I recently came home from work to discover that my trash bin at the curb had fallen over, dogs had ripped open the bags, and now trash had scattered over my neighbor's yard. I quickly picked up the can and grabbed a new bag to collect the garbage. It was a frustrating few moments. Even a bit embarrassing. I began to consider something worse than the garbage being scattered over my neighbor's yard, people who spread garbage in our community. I'm not talking about physical garbage, but the garbage of rumor, slander, and gossip. Let's define each of these terms and then address them from a biblical point of view...
Rumor: Unverified information that is circulating.
Slander: False, malicious, or unverified information that causes harm to a person's character or reputation.
Gossip: Unconstrained conversation that often involves rumor, slander, or both.
Romans 1:29 cautions against gossip and lists it among murder! "They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips."
How do we handle gossip? It will eventually come to your door. I'm afraid that many people have become garbage dumps. The reason we take our garbage to the dump and not our neighbors yard is because the dump accepts it, our neighbors do not! People who have become "garbage dumps" provide a listening ear to the gossip, but justify their behavior by not allowing it to continue. Yet, time and again, they welcome the garbage. People keep showing up with more garbage and it's accepted. We need Christians who will stop being a garbage dump for gossip. Don't accept it! When you listen to the gossip, even if you don't spread it, you have become a dump.
Some have become a garbage truck. Have you ever been driving behind a garbage truck and most of the trash stays in the truck, but some of it is flying out? Some people not only gather the garbage of others, they have no regard to where it flies. They have unconstrained lips!
How do we avoid being a garbage dump or a garbage truck?
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."
1. Shut down gossip when you hear it. You don't want to become a garbage dump. The Bible teaches, "For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down" (Prov. 26:20).
2. Protect the victims of gossip. Gossip always wounds people. Unconstrained conversation damages relationships. "He who spreads slander is a fool" (Prov. 10:18).
3. Don't be guilty of spreading the garbage. Gossip actually causes us to lose focus of our mission and creates disunity. The Bible says, "A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends (Prov. 16:28).
Ultimately, GOSSIP is contrary to the GOSPEL. If you want authentic unity in a church, then we need to work harder on spreading the GOSPEL.
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."