Why is it that people are often more attracted to gossip than to encouragement? Why is it that someone gossiping seems to bring a whole group together? It makes people want to know more…it makes them curious about exactly what’s been going on…it makes their imagination go wild with possibilities of what the situation really could have been like. If someone doesn’t have much going on, they are considered boring…but take someone who is struggling or there is trouble and people swarm like bees. It seems to be almost addictive. Have you heard? Did you know? Someone told me something the other day…I’m not sure if it is true or not, but… And we are off to the races trying to figure out what might be going on…or at least what the latest is.
When will we learn that gossip hurts? When will we figure out that it divides? When will we discover that what we say…even if it is true has the power to build up or to tear down? And when will it become evident that we spend way too much time tearing down?! All the way back in the time the Book of James was written, this was addressed. In the Book of James, Chapter 3, it reads:
“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (NIV Version)
So James says the tongue cannot be tamed and is full of deadly poison. Does that mean that we just give up and keep on gossiping? Does it mean we wallow in the poison and spread it on? Does it mean we take great pride in spreading the most poison?
As Christians, it seems to me that we are called to live differently. And that doesn’t mean to gossip more than anyone else. It seems to me that our differences should be based on living by the Holy Spirit. Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. It is the time that the church celebrates and remembers the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in believers, leading and guiding them in obedience to follow Christ. The Holy Spirit provides comfort and conviction. And, the Holy Spirit can help us to keep our mouth shut when that is the best thing to do. The problem is that we listen to what is going on around us rather than listening to the leading of the Lord that is within us.
If we, as Christians, are going to really make a difference…if we are going to show real love…if we are going to come together as the Children of God…we must learn to watch our words. We have to find out that real love means that we don’t participate in gossip. We must learn that there is not a place for judgment among believers (that’s God’s place) but a whole lot of room for love. Love and gossip cannot exist together. Following Christ means we hop off the gossip train and join those who stand firm in service. We can never be united when we spend our time talking about our brothers and sisters. May we learn to keep our mouths shut, our ears open to the leading of the Lord, our hearts full of his love, and our hands open to serve.
Imagine what might happen if we started praising instead of criticizing. What might happen if we started encouraging rather than hurting? What might it be like if our words were filled with love for God and love for one another? It just might change the world. May it begin with me.