Q: I work for a Christian organization. Recently, a coworker shared a health concern about me with another coworker, who shared it with another. By the time I found out, this rumor - quite false - had been passed to a number of our coworkers. I not only had to set the record straight, but had to do so without gossiping about the person who started the rumor. It seems that in the faith community, we're rather good at sharing "concerns" without checking facts or going to the source. Isn't this the opposite of what we're supposed to do?
A. Mark Twain reportedly was amused at a news item announcing his death, when in fact, it was a cousin who had died. Twain wrote, "The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated."
Gossip has been defined as "rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature." It seems to have become an accepted pastime in our culture. TV news media repeats stories, often unsubstantiated, many times throughout the day. News media, unfortunately, is not the only offender.
Gossip, even if harmless, is often untrue or exaggerated, and may cause hurt to the victim. Friends may feel betrayed. Christians are not immune to the temptation to spread rumors. We hear, "I can't repeat this, so listen closely--I can only say it once!" Or, "I'm just concerned, and we need to pray for this person," sometimes closing with, "don't tell anyone I said this!" Some seem to derive great joy from telling a bit of "dirt."
Employers take a dim view of gossiping employees, and take note of anyone who is away from his or her desk frequently, talking to others. Likewise, Scripture deals harshly with gossip and gossipers. Proverbs 11:13 states, "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." Again, Proverbs 18:8, "The words of a gossip are like choice morsels| they go down to a man's inmost parts." And in 1 Timothy 5:13, Paul speaks of ". . . gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to."
According to James 1:26, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."
Our constant prayer should be, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer!" (Psalm 19:14)
Justine Knight is a minister's wife and retired legal assistant living in Oklahoma City.
In each issue, a forum of pastors, laity, theologians, and churchleaders respond to your questions on subjects such as doctrine,theology, Christian living, and the church. Send your questions to Holiness Today, Church of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center, 17001 Prairie Star Parkway, Lenexa, KS 66220| E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The editor regrets that all questions cannot be printed, acknowledged, or answered.
Holiness Today, January/February 2010