“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”
The big message is that gossip is a breach of love, a breach of truth, and a breach of humility.
To put it simply, godly people don’t gossip. Gossip divides relationships and destroys trust. The pain associated with gossip is felt long after the words are spoken. The book of James makes a very straightforward declaration against gossip: “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.” (James 4.11)
If you read James chapter 4, you will note that he began the chapter by asking “what causes quarrels and fights among you?” and then answers his own question by describing arrogance and self-centeredness as the source of quarreling. As would be expected as part of their infighting, the self-centered Christians to whom James is writing verbally attacked each other.
James tells them to stop. It is quite possible that he was thinking of Leviticus 19.16, which says: “Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.” God’s word—including the OT Law—places an extremely high priority on interpersonal respect, trust, and love. It is for this reason that James appeals to the Law as a reason to stop speaking evil against each other.
There is a lot of gossip in our world today. Don’t be part of it.
Here are four things you can do to avoid slander, gossip, and disparaging comments about others.
- Talk to people, not about people. Talking about people who are not present to represent themselves is not only unhealthy, it is cowardly.
- Before you say something about another person, press pause and use this three-fold test: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? If it doesn’t pass the threefold test, don’t say it.
- Redirect gossip and disparaging talk into prayer. When you feel the urge to say something negative about someone, shift your focus into prayer on behalf of the person.
- Stay humble and remember that you also have flaws. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to help the other person take the speck out of their eye.
Honor God. Be humble. Exercise discernment and wise judgment … and don’t gossip.
The Lord is calling.