easier to comment on how other people are failing at theirs. Paul links it with being idle, being a busybody, and sowing discord.

Another insight: gossip is not merely saying something negative about someone else when that person is not around. There are times when this is crucial to do, as Paul de­monstrated by his warnings to the church about various individuals (e.g., 2 Tim. 4:14–18). No, gossip is saying something negative with no edifying purpose, both to the individual being gossiped about and to the hearer.

This gives us an important emphasis: gossip is unloving. It does not build up. It is a violation of the second great command, and thus of the first (Matt. 22:37–40). God is displeased when we harm people with our tongues and then turn and bless Him (James 3:9). We should always ask ourselves, “In God’s eyes, what good would be accomplished by my revealing this negative thing about someone else?” If you prayerfully ask the Lord, the Spirit will guide you. So let’s keep gossip out of church clothes and expose it as the shameful thing it is.


Dishonoring Authorities

Keep Reading Commonly Tolerated Sins

From the May 2023 Issue
May 2023 Issue