I was recently asked about gossip and slander and was going to write about it this week. Then I remembered this wonderful piece by my friend, Pastor Bruce Roeder and thought I would re-post it for you. Bruce is Pastor of Dicipleship at Missio Dei Fellowship in Kenosha Wisconsin.
Have you ever been the victim of gossip and slander? Have you ever victimized others with your own gossip and slander?
To put it another way, have you ever said something you wished you had not? Have you ever spewed forth the deadly venom of gossip and slander? Have you ever been on the other side of gossip and slander and experienced how that felt? Unless you are a hermit of some sort you have no doubt been both the purveyor and recipient of gossip and slander.
Consider how the Scripture treats the two-way street of gossip and slander.
Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. Psa. 101:5, ESV
Gossip and slander are two of the most “respectable sins” in the church today. Jerry Bridges in his excellent book Respectable Sins defines gossip and slander like this:
“Gossip is the spreading of unfavorable information about someone else, even if that information is true.” (Respectable Sins-Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, Jerry Bridges.)
“Slander is making a false statement or misrepresentation about another person that defames or damages the person’s reputation. We slander when we ascribe wrong motives to people, even though we cannot see their hearts or know their particular circumstances.” (Respectable Sins-Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, Jerry Bridges.)
Gossip and Slander Breeds More Gossip and Slander
One of the fall outs from not dealing with gossip and slander is that it breeds more gossip and slander and includes more and more people. There is an infinite regress to gossip and slander and James’ words show us what can happen if it’s not dealt with:
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. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. James 3:2-12, ESV
James compares sins of the tongue to a fire and if you’ve ever seen a forest fire you can realize the devastation that it causes. This is why gossip and slander should be nipped in the bud and never tolerated in the church of Jesus Christ. We should want to pour the sweet water of biblical peace making on the spark of gossip and slander well before it becomes a forest fire that rages out of control.
James 3:1 indicates that church leaders have the greater responsibility to prevent gossip and slander from becoming a forest fire of conflict.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1, ESV