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"I've Got Something To Tell You, But Don't Tell Anyone Else!"

(A Lesson About Gossip)

by Floyd Harris Jr.

Published in
The Christian Informer
February, 2000

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Last updated:
January 28, 2000.

Having traveled across this country and worshiped with and visited with so many of our great people in our brotherhood, I know in my heart, that when I am among my brethren, I am with the greatest people on the face of this earth. Among my brethren are the saved ones, those who will rise to meet the Lord in the air at the end of time, the ones with whom I will spend eternity if I too am faithful. So, because of this, I try often to refrain from speaking negatively about our brotherhood, but rather speak highly of them; for despite our shortcomings, our very existence as the church is the showing forth of God's infinite wisdom.

Notwithstanding, we do have our problems; one of those is the sin of gossip. There's probably not a single person who hasn't either been guilty of gossiping (myself included) or who hasn't been exposed to it. So, I'd like for us to consider together six steps that I believe will help stop the spread of gossip among us in the church.

Step One: Accept as truth that gossip is wrong

Gossip is wrong because it is behavior that ignores the Bible instruction concerning how to resolve one on one conflict or individual concerns about another person. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus commands, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. BUT if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: BUT if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

Gossip is wrong because it needlessly destroys good reputations of well meaning, God-fearing people often spread unrighteous judgments on matters about which the facts are not known.

The Bible teaches that a good name is something to be desired and treasured. The wise man Solomon writes, "The memory of the just is blessed: BUT the name of the wicked shall rot" (Proverbs 10:7). Again he says in Proverbs 22:1, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold." When he gives his admonition on life Solomon says, "A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth" (Ecclesiastes 7:1).

That doesn't mean we go around praising ourselves to build ourselves up in the eyes of others. Jesus taught that we are not to seek our own glory, BUT to glorify God. Jesus said, "He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: BUT he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him" (John 7:18).

When we have brethren among us, about whom we and the community can speak highly, this is an asset to the cause, because such brings glory to God's ways. There is nothing more discouraging or embarrassing to us, the representatives of the Cause, than when very negative things are mentioned by people of the world about our brethren with whom they have interacted or had business dealings. A good name, however, brings glory to God and the cause!

A good name may be all someone really has going for them in life. Don't tear it down based on someone else's impression of them, or what they heard about them. Don't even assume that your first impression of their behavior or words is accurate. How often we are misunderstood by each other! And how often are those misunderstandings not taken to the person involved, BUT instead passed on to the wrong people by means of gossip!

Jesus, who was often Himself the victim of much unrighteous judgement and character assassination, taught us to judge righteous judgements, not according to appearance. To go around telling what we merely hear have been another person's short-comings or problems violates Jesus' teaching concerning judging. Usually our telling about it is done without verify the facts, and it is told to others that have no need to know. Amazingly, there is much judging going on these days that is based on "appearance" which it turns out many times to be based only on what somebody has said! Continuing on with what Jesus taught in John 7 -- "Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (Verses 19-24).

Gossip is wrong because it lays a stumbling block of offense in the paths of brethren, by making it difficult to obey the command to love the brotherhood. Your Bible says, "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king" (1 Peter 2:17).

Gossip is wrong because being involved in this does not obey the command to love your brother (John 3:23). We are not commanded to like everyone, BUT we are commanded to love everyone. Loving another requires a certain code of conduct completely irrelevant of whether we like that person or not. Even if you don't like the idea, your brother or sister is worthy of your time and effort to deal properly with gossip about them when that gossip comes your way.

Gossip is wrong because it doesn't obey the "Golden Rule" given by Christ in Matthew 7:12, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." When you improperly handle information from someone who gossips, you are doing things to the person the gossip is about that you would not want done to yourself.

Gossip is wrong because it is usually the result of a selfish vaunting of one's self, and the lack of self-denial. "Love vaunteth not itself" (1 Corinthians 13:4).

With a wrong attitude toward gossip, it may be hard for you not to gossip about those whom you don't like or who have hurt you. To gossip about things that would damage someone else's reputation helps the gossiper look better in the eyes of others, or so he thinks. To refrain from gossiping about my enemies or the ones I dislike or who dislike me involves a certain amount of self-denial. This is especially true when I might be now, or have been, a victim of their gossip, and feel they're making me look bad, and I have to refrain from saying anything about them!? It is hard to see with the eye of faith that their behavior is only making them look bad and exposes their own personal insecurities.

Gossip is wrong because it does not exercise temperance or self-control as required by 2 Peter 1:6.

If I can't do the right thing with such information, because I just can't control this overwhelming desire to share something that I just can't keep to myself, then I've got a problem. It's called a lack of self-control which results in a cancer that eats away at hearts and minds of others around us and across our brotherhood who either enjoy or are subjected to the same despicable behavior.

So the first step in stopping the flow of gossip is to accept in our own mind that gossip is wrong, and we can go to a Devil's hell for indulging in such.

Step Two: When someone comes to you with gossip, recognize it for what it is.

Gossip, simply defined, is the sharing of potentially damaging information about someone's problem with someone else who will have nothing whatsoever to do with the solving of the problem.

Many times we innocently find ourselves involved in conversations initiated by others that are dominated by gossip before we even realize it. BUT there are many warning signs that can help us to realize that gossip is about to take place.

One tell-tale sign that someone may be about to gossip is when they preface their remarks by asking you not to "share" what they're going to tell you with anyone else! They might say, "I've got something to tell you, BUT you've got to promise that you won't tell anyone else."

Sometimes it's not even this obvious; some times very little warning signs are given. The individual may come across as very concerned for the one about whom he/she is about to gossip; he may in fact BE very concerned about that person, BUT does not know what to do with the information, or may just be worrying out loud. They may not have any intention to do any harm; they may not even realize they are gossiping, or how seriously wrong gossip really is. So walk circumspectly. "So did you hear about so-in-so?" may be the only warning you get. If you don't recognize the warning signs, or then recognize gossip for what it is, you might say, "What about so-in-so?" and then receive information you don't need, wish you didn't have, and worse, as a result, feel uncertain about what to do with the information.

Step Three: If a person says there is a problem they need to talk to you about, try to determine first whether or not the problem is about you, or them, involves you or them, or should really concern you.

If it's not about you, and you couldn't or wouldn't be directly involved in the solution to the problem, then they don't need to be discussing it with you! They need to be discussing it with the person involved in the problem.

Step Four: Strongly encourage the person to obey Jesus' instruction to go to the brother with whom they have ought.

If this gossip came to them from someone else, then they should have ought with the one from whom they received the gossip. In other words, take the information back to the one who shared it with you with the insistence that they do the same. The information need not have been passed to anyone not involved in the solving of the problem in the first place. So whoever started the gossip chain, whoever started the rumor, should've simply gone to the person the matter involved in the first place, as Jesus teaches.

Step Five: If anyone ever tells you they need your advice about sensitive information they have, and it's not about you, and you would not be in any position to be involved in the matter's solution, then don't try to pry for more details about the situation.

Just tell that person they need to go to the one they are concerned about themselves, and deal with it between the two of them alone. If they have already done that and could not reach a solution, then it may be that they need someone to go with them to the brother or sister as Jesus teaches; BUT that someone may not need to be you! Only after they have made efforts to solve the problem would there be the need to involve anyone else, and the one or ones they involve need to be those who could actually help resolve the situation according to Matthew18.

Step Six: If a person is only interested in gossiping, and is not interested in doing the right thing with the information, then refuse to engage the person in any further conversation about the matter.

Remember, "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33), and the Bible commands, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, BUT that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour" (Ephesians 4:29-5:2).

Finally we cite this commandment "But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: BUT Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful" (Colossians 3:8-15).

In conclusion, I encourage you to read the third chapter of James.

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