I gained a lot from this study and I hope you will too! There are so many misconceptions concerning what gossip is and isn't. It's a very serious issue and as Christians we need to know about it and how to combat it. Each link below represents a portion of the article on it. Enjoy and be edified!
Proverbs 16:28 states, "A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends." Plain and simply put, gossip is wrong because it reveals a prideful heart that results in destruction. No doubt you have experienced the hardship of a hurt relationship due to gossip. Those are the kind of wounds that never seem to go away. We need to be very careful what we say and check our motivations daily. James 3:6 describes the tongue as, “a fire, the very world of iniquity. . . that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” James goes on, “from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” Those are some pretty serious words. Our tongue is a powerful source of both joy and hatred. If we can master it, we can master the whole body. The integrity of your relationships all depend on this.
I think it should be obvious by now what gossip is and what it isn’t. But one thing that has not been touched on is the subject of sarcasm and stereotyping. Although Scripture does use both devices (1 Kings 18:27, Titus 1:2, Matt. 23:24, 1 Cor. 13:1) we need to be sensitive in how we are wielding such powerful weapons. Yes, it’s great to laugh and have fun (Prov17:22) but we need to check to see what our motivation is. If our humor matches any of the elements that characterize gossip, then that’s exactly what it is. We can’t cover our gossip up with a joke. Prov. 26:18-19 says, “Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death, So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “Was I not joking?” The rule of thumb I try to use is this: I don’t make fun of someone by insulting them in order to make myself look better, but I will sometimes point out idiosyncrasies that set that person apart that are not demeaning. For example, saying someone is dumb is insulting. Saying someone likes the color green and always surrounds himself with green shouldn’t be. This takes a lot of wisdom and familiarity with the person you’re joking with, and even then you can sometimes accidentally hurt them. Be careful! If you wouldn’t like it said to you, don’t say it to them is another good rule. Remember also, sometimes it’s better to just keep silent. Calvin Coolidge said, “I've never been hurt by anything I didn't say.” Prov. 10:19 likewise reads, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”
I remember when I was taking a seminary class in conflict resolution my professor asked the class, “Is it ever right to talk behind someone’s back?” The answer of course was, “Yes, there are some circumstances you have to!” For instance, if someone tells you they are going to commit suicide, but they ask you not to tell anyone, what should you do? The obvious response is, you should tell someone! The reason is very simple—because it is the loving thing to do. (As a side note: This is why I do not EVER agree to “not tell anyone” if someone has information they want to give me)You see, sometimes what’s in the best interest of someone isn’t necessarily what they think is in their best interest. We find in scripture that this principle is used on many occasions. One of them has to do with bringing an elder up on charges. In 1Tim 5:19 Paul tells the young pastor to “not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” This means there must by necessity be some “talking behind someone’s back” for Timothy to be aware of more than one accusation made against a particular elder. When it comes to sin, we are actually instructed to SAY SOMETHING! If we don’t, it is we who are in the wrong. With this being understood, my professor followed up with another question, “How then do we know when it is right to reveal personal information about someone else?” The answer we came up with was a simple one: “If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Though this may be simple to comprehend, it can be hard to live out. There’s a fine line between sharing a prayer request for the sake of gossiping (an all too common occurrence in our churches), and sharing a prayer request because you genuinely care about the person. I have endeavored to create a flow chart of questions to ask yourself before sharing personal information about someone else. This chart is not meant to be a fool-proof rigid set of rules and therefore must be approached with a humble heart and a wise spirit. What I do hope is that it will help to guide you in making important decisions on what to share, and whom to share it with. Chances are, if you’re thinking seriously about what information you should or shouldn’t share, you’re not going to gossip. 1 Tim. 5:13 associates gossips with idleness and being a busybody. “At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house ; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.” The word for “gossips” (Phluaros) refers to a person “uttering or doing silly things.” So if you take what you share seriously, chances are you’re not going to gossip.
Questions to Ask Before Sharing Information About Someone Else
I. Is it any of your business? (Prov. 26:17)
A. No - Then don’t say anything and pray to God on your own. Perhaps you can share it with your wife or husband (I base this on the two becoming one flesh), but that’s it, and even then you should be careful to protect him or her from information that she or he cannot handle. (Note: Be VERY careful you do not simply shirk the responsibility to avoid inconveniencing yourself. This is just as bad as gossip because it flows from the same selfish root motivation).
B. Yes - This is my business because it directly affects something I’m responsible for. This rule takes some wisdom, but most of the time it’s obvious as to whether it affects you. For instance, if you are trying to protect someone else you are connected to, you have a responsibility (i.e. your family, your friends, your coworker, your country, your church, etc.).
1. To what degree are you responsible? In every institution there are levels of hierarchy that God has established. We must be very careful to leave the things we are not responsible for in His hands. As a general rule we have the responsibility to confront a brother in sin (Matt. 18:15-17). There are other times where we must notify a spiritual authority (Gal 6:1, 1 Tim. 5:19). When it comes to those who are dangerous (especially heretics), we must warn those who they have the potential to harm (Matt 12:38, 1 John 1:10, Rom. 16:17, 2 Thess. 3:14, Titus 1:11). This could be something as small as “They’re looking to sell you something and that’s why they’re friendly,” to, “They’re spreading heresy” or “planning on killing someone.” Sometimes you may also need to warn people about slander against yourself. Jesus had to do this in Matt 5:17. It is right to protect your own reputation, or the reputation of those you love. (Jer. 37:13-14, 2 Pet. 3:16) When in doubt talk to someone who’s godly and can offer counsel (Prov. 15:22).
2. What’s your motivation in sharing this information? If you have a pure heart and you want to warn someone about someone else, or warn someone themselves about their own personal sin, then go for it! But if you know you’re heart is wickedly trying to elevate yourself and put them down then consider whether you should share the information. A general rule is this: If you are concerned that what you say might get back to them, don’t repeat it (Gal. 2:11). (We are of course excluding situations in which the person will physically harm you if he or she knew you told the truth about them, or wartime situations having to do with espionage)
One final piece of advice is this: Always keep yourself in prayer when considering these matters. Leonard Ravenhill said “Notice, we never pray for folks we gossip about, and we never gossip about the folk for whom we pray! For prayer is a great deterrent.”
• Is it my business? - No - Pray, don’t share
• Is it my business? -Yes - Responsibility? - Confront - Pure Motive - share if need spiritual guidance
• Is it my business? -Yes - Responsibility? - Warn - Pure Motive - Share for those who need warning
• Is it my business? -Yes - Responsibility? - Protect Reputation - Pure Motive - Share
Many will be surprised to find that the word “gossip” is not found in Scripture, at least not our modern conception. Sure, there are places in our English translations that have translated a Greek or Hebrew word to be “gossip,” but what you’ll quickly find when you do any research is that the meaning seems to fall slightly short of the full concept of gossip we have in our culture. In other words, only one aspect of our rich definition is portrayed. This is why we must survey many different biblical words and passages in order to arrive at a complete definition.
Let us proceed starting with Prov. 20:19 which reads, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.” The word “Pathah” (gossip) can largely be defined by the context. The word for slanderer (Rakiyl) can also be translated as “tale-bearer” or “informer.” So, someone who tells stories that ought to be kept secret is a gossip. The actual word for gossip here can be defined “to be spacious, be open, be wide.” The common expression “loose lips sink ships” applies. Someone who is too open tends to reveal stories that ought not to be revealed. Prov. 20:19 is very helpful in giving us an idea of the characteristics of a gossip, but it does little in telling us what kind of information constitutes gossip and to whom such information cannot be revealed. For that, we must continue our study.
Prov. 26:20 states, “ For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” The word “whisperer” (Ragan) tells us something about the nature of gossip. It is defined by the action of speaking low so others will not hear what’s being said. Normally we think of Gossips as those too loose with information, and that is true, yet it must also be understood that gossips are only loose with certain people. A gossip will not want you to know what he or she is saying about you. They likely will not reveal negative information to people to whom you are connected either for fear that it may get back to you. This is the opposite of Paul’s example in Gal. 2:11 when he “opposed Peter to his face.” If you are sharing personal information about someone else that you would be afraid to reveal to them yourself, or have someone else link it back to you somehow, chances are you’re probably gossiping. The phrase, “you didn’t hear it from me,” exemplifies this behavior.
One rule of thumb, which should be obvious, is that you shouldn’t lie about people, but I strongly suspect that most gossip involves some sort of deception. Ex. 23:1 says, “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.” It should go without saying that any information that is false ought never to be revealed to anyone. It should likewise be noted that the motivation behind revealing false information is “malice” according to the passage. This is a point too often missed. I believe it is the motivation behind our words that constitute whether or not it is gossip. We will see this more clearly as we continue our survey.
Proverbs 18:8, "The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body." The word for “dainty” means “ to gulp, swallow greedily.” Let me ask you a question, “What makes information about someone else addictive and attractive?” When someone is put down there’s an obvious feeding of the flesh that occurs—we’re being put up! We say to ourselves, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as them!” This is what makes gossip so alluring! Again, notice, it’s the motivation behind the revelation of the information, not the information itself. Someone who’s sharing information about someone, that they don’t want to get back to that person, for the purpose of making themselves feel elevated, constitutes gossip.
Jesus tells us exactly where gossip comes from in Matt. 15:19 where he preaches, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” The word for “slanders” (Blasphemia) means “ detraction, speech injurious, to another's good name.” When applied to God we call it “blasphemy.” In the form of blasphemy slandering constitutes taking away from God’s attributes or attributing to Him attributes that do not belong to Him. At the root, blasphemy is an attempt by man to subvert God—to make Him less and us more. Well, when applied to people in the form of slander it’s much the same thing. We, once again, lie by attributing false attributes to someone else’s character to make us feel self-righteous. We can sometimes even do this by sharing the truth, but not the whole truth. This Jesus teaches, comes out of the heart of man. It is an evil motive that inspires such speech.
To conclude our short tour through what the Bible says about gossip let us review the elements we have discussed.
• The elements of Gossip include:
• Purposely precluding information from the party being discussed (Prov. 26:20)
• Sharing information about someone for the purpose of elevating oneself (Ex. 23:1, Prov. 18:8)
• Attributing false damaging information to someone else (Matt. 15:19)
• A gossip is someone who is characterized by sharing the kind of information described above in a loose manner (Prov. 20:19)
• Therefore, Gossip is the act of sharing damaging information about someone else for the purpose of elevating oneself, and often includes lying.
In order to define what true gossip is we first need to talk about what it cannot be. One modern definition goes like this, “Gossip is talking about someone behind their back.” Really? Because, if we’re really going to adopt this definition we will essentially have to likewise accuse the Apostles and our Lord of this very act. In fact, I don’t know how we’d even function as a society if everyone were to adopt this? How many necessary tasks require us to talk about someone when they’re not around, including details that may not be the most flattering? Anyone who’s ever been in management of any kind can especially relate to this. Let’s look a few biblical examples of this before moving forward.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. — Gal 2:11-13 NASB
It is obvious from the character of the letter that Paul’s purpose in using this particular story was to educate the Galatians on the relationship between the law and grace, yet look how he does it! Was Paul a “gossip” for including in his letter an example of the hypocrisy Cephas (Peter) had partaken in? Paul is known for calling people out in his letters. In our day and age these things would be considered extremely harsh and intolerant, no doubt candidate examples for gossip’s poster children. Consider these illustrations from the man who wrote and developed Christian theology more than any other individual.
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. — Phil. 4:2
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. . . I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. — 1 Cor. 5:1, 5 (The Corinthians no doubt knew exactly who Paul was talking about)
You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.— 2 Timothy 1:15
for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. — 2 Tim. 4:10
There is no doubt Paul would have been accused of heinous gossip and intolerance if such events took place in our own day. Yet consider this. Paul, while describing the depths of depravity man will commit when left to himself, along with such sins as “murder” and “deceit” uses the word “Psithuristes,” a word translated, “gossips.” “Psithuristes” can be defined as “a whisperer, secret slanderer, detractor.” So Paul was against gossip! Therefore, gossip must be more than simply sharing unflattering information about someone. Likewise, it must also be more than simply sharing information about someone behind their back or when they’re not around. How else would the apostle Paul have even heard about some of the personal situations he wrote against when he was not present to observe them first hand? Obviously, a witness must have brought him this information.
Now, look to the example of our Lord who in Matt. 19:23, right after the rich young ruler leaves His presence, turns to His disciples and states, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Is there really any doubt as to whom Christ was referring? And everyone who’s read through any of the Gospels knows that our Lord did not mince words when it came to the religious establishment. Christ not only publicly and privately condemns the Pharisees but he even uses sarcasm while doing it! (Mark 12:38-40, Luke 11:37-52)
In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus instructs on the steps for “church discipline” as it’s sometimes called.
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector
It should be noted that there must be some kind of conversation taking place between the initial confronter and those in the church who jointly confront during the second step. This means that something negative is shared behind someones back for the purpose of restoring them to a right relationship with God. In the last step this negative information is given to the rest of the church, again so that the brother can be won back.
In light of both the example of the Apostle Paul and Jesus, I believe it would be helpful for us to shed our bumper sticker conceptions of gossip and start afresh a search for a new and true definition.
• Gossip IS NOT merely talking about someone behind their back (Matt. 18:15-17; 19:23)
• Gossip IS NOT merely saying negative things that damage other people(s) reputation in public or private. (Luke 11:37-52, Gal. 2:11-13, Matt. 18:15-17)
When you think of the word “gossip,” what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the title of a section in your local newspaper? Or, possibly you think about the tabloids you brush by as you’re in the aisle at the supermarket? Or, maybe gossip is that juicy slice of information you happen to obtain from your friend regarding “who has as crush on who!” Well, whatever your concept of the word, one thing seems for certain—everyone seems to have their own understanding of what exactly it is. Gossip is one of those often misunderstood but very serious sins. We tend to throw the word around a lot, usually at someone we believe has accused us of something or insinuated something negative about ourselves (Oh, the irony!). But do any of us really understand biblically what we’re saying when we accuse someone of gossip? My suspicion is that the biblical concept of gossip has largely been forgotten, along with many other sins such as gluttony, envy, laziness, etc. My goal is to correct what I believe is an erroneous definition of gossip in modern Christianity and educate those who, like myself, were simply unaware on all the Bible has to say about this deadly sin. My hope is that this will be a convicting wake up call to all Christians so that we can work toward a more harmonious body of Christ and become better witnesses to our lost and dying world.
I have to say, and I do this honestly, that as far as presuppositional methodology goes, you cannot beat this book! For those seeking to understand the method and apply it I would say this: Pick up a copy of Greg Bahnsen's Always Ready for the understanding (or Jason Lisle's The Ultimate Proof of Creation if Bahnsen seems a bit academic), and a copy of Pushing the Anthithesis for applying. Pushing the Antithesis (composed by Gary Demar), systematically goes through each precondition of intelligibility (The things we need to assume in order to function in the world) and shows why the nonbeliever is living a fallacy and the Christian is living consistently. It does so with invaluable quotes from representatives of the nonbeliever's worldview and ends each section with a Bible study on the particular topic. In addition there is a study guide for small group discussions and applications. For those seeking to learn how to debate/evangelize using Presuppositional apologetics this is a must!
Presuppositional apologetics has been a passion of mine for a few years now. Ever since I was exposed to Greg Bahnsen's worldview lectures I've been reading, listening, and watching everything I can get my hands on regarding the topic. That process recently brought me to Jamin Hubner's book The Portable Presuppositionalist. After finishing Hubner's work I came to the conclusion that it was specifically intended for me and people like me---people passionate about the subject. Although I did not find any new information (regarding the apologetic method), or even clarifying details as to how to explain or understand presuppositional apologetics, I did find two fascinating things: 1) An academic, historical, and meta-apologetic (meaning the theology of apologetics) discussion on Presuppositional apologetics, and 2), some practical examples of how one can apply this method in debate settings via transcripts of various debates. For those who are still struggling to understand presuppositional apologetics, or who frankly don't care about the history behind how we ended up with this method, this book is probably not for you; but if, like me, you long to dive full force into the depths of history to uncover the richness of what makes Presuppositional apologetics the only method for biblical Christians, I'm sure you will be blessed and entertained!