It’s been said that good news gets around fast, but bad news gets around even faster. There was some bad news that was getting around about the church in the first century town of Thessalonica and we find it in 2 Thessalonians 3:11…
“Yet we hear that some of you are living in laziness, refusing to work, and wasting your time in gossiping” (2 Thessalonians 3:11).
The Bible uses two words to describe people who engage in the kind of activities that the Bible talks about here. Those words are gossips and busybodies. These two words are closely related but have different shades of meaning.
A “gossip” is someone who makes a habit of talking about others. A gossip is a person who spreads rumors and secretly repeats false statements about other people. A “busybody” is someone who interferes in the affairs of others. If given the opportunity, a busybody is the type of person who will try to run someone else’s life for them.
For example, do you know someone who has to be first with the “news” about other people? Do you know people who just can’t wait to share some juicy tidbit of information about someone else? Do you know someone who is overly concerned with the affairs of someone else’s life? Are you such a person? Hopefully not, because this kind of stuff can be very destructive.
Besides what we read here in 2 Thessalonians, the Bible has a lot to say about the dangers of this type of behavior…
“Don’t tell your secrets to a gossip unless you want them broadcast to the world.” (Proverbs 20:19)
Here’s a tip that you should always remember: if someone is gossiping to you about someone else, you can also be sure that they are gossiping about you to other people. Why? Because that’s what gossips do!
“A gossip goes around spreading rumors, while a trustworthy man tries to quiet them” (Proverbs 11:13).
How do you handle someone who gossips about others? Well, it’s really very simple: you just quiet the rumor by asking that person, Hey, why are you telling me? Did you talk to him/her about it? A good way to help eliminate gossip is to simply not participate in it. Instead, Jesus gives us the right example to follow in Matthew 18:15: “If a brother sins against you, go to him privately and confront him with his fault.” When dealing with a situation that could lead to a lot of gossip, the right move is to talk to people privately. The wrong move is to run off and tell others first.
“An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)
The word “strife” above means contention or quarrel. A gossiping person start fights among people because they often repeat things that shouldn’t be said. It’s hard to be good friends with a gossip; you just can’t get close to them for fear of the things that they may repeat about you. On the other hand, you never have to worry about someone who doesn’t talk behind your back.
“Gossip is a dainty morsel eaten with great relish” (Proverbs 26:22).
Everyone knows what this Proverb means. It describes the person who responds to some juicy bit of gossip by saying, Really? She said that!? What else did she say? Gossip is promoted by those people who like to savor it.
“Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and tensions disappear when gossip stops” (Proverbs 26:20).
Now here’s where you can put some of that stuff that you learned in Science class to good use. Let’s start by asking this question: What three things do you need to start a fire?
Well, the three things you need are oxygen, fuel and an ignition source. You might have a piece of newspaper (which would be the fuel) and plenty of oxygen but that newspaper won’t go on fire until you light a match or introduce some other ignition source.
The Scripture quoted above tells us that the same is true for gossip. You see, there are three things that are required for gossip to spread. First, you need some potentially harmful or embarrassing information. That information (whatever it is) provides the “oxygen.” Next, you need someone else who is aware of this information. The person who knows about the information is the potential fuel source.
Now the combination of some information and someone who knows about it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have gossip. You need the final ingredient, which is an ignition source. The ignition occurs (and gossip begins) when the person who is aware of the information begins to repeat it and talk about it with others.
As we said before, simply having a newspaper in the fresh air doesn’t mean that there is going to be a fire. You need an ignition source to set that newspaper on fire. The same is also true for gossip- when harmful or embarrassing information is repeated among others, an ignition source is created and gossip fires up.
Now if you want to stop a fire, then all you have to do is deprive it of fuel or oxygen. Once that happens -poof- no more fire. If you want to stop gossip, then you have to do a similar thing- don’t participate in it and don’t encourage others to do so. Remember, “Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and tensions disappear when gossip stops.”
“Don’t let me hear of your suffering for murdering or stealing or making trouble or being a busybody and prying into other people’s affairs” (1 Peter 4:15).
If you’re suffering for doing any of the things that the Bible mentions above, well, you’re suffering for something that you shouldn’t be doing anyway.
“I will not tolerate anyone who secretly slanders his neighbors…” (Psalm 101:5)
This is a good piece of advice for us- don’t have anything to do with people who talk behind someone else’s back. Remember- those who gossip about others to you are surely gossiping about you to others.
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).
Imagine this: what if there was a recording that detailed everything that you’ve ever said? Just imagine if someone was able to go and look up everything that you’ve ever said about anyone on any day, at any time or at any place during your entire life. For some of us, that’s really scary but Jesus seems to imply that just such a thing will occur.
The word used for “careless” in the Scripture above means worthless and lazy. Have you ever said something worthless about someone else? Gossip is just like that. In the verse following the Scripture quoted above, Jesus says, “Your words now reflect your fate then: either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).
Jesus tells us that we will have to give an explanation for every idle, careless word that we’ve ever spoken. With this in mind, perhaps it would be a good idea to go before God today and ask Him to forgive you of anything that you’ve said that fits into this category and to help you not to speak that way anymore.
So the next time that you’re tempted to start gossiping about others, take some time to consider what God’s Word says about gossip.