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?