Gossip.Posted: October 25, 2011
A message from Vince:
In Sunday’s message we talked about how to love one another with our words. My words are not for me. My words are for you—for your benefit. That’s what Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:29.
One application of this teaching is to avoid gossip. Gossip is listed in several sin lists in the NT. Clearly we are to avoid gossip.
But what is gossip? Gossip can be defined as idle talk, and rumor, especially about the affairs of others (see dictionary.com). But I think a better and clearer definition of gossip comes from the Proverbs.
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. Proverbs11:13
Gossiping is betraying confidences. It is repeating what someone has shared with you without his or her permission. And we are not to do that.
For example: Joe shares with me some marital problems he’s having. I then share with someone else Joe’s marital problems without his permission. They in turn share with someone else who shares with someone else who shares with someone else. Pretty soon, the whole church knows about Joe’s marital problems. And of course the details have been exaggerated along the way, so now Joe and Betty are getting divorced due to the outrageous (untrue) behaviors of both parties. And none of this talk has helped Joe or his wife Betty in the least.
So the way to avoid gossip is to keep confidences. If Joe hasn’t given me his permission to share his marital troubles with others, then I don’t have it. I keep it to myself. If I don’t know if Joe has given me permission to share his marital troubles with others, then I don’t have it. I keep it to myself.
If I’m second, third, fourth or some other link in the gossip chain, and I don’t know if Joe has given permission to anyone, then I keep it to myself and tell the person to stop gossiping.
But doesn’t Joe need prayer? Of course. But I won’t betray Joe’s confidence. I’ll ask him if I can share his trouble with our prayer ministers. If he says yes, I’ll pass his trouble along. If he says no, I won’t. Period.
Often in churches, gossip masquerades as concern: “Did you hear about Joe? I’m really concerned about him. Why? Let me tell you.” Often in churches, gossip masquerades as prayer requests: “We really need to pray for Joe. Why? Let me tell you.”
Let’s not do that. Let’s not gossip. Let’s keep confidences. To “help” someone against their will is no help at all.
Are there exceptions? Of course. The proverbs offer general wisdom which works most of the time.
But what if the person has confided something really serious? So serious that you don’t feel like you can or should be silent. What do you do?
Then you should encourage the person to share with his or her pastor. Pastors have a lot of experience with this kind of thing. You encourage the person to share with their pastor.
But what if they won’t? What if they refuse? Then, you have a tough choice to make. You can break the confidence and share with his or her pastor. Or you can remain silent. Either way is tough. But if it were serious, I’d take my chances, share with the pastor, and risk the relationship.
There are times when I’ve broken confidences myself, and I’m a pastor. I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve had to call the police because the person was in immediate danger to himself or others. These individuals didn’t given me their permission to share. But I could not be silent.
Are there exceptions to keeping confidences? Of course. But they are few and far between. So let’s follow the wisdom of the proverbs. Let’s love one another with our words. Let’s keep confidences, and not betray them.