A church needs many things for unity. But it cannot enjoy the gospel and gossip at the same time. Consider some passage about gossip. 

What Isn’t Gossip

It’s not gossip just because you are not included. 
Its not gossip just because you speak about someone.
Its not gossip just there is a disagreement.  
It’s not gossip to explain a situation or relationship. 

Imagine the Matthew 18 process of discipline. Can you imagine going from one to two and three and then the church without talking about someone? Its virtually impossible. The same goes for the teaching about bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6). Paul talks about other people in his letters — both praising them and judgin them. He has no problem publicly naming false teachers to Timothy either. 

Paul receives a report from Chloe about the division in the church in Corinth. Its not gossip to report a concern to an authority. Its not gossip, for example, to contact CPS when you are afraid a child is in danger or for a spouse to report abuse. Its also not gossip to report a concern to the right parties in the church for the sake of help. A trusted counselor, pastor, or small group leader may be able to give biblical direction or feedback as Paul did. And notice Paul did not shy away from the fact that he was dealing with something he heard. How did he know about the division in Corinth? Paul said, “It has been reported”. So gossip is not simply “talking about other people” in a technical sense.

What is gossip? Here are six principles of gossip and tools for encountering gossip. 


Gossip is Sweet and Secret

Proverbs 26:22  The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. 

What does “whisper” mean? It is less about the actual volume of your voice and more about minimizing the scope of your audience. It is conversational secrecy and hiding, purposefully making sure no one else knows what you've said. You don’t want to invite any other voices to give any different narrative of events or view point (Prov 18:17). Gossipers tend to couch everything with, “Let’s just keep this between you and me.”  Not all privacy is gossip. But it can be a sign you want this to be enjoyed together as gossip. You don’t want to be held accountable for your view or your words if others should find out so you “whisper”. Keeping something secret is a way you get to enjoy not being held accountable while spreading news.

Also, gossip is hearing or spreading something just to enjoy passing it on, “like a sweet morsel” and doing nothing else about it. Hearing or spreading news is the experience itself. The sheer pleasure of being judge and reporter, that is itself the pleasure and the goal. Being on the inside is gratifying. A gossiper doesn’t have the desire or plan to pray, give counsel, serve, mourn, or help. The best part about gossip is just hearing and passing on news. 


2 Thessalonians 3:11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.

Gossipers will share something privately with many people. Gossips and busybodies tend to go around “saying what they should not” (1 Tim 5:13). In Timothy Paul is specifically talking about widows who are busybodies which gives us another layer of understanding gossip. It tends to run alongside idleness. Gossip is the pleasure of gossip therefore it fits well with aimlessness and purposelessness. 

Busybodies want to be about everyone’s business but they don’t want to be busy with the business of the Lord. They don’t want to serve, ask questions, protect unity, or really enjoy the fellowship of the church. They are very busy meddling. They are busy (curious) learning what’s going on and then sharing it. Busybodies and gossips often come accross as impassioned about issues and various crisis, but have no motivation to help or serve. 

Gossip is Slanderous 

Slander is purposefully speaking of someone to damage or demean their reputation. Slander is gossip when its private. It can be public, like in a political advertisement. When slander is private its gossip. Passing on information, interpretations, or experiences about someone in order to both enjoy how stupid or terrible the other person is slander.

“Can you believe they did something so stupid?”

“Did you hear what they did? Its awful!”

Slander is gossip that tears down someone's reputation. 

Proverbs 20:19 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. 

A simpler babbler is someone who just “runs their mouth” as we might say. They open the gates of gossip and they just stay open from person to person. Slanderers take the worst thing they can know and pass it on. 

Gossip is News that Was Never Investigated

How embarrassing when a trusted news agency has to issue a retraction because their anchor actually reported gossip instead of truth? 

Gossipers love to report by that don’t bother with investigation. They don’t want to know why, how, when or even if things are actually true. They don’t want to know the narrative or motives because those are important. In gossip you need not investigate because if you have a spacious, deliciously sweet morsel of gossip…why ruin it with the salt of truth? 

Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 18:7 The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. 

Gossipers don’t really want to know what’s going on. Partial news is plenty news. They are happy assuming motives and narratives, “They probably did that because….”. They tell a false story or half story because they do not know the truth — and they don’t want to learn the truth. 

We can often do this in the process of trying to understand something. We don’t know so we start to assume, “This situation is probably so because…”. Well maybe. But do you know? Once you pass on your “probably” scenario it grows and grows and often becomes slander. 


Gossip Can Separate Close Friends

Prov 16:28 28  A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

Gossip will change the dynamic of a friendship. It could come from different angles. A common example is someone hears their friend passed on information which was shared in confidence. Trust is broken. Now you can’t share with that friend anymore. A friendship is lost. Or another example is you start to hear gossip about one of your friends, gossip that is not true. But it starts to affect the way you think about your friend. Gossip injects unwarranted suspicion between otherwise trusted friends. “Well did you hear about your friend…they….”. One of suspicions best friends is bitterness. 

Sometimes we have a duty to break confidence for the sake of friendship. For example, breaking confidence when someone is suicidal or breaking a law is a matter of love and justice. But that is not the purpose of gossip. Gossip simply loves the pleasure of passing information and it often includes breaking trust “I thought that was shared between us”. This is how powerful gossip can be. Its not just acquaintances that are affected. It can separate “close friends”. 


Gossip Fuels Quarrels

Proverbs 26:20  For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

We know how campfires work. If you want the fire to die out, quit adding wood!  Gossipers keep putting wood on the fire. Quarrels, disputes, or divisions can be maintained by gossip. You share with someone at lunch. You bring it up with someone else in a text chat. You circle back to it in a conversation. You conversations are filled with just how bad or sad that situation is. Someone tells someone who tells someone who tells someone. Every sentence is another log on the fire. One sign that gossip is spreading is when you try to put a quarrel out by seeking peace or coming to a resolution it keeps growing and spreading. 


Now, what do we do about gossip? A few biblical instructions. 


Get a Godly View of Gossip

Look at where gossip shows up in the New Testament. Its not pretty. 

Romans 1:28–32 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Gossip is attributed to those who “did not acknowledge God” were given up to “debased mind”. Gossipers are right in line with those who hate God and those who have murder in their hearts (Matt 5). Its evil.

You find gossipers in a similar list in 2 Corinthians 12:20. And in 1 Timothy 5:13 its so serious that Paul connects the young widowed busybodies with those who would be “drawn away from Christ”. 

Care More

Sin needs to be elevated to the gospel and the commands of Jesus. Jesus died and rose from the grave for sin. If you love spreading the news of sin without the hope and grace of the gospel, its as if you were ok with them standing condemned and going to hell. If what you are spreading or hearing is not sin, someone’s motives should afford your most charitable disposition. If the content of the gossip is sin it ought to be even more worthy of speaking the truth in love (Eph 4). It ought to be even more worthy of going to your brother or sister who has sinned against you and telling them their fault (Matt 18). Gossipers tend to feel they really care about a matter because they are so offended, shocked, or grossed that they tell someone. But that is contrary to the gospel. Gossip takes the gospel out of the scenario. Underneath gossip may be a lack of love for God’s name and a lack of love for those who bear God’s name. Don’t be fooled into thinking you care so much because you gossip. Real love applies the gospel and discipline. One of the opposites of gossip is love. 

Discern Gossip 

Disagreements are normal. People change views on doctrines, plans, politics, and all sorts of things. Discerning what is gossip and what is not can be difficult. Sometimes the gossiper might even be unaware of they’ve slipped from love into gossip. Perhaps we ourselves have! How can we tell? Ask a few questions.

What’s your reason for sharing?

Why does this matter to your, our family, church, etc? 

Can I share this? Why or why not?

Have you talked to the person/people involved? 

Do you mind if I talk to the person who said that/did that?

How do you know that? 

What are you going to do? 

What is the biblical direction for responding to this?

What do you expect me to do with this information?

Is this going to strengthen a friendship?


Consider Your Next Steps
So, now what do I do with that information? 

  • Consider Forgiveness & Reconciliation. Does someone need to forgive someone in order for this news or dispute to stop? Send the gossiper back to the person who first sinned against them. Send the gossiper back to the person in need. If not, continuing to talk about it will add wood to the fire. Elevate actual sin to its needed solution. The gospel is that Jesus died for that sin. Would you rather enjoy spreading what Jesus actually died for — someone else’s sin? We are forgive as we have been forgiven (Col 3). 
  • Consider Correction and Discipline. If your brother sins against you go to them and follow the steps in Matthew 18:15-21. If you don’t know what to do call a pastor. Direct gossipers to do the same. You are telling me about this but you have not talked to the party involved? 
  • Consider Helping. If there is a situation that needs help…help. Maybe that would be counsel, praying with someone, or directing someone to a pastor. But consider what you can actually do about such information and if you can or should actually help. An example would be running down the children's minstry or greeting, any ministry in the church, while refusing to vounteer and help. If you are sharing about someone’s short falling but refuse to talk with them and encourage them, thats gossip when help is needed. 
  • Pray. Actually pray for people in secret and in your conversations. Call anyone’s bluff and in a conversation say, “Lets pray for that right now!” Then when you say “amen” change the subject unless you need to make plans to help. 
  • Stop the Gossip Chain. For one, don’t share what you sense is purposeless, false, or unloving to repeat. Don’t repeat it. Also, ask others not to share it. If you hear something that sounds like gossip ask the person, “So what are we going to do with this?” Say out loud, “I don’t think this should be repeated without going to speak to the individual or someone else for help.” 

God, help speak the truth in love. Help us build up and not tear down. Help all our words be gracious and true. 

Proverbs 10:12 
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. 

For His Glory,