People still think gossip is only gossip if what they’re “sharing” isn’t true. I wrote extensively about that a couple weeks ago (see “Let’s talk about how we talk about each other,” published online May 5, 2020). Gossip is often sharing facts which are personal or private about another person. It can be sharing lies about others, as well, but that is another sin.
The Bible says, “Now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth (Colossians 3:8, ESV).” Christians often discuss how we should not commit the sins of anger, wrath, and obscene talk (or filthy language, as the NIV translates), but regularly avoid discussing malice and slander. Why is that?
Malice is the intention or desire to do evil; ill will. It’s the sin that led Cain to murder his brother, Abel – in the first family in all creation (Genesis 4). Malice is antithetical to New Testament Christianity. Intending or desiring to do evil or ill will is the opposite of “loving one another (John 13:34-35).” Purposely and knowingly spreading things about another person which will harm their reputation, their family, or them in any way definitely stems from the sin of malice, but is, itself, it’s own sin.
Slander is making false and damaging statements about (someone). Christians know they’re not supposed to lie. It’s one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Lying about another person is lying, and if it damages the person being lied about, it becomes slander. Obviously, since Christianity is all about love, forgiveness, and graciousness, slander has no place in it, whatsoever. It, too, is antithetical to Christianity.
Understand this: Too many people in our churches are guilty of four sins at once as they lie, gossip, and slander with malice – in the same conversations. It’s sick, twisted, and downright evil, and has no place in the lives of God’s people. Worse yet, often these sins are committed in groups and by groups – like some sort of sin orgy. It’s grossly evil.
The guilty parties often justify themselves because they think the “bad info” they’re spreading about others involves worse sins than their four simultaneous ones. In my humble opinion, most often the bad things others have supposedly done or are supposedly doing – even if true, are nowhere near the evil of the triple sin of gossip, malice, and slander. That behavior requires complete distancing from the Spirit of God in order to engage in it, shamelessly.
If you spend much time, talking to people who are critical of the church, you already know one of the biggest problems they have with the church is that it’s full of hypocrites. They see people, telling others how to live their lives when they continue to live in sin – committing the very sins they say they’re not supposed to commit. People outside the church are bothered by supposed Christians who openly cuss, smoke, drink, drug, gamble, use pornography, and such.
Worse yet, they are appalled by self-proclaimed ethical people who call themselves Christians, who are downright mean people. It makes sense. I mean, how can these people who supposedly love others be so cruel to others? It’s obvious there’s no love in cruelty, so critics of churches see total hypocrisy in supposed Christians who are worse than unkind.
Still, oblivious people in the church continue their sinful habits of gossip, malice, and slander. Saying or doing anything which will harm others is cruel. Christians who participate in such behaviors really are horrible examples of followers of Jesus. Yet these behaviors are rampant in our churches. Besides being repulsive to people outside the church, it is an anathema to God.
If a person tells you personal and/or private things about another, you can rest assured they will do the same to you. Churches that allow this to permeate their congregations are destined to damage lives inside and outside their membership. Families which allow this kind of behaviors in will be divided. Workplaces where this becomes a practice will have horrible morale.
Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that none of you have an evil, unfaithful heart that abandons the living God. Instead, encourage each other every day, as long as it’s called “today,” so that none of you become insensitive to God because of sin’s deception (CEB).”
We are only deceiving ourselves if we think it’s okay to talk bad about others. Confronting with the intention to restore and/or teach is one thing (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15-20), but saying things about people which are negative are otherwise sinful, harmful, and mean. Doing so is not fitting for anyone claiming to be a Christian.
In this very difficult time of social distancing, lockdowns, businesses closing, families and individuals struggling, etc., instead of focusing on things which frustrate you about others, why not pause and reflect on your own thoughts and behaviors? Doctors, counselors, therapists, etc., are uniformly telling us we are experiencing a mental health crisis of epidemic proportions. To help your own and others’ psyche, consider dwelling on the good in others and talking about those things. How much better will our world be if more of us consider thinking and saying things which are useful for building others up?
“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you (Ephesians 4:29, GNT).”
Pastor Jeff Adams is a professional Christian counselor who travels the world teaching but serves our community. His column appears weekly. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.