Image by Thomas Allsop
Image by Thomas Allsop

Is Gossip Godly?

Gossip is the sister of cancel culture. It's so prevalent that we have normalized and accepted it into our everyday. Most of us probably gossip without even thinking about it. Tell-all books, TV shows, magazines, and social media thrive on "spilling the tea," often filled with half-truths. The negative exploitation is then spread like wildfire. Is gossip biblical? The short answer is "no."

The Greek term for "gossip" gives a great definition: "Derogatory information about someone that you have that is shared with others in a tone of confidentiality, that is not motivated by doing good to them, and that you are enjoying in a way that shows your heart is not humble" (John Piper). The Hebrew term in the Old Testament is defined as: "one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger" (GotQuestions). Romans 1:29 (ESV) lists it as a sin: "They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips." Here, we can see that gossip is full of these fleshly works. In layman's terms, gossip is sharing something someone told you in confidence or talking negatively about a person with someone else.

Gossip can come from idleness, having nothing better to do. 1 Timothy 3:5 (ESV) states: "Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not." In this sense, gossip can be overheard, which leads to the possibility that that the gossiper heard information incorrectly or perceived something wrong. This information is then passed around, being more distorted each time it is repeated, like the game of telephone. Does it make a difference if we're telling the truth? Does it matter if you have screenshots and receipts to back up your information? No, still gossip.

What is the difference between sharing something that happened and gossiping? GotQuestions gives two differences: intent and subject matter. Those who gossip have the intent of making themselves look better by pointing out flaws in others or by showing that they have exclusive information. The subject matter tends to be negative: faults, failures, or business of others. It's okay to talk through something that happened with someone. However, trash-talking someone is not going to lead to any solutions. We need to check our attitudes. When we are confiding in someone, we should still ask ourselves questions such as "Can the person I'm talking to help me resolve my problem or just feed my ego and fueled emotions?", "Am I breaking someone's trust by sharing this information, and if I am, is it because they are in danger?", "Was I supposed to share this?", and "How would I feel if someone shared this information about me?".

We can easily deceive ourselves into thinking that we're not gossiping or justifying it by saying that we're discussing a person in a negative way in order to pray for them. Another way we justify gossip is by looking at it as a way of bonding or growing closer to a friend. Any friendship rooted in gossip is not one that is going to last. Gossip is a weak foundation. Also, it is a rule of thumb that if someone is talking about someone else to you, then they are likely talking about you to someone else. Gossip also has had an adverse reaction in this sense of friendships ending because of a misunderstanding as the product of gossip. It divides people.

One can argue that gossip there is an essence of judging others when we gossip since we share information in a sense of "but look at them and their life," almost in a scandalous sense. Proverbs 11:12-13 (ESV) states: “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” By casting this judgment on someone else and sharing it, it deflects from our own flaws. "A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts" (Proverbs 18:7-8, ESV). In Christian circles, this happens when believers deem someone or their actions "not-so-Christian," instead of directly talking to the person and checking in on them. We are all sinners, none of us better than another. It is Christ who makes us worthy, and all believers are equal in Him.

As we discussed in Romans 1:29, gossip is a sin, and no sin should be tolerated or justified. Sin, no matter the level of stigma, is devastating since it is something that goes against our Lord. Erik Raymond from The Gospel Coalition explains this well: "The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), the price paid for redemption from sin is death (Romans 5:6), the reality for a believer is they’re dead to sin (Romans 6:11), and the ongoing priority for Christians is to put sin to death (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5; Hebrews 12:1-2)." This warrants a response: a crucified life. Gossip appeals to our flesh, and we must deny our flesh and feed our spirit. This keeps us from sin and helps us grow in our walk with the Lord.

If gossip is something you struggle with, there are ways of stopping this habit. First, when someone tries to gossip to you, you can change the subject. Just because someone initiates this type of conversation, doesn't mean you have to participate in it. Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) supports this: "Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble." A second method is to respond to gossip by uplifting and speaking positively about the person being gossiped about. Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) states: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." We are called to build each other up, which leads to unity, something we are called to be in as a church (Ephesians 1:1-3). Satan loves to use gossip as a way to divide the church. Thus, we must remember who our true enemy is when the temptation to gossip comes.

Related Bible Verses:

- James 1:26 (ESV)

"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless."

- Proverbs 20:19 (ESV)

"Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler."

- Proverbs 16:28 (ESV)

"A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends."

- Exodus 23:1 (ESV)

"You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness."

- James 3:8 (ESV)

"But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison."

Further Resources:

- (John Piper: Sharing Conflicts with Your Spouse)

- (John Piper: Why Gossip Feels Good?)

- (John Piper: Why Is Gossip Harmful?)

- (The Gospel Coalition: How to Resist Gossip)

By: Bible and Hot Cocoa (IG: @bibleandhotcocoa)

Jules is the founder of Bible and Hot Cocoa. She is a law student with a passion for standing up for truth. In any free time, she loves to read, study theology, write, and draw or paint. Jules's favorite book of the Bible would have to be a tie among John, Psalms, and Romans (as of now), and her favorite figure besides Jesus is King David or Paul.

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