Do you know what scourge victimizes more people every year than all the sicknesses and accidents in the world? It is the deadly poison of gossip.
The Bible reveals that Satan the devil is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). But how does he accuse us? By spreading rumors and causing gossip. Satan introduced gossip into the world shortly after the creation of Adam and Eve, when he spread rumors about God. Satan told Adam and Eve that God lied to them. He made them suspect God's loving concern and wonderful plan for all mankind to inherit eternal life. God told the man, after putting him in the Garden of Eden: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:16-17). God's command was clear. But Satan put doubts in the first couple's minds. He made them question why God had forbidden them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He made them feel that God was keeping from them something that was good for them. Notice how Eve answered Satan (who appeared to her in the form of a serpent), when she repeated God's order. Eve told the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die" (Gen. 3:2-3). Why did Eve add the last part of that sentence? Where did she hear it? God didn't forbid her to touch the tree. He told the couple not to eat of it. Yes, but in Eve's mind, twisting God's order was necessary to express her feelings toward what she believed to be unfair. Can you imagine? God wouldn't even allow them to touch the fruit of the tree! Satan had already influenced her mind and she began to shade what God had said. She obviously also thought the penalty God imposed was too severe. The clear statement, "Thou shalt surely die," became, in her words, "lest ye die." Quite possibly, the more Eve reasoned in her own mind, the more she believed she was right. She became convinced that she was telling the truth. The woman now "knew" that God was really harsh and unjust. Just think: If you repeat something enough times, you end up believing it. And in this case, that's just what Satan wanted Eve to do: believe God was unjust, so he could seduce her. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by taking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The carnal mind always seeks its own way, its own aggrandizement. It wants to be right. Self-justification is one way to achieve that goal. Accusation is another. Both help to shield our own mistakes. The carnal mind likes to be exalted. It will distort facts or twist statements to preserve its own presumed integrity. Do you realize that often, during conversations, you only hear what you want to hear, and not necessarily what was said? Likewise, when you repeat what you want to hear, you present the information in such a way that you end up appearing innocent of any errors. But God commands, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" (Ex. 20:16). Do you grasp the depth of this commandment? Bearing false witness against someone can not only involve lying, but also accusing, gossiping and spreading rumors. If you are truly a Christian, you should never take part in any of these activities. You should not accuse others, whether it be to defend yourself, to cover your mistakes or merely to make yourself look good in the eyes of others. In other words, the Ninth Commandment forbids lies, accusation, gossip and spreading rumors. That's what bearing false witness is! As a true Christian, you are to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). But how can you love your neighbor if you accuse him or gossip about him? How can you love him if you have a part in breaking up his family or his home or in making him lose his friends? Satan wants you to bear false witness. He would like to cause division between you and your brethren. He would like to destroy your home, and he would do anything to divide or destroy the Church. When you gossip, you bear false witness against your neighbor, but God says, "Thou shalt not bear false witness … Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' (Rom. 13:9). Stop and ask yourself: How much of what you hear is true? And how much of what you say — or repeat — is true? We all tend to repeat what we hear — or believe it — without ever checking the facts. We take for granted what we hear or read. But gossip is never the entire truth. It might be part of the truth, or a shaded truth, or a truth out of context, but it is never the whole truth. There is no such thing as "half-truth." A lie is a lie, whether white, black or shaded. Here is a simple rule to remember: Before you say or repeat anything about your neighbor, be sure you have all the facts (and by definition the facts will be true). Then ask yourself, "Am I loving my neighbor as myself when I repeat this?" If not, you are breaking God's commandment. Sometimes you can be unintentionally guilty of gossip. You may not think you are doing any harm, but gossip always harms. Whether you justify yourself by distorting the facts or accuse someone because he is accusing you, gossip is always destructive. Ultimately, the penalty for gossip is death.
The golden calf
Consider what happened when Moses, who was talking with God, delayed his return from the mountain. The Israelites were concerned about him — but especially about themselves. What would they do if something had happened to Moses? Who would lead them? How would they survive in the wilderness? They had no faith. In their fear they began to doubt God's love for them, and decided to go after other gods. They told Aaron, "Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him" (Ex. 32:1). The Israelites built a golden calf and began to worship it. They forgot the almighty God who, with tremendous miracles, brought them out of the land of Egypt. They forgot His loving promises. "Go, get thee down, "God instructed Moses, "for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them" (verses 7-8). Moses, returning hurriedly, saw what was taking place and was horrified. He could not believe his eyes. "What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?" Moses demanded of his brother Aaron (verse 21). Aaron was in charge of the people in Moses' absence. He was therefore responsible for their conduct and behavior. He could have — and should have — stopped the making of the golden calf. But he was afraid of the people! Did Aaron readily admit his guilt? Did he easily accept his share of responsibility — or did he justify himself? He told Moses: "Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him" (verses 22-23). Notice how Aaron justified himself. He thought his task impossible, since he was dealing with a rebellious, stiff-necked people whose minds were set on evil. How could anyone reason with such a people? So what did Aaron do? He let them act as they pleased! And how did he explain the calf? Well, it just came into existence by itself, according to him! Aaron told Moses: "And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf' (verse 24). Simple, isn't it? All you have to do to produce a golden calf is to gather all the gold you can find and cast it into a fire — and out will come a golden calf! Strange as it may sound, it is with reasoning like this that the human mind tries to justify itself. It puts the blame on others, rather than acknowledge its own share of guilt or responsibility. Aaron's way of describing events is not much different from the way we would describe happenings in our own lives. We would, chances are, picture ourselves as blameless in a parallel situation.
Gossip about Jesus
Was Christ a drunkard? Of course not. But His persecutors claimed He was. They spread rumors about Him. Actually, people saw wrong in whatever Christ did. When He drank wine, He became a drunkard in their eyes. When He ate with the publicans, He was classified as being one of them. Christ was accused no matter what He said or did. His enemies constantly spread rumors about Him. As Christ said: "For John [the Baptist] came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners" (Matt. 11:18-19). Strangely enough, many of the people who accused Christ or spread rumors about Him had never seen Him. They only believed what they had heard, and they had heard from His enemies that Christ was a drunkard and a glutton. Even though Christ never broke God's commandments, He was accused of breaking every last one of them. When He healed on the Sabbath, they said He broke the Sabbath. When He stated that those who did His Father's will were like members of His own family, people said Christ did not love His mother, brothers or sisters. People did not even believe Christ was born of the Holy Spirit; rather, they called Him a bastard — one born of fornication. To His false accusers, Christ said: "If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:42-44). Indeed, Christ's persecutors were unable to understand Christ. They had for their father the devil, who is a liar. They believed the lies and not the truth. As one old saying goes, if you do not want people to believe you, just tell them the truth! But there is no excuse for us in God's Church to behave like those who do not have God's Spirit. We must always tell the truth. We must never say anything that could hurt or harm our neighbors, never gossip, never spread rumors. It is hard to believe, but people even accused Christ of being possessed by a demon (verse 48)! Today the world still hates Christ, because it does not understand His teachings. People still spread false rumors about Him, His teachings and the message He brought from His Father. "If ye were of the world," Christ told His disciples, "the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also" (John 15:19-20). Today this prophecy is being fulfilled, much as it was in the days of the early Church. Not only unbelievers, but also those who once called themselves believers, are now persecuting the Church. "It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!" (Luke 17:1). We had better heed this strong warning.
Rumors about Christ's resurrection
Enemies even spread lies and rumors about Christ's resurrection. On several occasions, Christ foretold that He would be persecuted, arrested and crucified, but that He would rise again after three days and three nights. Did His persecutors believe Him? No! They thought He blasphemed God, and they did everything in their power to prove Him wrong. After Christ's death the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate to ask him to prevent, by every possible means, the fulfillment of Christ's prophecy. They told him: "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first" (Matt. 27:63-64). How curious! Not only did they not believe Christ, but they also suspected everyone else. They wanted definite action and assurance from the governor. Pilate, as usual, found a way to shun his responsibilities. He turned the matter over to them and told them to do whatever they considered necessary. "So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch" (verse 66). What happened then? Christ rose from the dead, just as He had prophesied. The guards were powerless to stop the Lord's angel from rolling back the stone and opening the door. When they returned to the city and told the chief priests what had taken place, the chief priests advised the guards to deny the events and to spread new rumors. When the chief priests and the Pharisees "were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you" (Matt. 28:12-14). Thus was this complete, heinous fabrication perpetuated (verse 15). Those who persecuted Christ stopped at nothing. They adopted every despicable means to cause division among the brethren and to stop the proclamation of the Gospel. Satan was their chief counselor. One way or the other, they let him lead them. The same is true today. Satan still wants to divide the Church and stop the proclamation of the Gospel. Those who persecute the Church are once again led and influenced by him.
Examine your heart
Remember, gossip's root cause may be self-justification, jealousy, a spirit of vengeance or simply vanity. But whatever the cause, gossip is sin. It breaks the Ninth Commandment. God hates gossip. "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren" (Prov. 6:16-19). Practically every one of the seven things mentioned in these verses has something to do with lying, gossiping, spreading rumors and sowing discord among the brethren. God told His people: "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:16-18). As God's people, His Church, it is high time we wake up and obey His commandments seriously and from the heart. It is high time brethren everywhere stop spreading rumors, seeking vengeance or bearing grudges against each other.
Has gossip become such an ingrained habit in your life that you don't know how to eradicate it? Do you really want to change? Since gossip is one of Satan's tools, you can only overcome it by using the tools of love God gives you through His Holy Spirit. Satan will put evil thoughts into your mind. He will incite you to justify yourself, to blame others and accuse them. God wants you to recognize your mistakes and repent of your sins. God tells you not to justify yourself, not to judge others, not to accuse. God alone is the Judge, and vengeance is His. Get down on your knees and ask God daily to help you examine your heart, to help you stop gossiping. Don't ever say anything that will hurt your brother. Keep your mind constantly on God and His Gospel. The Gospel is good news — gossip is bad news. Idleness often produces gossip. Therefore, be so busy doing what is right in God's sight that you will not have time to be idle. Replace gossip with Gospel! The apostle Paul, in his epistle to Titus, tells us how to overcome gossip, whatever our age or occupation. He tells the older men, "Be sober, grave [serious], temperate, sound in faith, in charity [love], in patience" (Tit. 2:2). If older men would follow this advice, they would never have time to gossip. To the older women, Paul writes: "Likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (verses 3-5). Those are not just words. They are commandments of God. To the young people, Paul writes: "Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you" (verses 6-8). If we all show ourselves, in all things, patterns of good works, there won't be any gossip in the Church of God. Do you want to have good friends? If so, then be a good friend yourself. Do you want other people to speak well of you? Speak well of them. If you want to be helped, first help others. If you want brethren in the Church to be better Christians, be a better Christian yours! Simple, isn't it? The truth is always simple, but the carnal mind makes it seem complicated.
Three Simple rules
Here are three simple rules that will help you stop gossip. First, before you repeat anything about anyone, ask yourself, "Do I have all the facts?" If not, what you say may not be true. You will be spreading rumors. God commands you to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thess. 5:2). Second, before you repeat anything you have heard about anyone, ask yourself, "Can I tell this thing in the presence of the person involved?" If you cannot, then you should not tell it in his absence. In other words, don't say anything about anyone that you would not be willing to say to that person's face. Christ said that only the merciful shall obtain mercy (Matt. 5:7). But how can you be merciful if you spread rumors about your neighbor? Christ also said that the peacemakers shall be called the sons of God (verse 9). A gossiper is not a peacemaker. The third rule is just as simple as the first two. After you have obtained all the facts and after you have ascertained, in all honesty, that you can repeat in the presence of the person involved what you have heard about him, ask yourself: "Will saying this do any good? Will it help? Is it really beneficial?" If the answer to any of these questions is no, don't repeat what you have heard!