In the nursery, I kind of feel isolated from the rest of the congregation, and while that may be a plus for some, I have to admit that I miss the personal interaction with the two or three members that I actually like. In the three or four hundred churches I have been associated with (some restraining orders caused me to move suddenly from a couple dozen of them), I have observed a pattern that is not exclusive to men or women. It is the issue of gossip. Now, we all know that it is wrong to do this, not only because it hurts the feelings of another if they find out, but also because the Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Also, in Exodus 23:1 we read “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.”
Here’s where it gets really interesting. Many churches have something called a “prayer chain” in which requests of church members and their friends and family are shared in order that the entire church body can be both aware and active in prayer. However, so often this turns into a time to share stories and point fingers as to various reasons for certain things, or even a time to become judgmental and critical. Now, everyone who follows me knows that I am so critical that I should have my name mentioned among the greatest critics of all time, but the truth I wish to impart to you is just the opposite of the character I portray on social media.
Proverbs 11:13 tells us “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” Wouldn’t you rather be considered as someone who is trustworthy, or are you okay with being labeled a “slanderer” and a “gossip?” It is one thing to share a particular prayer request, because we believe in the power of prayer, but it is quite another to use that “request” to stab another individual in the back. Think about it this way: would you want someone else treating you the way you have treated them? Kind of sounds like the Golden Rule, doesn’t it?
Discussing areas of concern is one approach, but if you are doing it behind another’s back, that is wrong and the Bible condemns this type of behavior. This same principle applies in all areas of our Christian life as we are told to love and forgive others. We are also told that if we hate our brother or sister, we cannot claim to love God. So what’s it going to be? Are you going to satisfy the curious minds of those who would like to get more information about someone without involving them in the conversation? Or will you honor confidentiality and even more than that, will you obey God’s word which tells us how he feels about gossip?
Hopefully, the next time you get that phone call, text message, or email, you will use it for what it has been intended: to pray for that person, not destroy his or her reputation. Proverbs 16:28 tells us “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer (gossip) separates close friends.” Here is a rule of thumb that I am sure each of you knows already: if you wouldn’t say it to that person’s face and if it isn’t edifying, then you probably shouldn’t say it. Let’s take it one step further: if you wouldn’t say it in the presence of Jesus, you should probably just remain quiet.
Sure, I like to joke with people—it is really the whole premise of my fictional “existence”. But what I am imparting to you as I write and you read is not fiction; it is crucial information for our human relationships. The old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a bold-faced lie. Words and character assassination rarely ever turn out to be fully healed. People can forgive, but those words cannot be retracted from your mind and even your heart. What will you do when the phone rings with a “request” that is really gossip? Will you nip it in the bud or will you add to the story? Let’s be biblical and take advice from the great cartoon theologian named “Thumper” who said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
Hey, let me tell you a secret: Don’t gossip! That is something you CAN pass along!