You best watch out, I'm flat on my back with time on my hands :-) This is written in outline form so I'm not sure how its going to turn out. It looks weird right now...
HAVE YOU HEARD. . . ?
a. There was once a woman who talked to others about a man she was sure had been drinking because his car was often parked at the hotel bar. The man soon heard that she was accusing him of drinking alcohol. One morning the woman awoke to find the man had left his car parked outside her house all night. He did not remove the car until that afternoon.
b. Had the man been drinking in the bar? Could there have been other reasons why he was parked at the hotel bar? Did the woman take her decision too quickly? Why were others listening? How do we know the man did not like what she had been doing? Did her sharing with others prompt a good response in him? Was this woman gossiping?
c. Most people gossip, even Christians. The trouble is, we often don’t know when we have crossed the line and are indeed gossiping. We often don’t know at what point talking becomes gossip according to the Bible. Or, we might even think God does not take gossip too seriously.
2. WHAT THE WORLD CALLS GOSSIP
a. Our English word gossip is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “1) casual conversation or unsubstantiated (unproven) reports about other people. 2) chiefly derogatory (spoken to hurt someone). A person who likes talking about other people’s private lives. Gossip is the act of spreading groundless rumor, hearsay, idle talk, a whisperer, to publish (announce).” (Afrikaans: to “skinder”)
b. The world says:
i. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
ii. “If it is bad, don’t repeat it.”
iii. “Adding a little to the tale doesn’t hurt anyone.”
iv. “I can keep a secret. I only tell my best friend.”
v. “I’m telling truth so you can’t call it gossip.”
3. WHAT THE BIBLE CONDEMNS AS GOSSIP
a. When we search the Bible to understand what gossip is we learn that the word of God takes a very serious view concerning the way we talk and the motives behind our speech. God holds us accountable for the lies or hurtful truth we knowingly spread with evil intentions. He also condemns every idle word that does not bring about good (Matthew 12:36), or joking words that carry a sting in the tale (Prov.26:18-19).
b. The word gossip is not found in the Bible, but there seems to be two areas of concern that God condemns which we would today call gossip.
i. Slander (Titus 2:3) and back-biting (Psalm 15:1) are an abomination to God (Prov.6:16-19).
(1) Slander (dibbah) comes from an evil heart with the intention to hurt someone, also translated “backbiting.” The Greek word for “blaspheme” is defined as “revile or slander.” Example: Luke 7:33.; Matthew 9:33-34. (In the original language diabolos, which we call “devil” in English, means slanderer, false accuser.)
(2) Backbiting (katalalia) is also evil speaking in order to ruin someone’s reputation (Rom.1:30; 2 Cor.12:20).
(3) Other Bible words that have similar meanings include whispering (Rom.1:29-30; 2 Cor. 12:20), evil surmising (1 Tim. 6:4), tale-bearing (Lev.19:16), babbling (Eccl.10:11), tattling (1 Tim. 5:13), evil speaking, (Psa.41:5; 109:20), defaming character (Jer 20:10; 1Col. 4:13), Bearing false witness (Ex 20:16; Deut.5:20; Luke 3:14), judging uncharitably (Matt.7:1; James 4:11,12), raising false reports (Ex 23:1), and repeating matters (Prov.17:9).
(4) One who is guilty of slander and backbiting becomes a talebearer (Lev.19:16), a meddler (Prov.20:3), and a whisperer (Prov.16:28; 2 Cor.12:20), a busybody in other men’s matters (2 Thess.3:11; 1 Tim.5:13; 1 Pet.4:15), and a tattler (1 Tim.5:13).
(a) A talebearer (halak rakiyl) is like a trader, a pedlar, and he travels about “selling” scandal, spying out and getting the secrets of every person he meets and then telling everyone else.
(b) The meddler (gala) is one who is always ready to begin strife or become part of trouble.
(c) A whisperer (nirgan, psithurismoi) has the same understanding in meaning as a talebearer of one who enjoys hurting others and separating friends.
(d) A busybody (periergazomai) is one who walks disorderly, idle, busy to stir up strife.
(e) One who judges with an evil motive (mê krinete) uses unjust criticism in order to condemn. Matthew 7:1-5; Matthew 5:11; 2 Tim.3:3)
ii. The other category that God condemns concerning sins of the tongue is just as serious. This sin of the tongue has various names: tattler (Eccl.10:11); empty babbling (1 Tim.4:7; Prov.29:11), idle talk (Prov.14:23; Luke 24:11), every idle word (Matt.12:36), tattling (tattler) (1 Tim.5:13), fables (1 Tim.4:7), foolish talking or jesting (Eph.5:4)
(1) These words seem to indicate more than just talking too much or empty talk, but that in so doing, sin occurs because of careless speech – speaking without sufficient thought (“It just slipped out.”) which reveals the condition of the heart. These idle words do not do good. The context in some cases indicates that these idle words are actually wicked, false, and purposefully hurtful.
(2) A tattler (phluaros) means a person who is always talking.
(3) One who babbles (lashown) is one who talks too much and her speech drives a wedge, separating, offering no protection and increases ungodliness. “A fool speaks all his mind” (Prov.29:11) as did Delilah to Samson (Judges 16:17). Proverbs 10:19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.
(4) One who utters idle words (argos & leros) indicates the real problem is too much time on her hands – lazy, inactive, unemployed.
(5) One who spins fables (muthos) are those who tell untrue stories and claim them as truth.
(6) One who jests (eutrapelia) uses words that can be easily turned to other meanings; good words which, from their connection, and the manner in which they are used, make us think of obscene or offensive meanings.
(7) One who speaks foolishly (morologia) is one who speak as a clown, a buffoon, with the intent to ridicule and make others think less kindly of someone. This person is hard to identify, because he or she is amusing to listen to.
(8) One who judges without all the available facts (kat' opsin) John 7:24; 1 Cor.13:3-6 is also guilty of gossipping.
4. We also have to consider other words that are condemned which have their part in gossip: exaggeration, flattery, lying, misleading and inaccurate speech, deception, hypocrisy, and guile..
5. The Lord takes a very serious view concerning the words we speak, what motivates our words, and the time and place when we speak. 1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Peter 3:10-14 (“conversation” - behaviour). Women are especially cautioned against gossip, Titus 2:3; 1 Timothy 3:11.
6. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE MUST SPEAK – Ecclesiastes 3:7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
a. RIGHTING A WRONG Matthew 5:23
b. LEGAL TESTIMONY Leviticus 5:1
c. ENCOURAGEMENT Isaiah 41:6
d. REBUKE 1 Timothy 5:20
7. WHAT WILL HELP US TO CONTROL OUR TONGUES??!!
a. God gave us the answer in the Old Testament (Lev.19:18) and Jesus repeated it in the New Testament (Matt.19:19): “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” A simple command, but it describes the heart God wants in you. Love will seek what is best for another, whether it is your friend, a stranger – or your enemy.
b. What will help us to control our tongues? By understanding that we must learn to control our thoughts and emotions in order to control our tongues (James 1:19; 2 Cor.10:3; Luke 6:45).
8. HELPFUL SAFEGUARDS
a. Understand THE POWER of the tongue James 3:3-10; Proverbs 18:21
b. Know that God will hold us accountable for our words (Matthew 25:31-46).
c. Seek the Lord and serve Him 1 Chronicles 28:9
d. Use the avenue of prayer that God has given us, in asking for forgiveness and strength to overcome sinful attitudes which tempt us to gossip Psalm 19:14; 141:3
e. Learn humility Titus 3:2; Colossians 3:12
f. Be thankful Ephesians 5:3; 1Thessalonians 5:18
g. Speak fewer words Proverbs 10:19; Ecclesiastes 5:3; Proverbs 17:27
h. Avoid useless arguments/discussions Titus 3:9
i. Endure when you have been hurt by gossip. Don’t strike back! Matthew 5:11, 44; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9; Ephesians 5:2
j. Be ambitious to lead a quiet life, including silence. Laziness goes hand in hand with meddling, so get busy and work! 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10
9. So, can I go visit my neighbour? Can I talk to someone on the telephone? When can I talk? Ask yourself these questions:
a. Am I speaking to the right person concerning what I’m about to say?
b. Is it true?
c. Will it betray a confidence?
d. Will it encourage dissatisfaction, anger, strife?
e. Will it hurt someone unnecessarily?
f. Will it separate friends?
g. Is what I’m about to say second-hand knowledge (and therefore could be inaccurate)?
h. Do I talk just because I enjoy talking?
i. Am I so sure that what I have to say absolutely must be said?
j. Finally – does what I have to say edify (build and not tear down)?
a. Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.”
b. As feathers tossed into the wind, so do our words fly out and cannot be caught again. Therefore, what manner of words should they be?
Definitions of Bible words:
Strong’s Hebrew & Greek Dictionary, Power Bible software
Robertson’s NT Word Pictures