Is gossip a sin?
Imagine meeting the love of your life and getting married three months later. Due to the speed at which you married, there was speculation and numerous conversations about your decision. This led to people discussing you and why you got married so quickly. Most of these discussions didn’t happen to or with you, but they were conversations about you. Needless to say, you found out about the hurtful things that were said.
These people were engaging in gossip. Most people have been on both sides of the gossip train. The issue is that people who engage in gossip often don’t recognize or acknowledge they’re participating in it. Who wants to admit that they’re a gossip? Even if you recognize gossiping, is gossip a sin? Sadly, most Christians engage in gossip or gossip-like behavior. You could argue that people sometimes see it as acceptable behavior.
After all, why not talk about others when they’re not around? Isn’t that what everybody does? This may be true, but it’s not. When it comes to using our mouths and the words that come out of them, the Bible clearly states how we should use them. What does the Bible say about gossip? Is gossip a sin?
What does the Bible say about gossip?
The Hebrew word for “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as one who shares secrets and goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger. A gossiper has sensitive information about people and shares it with those who have no business knowing it. Gossip differs from sharing information in two ways: They typically aim to build themselves up by making others look bad, exalting themselves as repositories of knowledge. They also discuss the failings and faults of others or share shameful or embarrassing details about others’ lives without their approval or knowledge. Even if they mean no harm, it’s still gossip.
In the book of Romans, Paul shares humanity’s lawlessness and sinful nature, revealing how God poured His wrath on people who rejected His laws. Because they turned away from God’s guidance and instruction, He gave them over to their sinful behaviors. The list of sins includes slanderers and gossips, as detailed in Romans 1:29b-32. In this passage, we see how grave the sin of gossip is and how it characterizes those under God’s wrath. Another group who were and are still known for participating in gossip is widows.
Paul cautioned widows against entertaining the habit of gossip and being idle. In 1 Timothy 5:12-13, these women are described as busybodies and gossips, saying things they shouldn’t. Because women spend most of their time in each other’s homes and work closely with other women, they observe and hear situations that can become distorted, especially when repeated. Paul says that widows get into the habit of going from home to home, looking for something to occupy their time. Inactive hands are the devil’s workshop, and God warns against letting idleness into our lives, as explained in Proverbs 20:19.
Women aren’t the only ones found guilty of gossip. Anyone can engage in gossip simply by confidently repeating something they’ve heard. Proverbs has a list of verses that discuss the dangers of gossip and the possible hurt that results from it. Proverbs 11:12-13 says a man without judgment puts down his neighbors, but a man with understanding holds his tongue. The Bible says a stubborn man stirs up conflict, and gossip separates close friends, specifically in Proverbs 16:28. Many friendships have been ruined over a disagreement that started with gossip.
People who engage in this behavior do nothing but start trouble and cause bitterness, anger, and pain among friends. Unfortunately, some people thrive in this and seek opportunities to destroy others. When confronted, these people answer with excuses and deny the allegations and rationalizations. Instead of admitting wrongdoing, they try to minimize the seriousness of the sin or blame someone else. Proverbs 18:7-8 tells us that a fool’s mouth is his undoing and the words of gossip are like choice morsels.
Is gossip a sin?
To answer whether gossip is a sin, we should consider if we’re looking to build up or tear down, if we are building unity or tearing it apart, or if the gossip will cause someone to think differently about someone else. Would you want someone to talk about you the way you’re talking about that person? You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to recognize gossip as a sin. Gossip is divisive and destroys. These actions are the opposite of how God wants us to interact with others and speak to each other. We’re appointed to be compassionate and kind to each other. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us not to let any unpleasant talk come out of our mouths but only what helps build others up. You can’t do this if you’re engaged in gossip.
How should we handle gossip?
If gossip is a betrayal, you should take the initiative to shut it down and don’t let it come out of your mouth. If someone around you starts gossiping, ask them to stop or remove yourself from the conversation if they don’t. As easy as it is to tumble into gossip, you should be willing to call it out. Shout it out if you see it happening, and don’t let it continue. You should recognize that you should protect the one being talked about when gossip happens. In other words, protect that person’s character and reputation and don’t put any more gossip on it.
These things aren’t always comfortable, especially if you’re talking or among friends. Still, these are necessary things so we can cover and protect those in the body of Christ. Regardless of whether the information is accurate or not, gossip is damaging and can cause unnecessary pain to other members of the body of Christ. The remedy is simply doing what Jesus said in Matthew, often called the Golden Rule. Matthew 7:12 reminds us to do unto others as we would like them to do unto us. Gossip might seem appealing when you’re not the one being discussed, but all you have to do is reverse the roles, and you’ll know how painful it can be.