ODJ: dishing dirt

January 15, 2013 

READ: Psalm 41:1-11 

All the while they gather gossip . . . they spread it everywhere (v.6).

Recently I read about one woman’s struggle to stop gossiping. As the mother of a child in nursery school, Sandy confessed to dishing the dirt about other parents and even spreading information about her son’s playmates. She knew it was wrong so she tried to go ‘cold turkey’. When that didn’t work she attempted to put a positive spin on other people’s business. In the end she admitted that gossip’s grip would probably keep winning; she just couldn’t resist sharing one more juicy titbit about a dad on the playground . . . 
Gossip gets serious when we consider what it’s like to be the subject of someone’s harmful words. David wrote about this experience, stating, “My enemies say nothing but evil about me. . . . They gather gossip, and when they leave, they spread it everywhere” (Psalm 41:5-6). Like vultures, they circled his bed and slandered him when he was sick and weak (vv.7-8). 

David realised what was happening and prayed, “Make me well again, so I can pay them back!” (v.10). His anger stemmed from being deceived and lied about. His visitors pretended to be friendly, but later betrayed him by publicising their worst imaginings about him (vv.6-7). It’s no wonder that Proverbs says, “A gossiping tongue causes anger” (25:23). 

Gossip causes anger and it also causes fear. After another encounter with gossip, David said to God, “I am constantly hounded by those who slander me. . . . But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:2-3). When stories spread, the one in trouble may fear: Who knows about it now? Who spilled my news in the first place? 

Gossip requires an awareness of what’s going on in someone’s life. God is pleased when we use that information to fuel our prayer lives (Ephesians 1:15-16; Colossians 1:3-4), not the rumour mill. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Read Proverbs 16:28 to see why gossip can’t be downplayed as simply ‘talk between friends’. Read Proverbs 25:10 to see the relationship between gossip and integrity.
How does the golden rule relate to the issue of gossip? What should you do if your friends spread unflattering news about others?

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ODJ: the shrinking self

January 6, 2013 

READ: Jonah 1:1-17 

But Jonah . . . went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord (v.3). 

My boys like to play tag. For the moment I can still outrun them. One of our favourite spots to play is a place in our neighbourhood. It’s an oddly shaped, grassy area that narrows on both ends. My boys have the habit of running to one of the corners at the field’s edge. They think they’re creating distance from me, but they’re really only putting themselves into a corner. I give them room to roam; and then when they think they’re safe and far away, I close in. Rather than escaping, they realise that their world has shrunk.
Jonah was a prophet, which means that he was one who spoke for God. When God told Jonah to travel to Nineveh, however, and “announce [God’s] judgement,” Jonah ran (Jonah 1:2-3). He headed for Joppa, a city in the opposite direction. 

When he ran, Jonah’s world steadily shrank. The disobedient prophet joined a ship sailing for Tarshish and jumped aboard. He “was sound asleep down in the hold,” literally “down in the far reaches of the vessel” (v.5). Jonah thought he was escaping; but if he had noticed, he would have clearly seen that his world was closing in around him. Soon enough Jonah would be trapped in the belly of a large fish. At that point his world consisted of merely a tight circle. 

Jonah was running from God, but he was also running from himself. Jonah’s identity was as a prophet, but Jonah didn’t want to do what God commanded. He didn’t want to speak God’s message to a people he hated. As a result it was not only Jonah’s world that was shrinking—but himself. Jonah was becoming less his true self, less the person God had created him to be. When we run from God, we aren’t merely running—we’re shrinking. —Winn Collier

Read 1 John 4. Note the various facts we’re told about our identity—who and what we are through God. How would running away from these truths diminish us?
In what area are you most tempted to run from God? How does this running make you less your true self?

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