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Gossip, the Tongue, and Humor

By: Jonathan Harris

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.”

Full Series on Gossip

1. Gossip: An Introduction
2. What Gossip Is Not
3. What Gossip Is
4. What to Say and When to Say It
5. Gossip, the Tongue, and Humor

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