Is it caring or is it gossip?
By the Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Devotional text: Ephesians 4:29
Background text: Proverbs 20:19
People love to talk. It’s part of who we are as human beings. We think; we do; we talk. We talk with our family members, our friends, at gatherings of people, and we talk personally to God in prayer.
The Bible has much to say about how we talk to one another. Today, we are looking at the way in which we speak about one another and treat one another. We will look at words of scripture that show us how to be caring people, and we will look at scripture that warns us about turning caring for one another into gossip.
In Hebrews 13:16, we learn, “Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have because God is pleased with these kind of sacrifices.”
We should all be willing to help one another as we are able. Sharing from our own abundance is one way we show God’s love to one another. Another way we help one another is through our words of encouragement and our willingness to listen to one another in times of distress.
From 1 Thessalonians 5:11 we read, “So continue encouraging one another and building each other up, just like you are doing already.” We should help others to succeed in their lives, as well as be willing to give each other a shoulder to lean on during difficult times.
Our next scripture is found in Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
James 1:26 is like it: “If anyone thinks they are religious but does not bridle their tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
Here are two more that speak of how words may come out of our mouths: Titus 3:2, “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people” (Titus 3:2) and “ … avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16).
While the Bible tells us how to live well with one another, it also recognizes that the words coming from our mouths are not always good and uplifting. Sometimes they are harsh words of criticism and put-downs, and these words are often said behind people’s backs.
James 3:5,8 has this to say about how we speak: “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,” and “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Our words can show love and caring for one another, and our words can hurt and destroy one another. Our words of caring turn to gossip when we talk about someone who is not present with us and we speak things about them that may or may not be true. As gossip is carried from person to person, it can greatly hurt the one being gossiped about.
Gossiping is mentioned in the Bible 133 times. In all cases, we are admonished to keep from gossiping.
Slander, which is like gossip, is mentioned in the Bible 120 times. Slander is worse than gossip because its sole purpose is to spread lies about another person, thus ruining their reputation.
Here are but three scriptures that speak to us against letting ourselves fall into gossip and slander and other harmful words: “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8).
From Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice (malicious gossip).”
And 1 Peter 2:1: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”
The truth is, not one person on earth is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all say things that are hurtful and that we don’t really mean. We all fail from time to time in the way we treat and speak about one another.
God recognizes our failings and gives us advice and commands to get rid of foul language, hurtful anger and gossip. God is ready to help us in our failings as we pray to God for that help.
Reading James 3:2 we find these words: “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”
However, not one person is perfect. We do stumble in many ways. Then, we pick ourselves up and begin again, trying harder not to stumble again.
Galatians 6:1 advises us, “Brothers and sisters if anyone is caught in transgression, you who are spiritual should restore that person in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
These are uplifting words for all of us. We should recognize that we ourselves are not perfect. When we see someone else act or speak in a way that is not encouraging, uplifting or gentle, it is good to speak to that person in private and in a gentle loving way.
The final sentence in Galatians 6:1 is very true. If we see a person we know who is stumbling away from that which is good, we ourselves must be careful. In our hope to restore that person, we too may be led down the wrong path.
Let us be ready to always speak well of one another. Let us be aware of the difference between gossip and caring.