Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gossip as Idol

Did you know that I once lived in Chicago or that I got a “new and very important job” or that my 21-year-old son bought a house? No? Well, neither did I! Because these statements, though completely untrue, were presented to me as fact by people who had heard it through the grapevine.

And try to refute such things! I’m the “horses mouth” and when I say, “No, I have never lived in Chicago,” those supposedly “in the know” respond as if I’m lying! Their neighbors, family members and Facebook seem to hold more credibility than me, who really should know whether or not I ever lived in Chicago, had an “important” job or could now visit my son (who will first need to pay off his student loan and secure employment, go figure) in his new house!

So how do these rumors start, and why such credibility attached to them? It’s like when the Bible talks about wolves in sheep’s clothing coming into the church to bring a slightly—or not so slightly—different truth than the apostles taught. These people seem knowledgeable, often pose as being “concerned,” and speak so convincingly! And they do it out of a desire to take any scrap or portion of their own “understanding” and run with it to feed their self-esteem and need to be noticed.

I know about gossip. Before being saved out of the mire of darkness, I licked my lips for gossip right along with the next person. There was an importance and status that came with being “in the know” and drama and attention that came with that. Not only was it great to be the bearer of any kind of tidbit, it was then an opportunity to sit around and ignorantly and at length discuss that tidbit. The funny thing is, I thought I was a good person and that my mindless bloviating made the world a better place. In reality, though, what was happening was that I was craving significance and superiority.

Even if I felt a twinge of guilt about my conversations, I couldn’t stop. Like a package of Oreo cookies where the good and healthy person is convinced they can eat just one, only to find 30 minutes later that they’ve consumed the entire first row, gossip is nearly impossible to resist once we’ve gotten a taste.

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8). 

The key is to not desire the Oreos in the first place; likewise with gossip.

And that’s where Jesus comes in. Twelve years ago He began a long and arduous work on my heart, which continues to this day. Of all the sins He has had victory over in my life, including drinking, frustration, needing to control, woman’s liberation worldview and New Ageism, just to name a few, the fleshly worldly sin of the tongue has been the most difficult. James affirms this when he writes: 

“Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go” (James 3:4).

To bask in the victory over other sins but not allow the Holy Spirit to tame our tongue is to taint, pretty much, every aspect of our walk with Jesus Christ. Like a ship needs a pilot to control the rudder, we need the Holy Spirit to steer our tongue.

How do we begin this transformation to being led by the Spirit? Well, one way is to no longer spend time with people who gossip. Just like I needed to stay away from alcohol and places with alcohol before I actually desired to stay away from alcohol, we can stay away from places of gossip-temptation while God creates in us a desire to not gossip (and He does that when we ask him for a desire to not gossip and then go to the Word and prayer). Only then can we begin to stand firm in Him instead of in the world.

I am beginning to let God test me with people who inevitably will say something negative and mean-spirited about someone, or will share someone else’s news instead of letting that person share their own news. I have verses in my head to guide me and keep me from slipping, and pre-planned statements so that I do not engage in the babbling. These situations always make my heart race, probably because it truly is a form of spiritual warfare. If Satan can make us slip with our tongue, it proves that our hearts are not with God and it blocks others’ glimpse of God in us.

I must also let God test me in my own thought life, to see if I can refrain from being the originator of gossip and general editorializing. It’s a discipline I cannot accomplish without a constant engaging of the Holy Spirit, along with daily prayer and Bible.

And the Bible verses on speech are endless! The two that convict and encourage me the most are:

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:5-7


“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:9-10

God hears everything even before we speak it. Sobering. We must begin with our hearts. James 1:5 says:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” 

Wisdom is a heart issue and will replace idle talk; wipe it off the map! As born again believers, God’s wisdom is where we must desire to live. And when we do, by His grace he’ll get us there.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” Proverbs 4:23-24

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

“A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28

“Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” Proverbs 26:20

“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matthew 15:18-19

“We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” 2 Thessalonians 3:11

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

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