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.
— Ephesians 4:29
When I was a young man, my family attended a church where the pastor was a fabulous Bible teacher. Wednesday night services were my favorite, because that is when he would really open the Word of God and teach us. But there was one aspect of the Wednesday night services that I absolutely despised — a gossiping church member who always started running her mouth as soon as church was finished!
This woman would stand to the side, peering at others and whispering about them behind their backs. But whenever the subject of her gossip approached her little clique, she’d stop whispering and smile at him or her so nicely and graciously. I hated the hypocrisy of this gossiper’s behavior and never understood how she could talk so badly about people immediately after hearing the Word of God taught with such power!
I remember how this woman always looked so elated when she found a new choice morsel of information about someone else in the church that she could start broadcasting. Yet most of what she gossiped about was based on hearsay. She didn’t even know if the “tidbits” she shared were factual. As long as they were enticing to hear, she knew she’d always have a small clan of devoted listeners. But even if the things this woman gossiped about had been factual, she had no business talking about them with others.
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How does God feel about people who gossip? Ephesians 4:29 says, “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.” The following verse continues to say, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God.…” The implication is that when “corrupt communication” comes out of a believer’s mouth, it causes the Holy Spirit to be grieved (see January 5).
You see, gossip is a sin that grieves the Holy Spirit. Did you notice that Paul calls it “corrupt communication”? This phrase comes from the Greek word phaulos, which refers to something that stinks or to something that is rotting, such as meat that is full of maggots. This kind of communication is dead, decaying, and it stinks. It is offensive to the Spirit of God, and it grieves Him.
Gossip is so destructive and offensive that Paul forbids gossip in Second Corinthians 12:20. In this verse, Paul says, “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swelling, tumults.” Do you see the word “whisperings”? This is the Greek word psithurimos — which means gossip!
To make sure we know how evil gossip is, Paul lists it side by side with several other horrible attitudes and actions. He places gossip right alongside with:
From the Greek word eris, which depicts a church divided by church politics. It could be translated as the word quarrels or wranglings.
From the Greek word zelos, which pictures a person so self-consumed that he fiercely fights for his own cause, not considering the needs or desires of others. It can be translated as the word jealousy.
From the Greek word thumos, portraying a person who suddenly flares up and loses his control of some kind of unresolved, deep-seated anger. This is a person who literally boils over with anger and blows up, erupting in an ugly outburst that negatively affects other people.
From the Greek word eritheia, depicting a selfish desire to promote one’s own way even if it means splitting and dividing the church. This is a picture of people taking sides in the church and thus dividing, splitting, and splintering the church into opposing factions.
From the Greek word katalalia, meaning to talk down or to speak derogatorily about someone else. It can be translated as the word slander.
From the Greek word psithurismos, which expresses the idea of a gossiper. The reason they whisper is that they know this kind of talk is wrong and that they’d get in trouble for what they were saying; therefore, they whisper their tidbits of information to others in secret.
From the Greek word phusiosis, which carries the idea of a person filled with pride. In fact, it can be translated to be puffed up. This is a person who is puffed up in pride about something that isn’t even important; nevertheless, he has allowed this thing to delude him into a false sense of over-significance or of being better than others. This word could also be translated as the word arrogance.
From the Greek word akatastasia, referring to anarchy, chaos, insubordination, or to some kind of attitude or action that creates upheaval, unrest, or instability. It describes the attitude or actions of a person who creates some type of disastrous disturbance.
I want you to notice that “gossip” is right smack dab in the middle of this list! What does this tell you about what God thinks of gossip and of those who are involved in the act of gossiping?
Let’s be sure we understand what the word “gossip” describes! It describes a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts, rumors, or reports of an intimate nature that are none of his business.
For instance, gossip would include:
- Talking about other people’s business and things that do not concern you.
- Repeating what someone else said, even though you don’t know whether or not it’s true.
- Talking to others as if you were an authority about matters that are other people’s business, when in reality you don’t know what you are talking about.
In a certain sense, gossip is like a deadly poison. It hurts people; it kills relationships; and it destroys trust. In the workplace, “gossip” usually happens between two employees who have become friends and feel like they can truly “share” with each other. They are often people who have been offended or hurt by the one who is the subject of their gossip; therefore, every rumor they hear becomes a “choice morsel” to share with the other offended party. This is what Proverbs 18:8 (NIV) is talking about when it says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.”
Gossip is usually based on hearsay; it is usually inaccurate; it creates suspicions; and it divides people. It is so evil that I absolutely forbid it in our ministry.
It is interesting to note that the Greek word for gossip means to whisper. This means that gossip almost always takes place in secret. Just think about it — where does gossip usually takes place? If you have engaged in gossip in the past, you probably listened to someone tell you information or hearsay about other people, which you then whispered to someone else:
- In the women’s bathroom at the office.
- In your office when the doors were closed and no one was watching or listening.
- In the lunch-break room when it was only you and the person to whom you were talking.
- In a prayer meeting, where people often whisper about others under the camouflage of “prayer.”
- In a corner where the boss, director, pastor, or subject of your gossip couldn’t hear what you were saying.
You need to know that gossipers usually attract to each other like magnets. When they get together, they see things alike and therefore begin to think they are right. Thus, they form a little faction right inside the office or church, often concluding that they are doing God’s business as they meet together to discuss all the problems going on in other people’s lives, even though it isn’t their business to discuss or solve these problems or to meddle in other people’s affairs.
Since the word “gossip” really means to whisper, it would be good when you are about to tell something you’ve heard to first ask yourself: Would I say these things publicly? Would I say this in front of the person I am talking about? If your answer is no, you can conclude that you shouldn’t say it privately either.
So I urge you not to allow the devil to snag you and drag you into the sin of gossip. James 3:8 tells us that the tongue is “…an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” But you can refuse to be the source of gossip or to participate in it when it takes place. If you really love Jesus, why would you want to participate in something that will poison people’s opinions and ultimately divide and hurt others? Think of it — if it were you whom people were talking about, wouldn’t it be hurtful to you to discover that they were talking this way behind your back?
It’s too hurtful to get into this business! If you have to whisper it, then you probably shouldn’t be saying it at all. In fact, a good rule to live by is this: If you can’t say it publicly, don’t say it at all! Make the decision today to refrain from gossip and to stay away from those who practice it!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I admit that I’m guilty of occasionally talking behind people’s backs, and I’m wrong for doing it. I ask You to please forgive me for allowing the devil to use me in this way. I am asking You to help me keep a tight rein on my tongue and to refrain from gossiping about other people. When I find myself in a situation where the conversation turns to gossip, help me know how to graciously dismiss myself from the conversation so I can avoid participating in this sin and falling back into this trap. I repent for my activity in gossip, and I turn from it in Jesus’ name!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I will no longer participate in the sin of gossip. If it can’t be said publicly, I refuse to say it. If I have to whisper it, I will not repeat it. I refrain from gossip, and I stay away from those who practice it. Gossip is a sin, and I refuse to be a part of it. My mouth speaks only what is good for the use of edifying those who hear me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Do you find that you are tempted to repeat information about other people, even though what you are repeating has nothing to do with you and is none of your business? Be honest in your answer, because God has already observed your behavior and knows the truth!
2. Sometimes gossip happens during prayer meetings. Have you ever witnessed a moment when a prayer request turned into a gossip session, and you felt guilty for talking so badly about that person before you prayed for him or her?
3. If you’ve been involved in gossip, have you sensed the conviction of the Holy Spirit trying to tell you to stop this activity?