Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Gossip

I recently heard a conversation similar to this before a Bible class was about to start:
Teacher: "Alright, well I think it's about time to get started if so-and-so will finish up."
Person: "Yeah, we gotta quit gossiping and get ready for Bible class."
I was truly appalled by this sentiment. Would we sit in Bible class and then, as it was time for us to dig into God's word, say, "Well I gotta quit looking at pornography so we can get started" or "Guess I should quit cussing so we can start talking about the Bible."

I know you see those two examples as absolutely ridiculous. The thing I don't understand is, why are we so casual when it comes to gossiping? Why do we treat it like it's ok, when Scripture is clear:
"And besides, they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not." 1 Tim. 5:13
Gossips and busybodies....saying things which they ought not. Ought not---are not supposed to. Could the Holy Spirit have been more plain? We are NOT to use our tongues like that. Why, then, do we constantly excuse ourselves when gossip is discussed?

The Bible has so much to say about gossip and the way we use our tongues (ie: this post will probably be long). First, I'd like to examine some New Testament passages, then we'll dive into some Old Testament proverbs. Now, let's get started!
"Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money..." 1 Tim. 3:8
This first reference may seem a little strange to you, but let me explain. While most people commonly overlook the passages that talk about qualifications for deacons and elders unless it is time to select those men to serve, I have tried to live by the rule of 'if an elder/deacon isn't supposed to do it, I probably shouldn't do it.' My aim is and will forever be to be pleasing to my God and a faithful follower and imitator of Jesus Christ. Clearly God wants/expects certain things from the men who will be leaders in Christ's church. If God has told us pretty plainly what type of person that is, why wouldn't I strive to be that type of person? It is obviously acceptable to God if you are that kind of person, so I should strive to live my life that way. Therefore, I will do my best to be reverent, not given to much wine, not greedy for money...and I won't be double-tongued.

When we gossip (and even the worldly dictionaries we use define that as 'idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others'), are we not being double-tongued? Are we not saying things about someone to other people that we probably wouldn't say to that individual's face? Let us strive to be the type of people God intends for us to be, and only use our tongues in an acceptable way. James touches on that in the epistle that bears his name:
"And the tongue is a fire, a world if iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell." James 3:6
There is a way we can misuse our tongues, and when we do--they are being 'set on fire by hell'. What does that mean? It seems to mean that Satan uses Christians' tongues to further his message/cause, instead of promoting peace and love as Christ would.

When we gossip and backbite, we are not just messing up with our tongues. James says that we defile our entire body! Think about the sins of sexual immorality. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said that they should not misuse their bodies in such a way because their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:18-20). If our tongues can cause us to defile our entire body, should we not get the same reprimand that Paul gave to the Corinthians? Stop doing that, because you aren't defiling your body, you're defiling the temple of God! Stop using your tongue to defile God's temple!

The next verse I'd like to look at comes from 2 Thessalonians 3:11.
"For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies."
The word busybodies in the original text (periergazomai) means someone who "bustles about, meddles". Someone who gets unnecessarily involved in others' business is called disorderly, and what they are doing is busying themselves with work which really isn't work at all.

I can think of a lot of different individuals I have known over the years that have busied themselves in the false work of being a busybody. They always know exactly what's going on with someone else, and never cease to share what piece of information they have most recently gathered--with as many people as they can. The Bible plainly says that is disorderly, and like we noted in 1 Timothy 5:13, that's not the way Christians are supposed to act. Instead of 'working' long hours trying to figure out what is going on with every person around you, why not use the information you gather to try to help someone, instead of spreading the gossip all around town? If you find out (and there's a difference in finding out and seeking out!) that so-and-so has run into a certain problem or situation, do what you can to help them! Spend your energy and resourcefulness trying to come up with ways to serve!

The way we use our tongues is such an important aspect of Christianity, and possibly one that we overlook far too often, or at the very least, don't spend nearly the amount of time and attention on that we should. Look at what James had to say in James 1:26
"If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless."
It makes me think about Paul's description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. He says that he can do all of these great and wonderful things, but if love isn't there, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans (clearly that's an Emily paraphrase). The same can be said of the way we use our tongues. Unless we are using our tongues for their intended purpose (to stir up, encourage, exhort), then our religion is useless. All of the "great things" we're doing aren't going to matter because we aren't bridling our tongues!

Let's move into Proverbs now, because the first one I'd like to look at ties in with the concept James introduced.
"An evildoer gives head to false lips; a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue." Prov. 17:4
When we listen to gossip (aka promote and condone), we are an evildoer and a liar. Wait, why a liar? Think back to what James said: if we don't bridle our tongues, we deceive ourselves. Basically, if we thrive on gossip and tearing others down and meddling in people's lives, we're lying to ourselves if we think our religion is real. We aren't really spiritual if our tongues aren't in check.

As we can see from just these few passages, the ways we use our tongue plays a key role in our spiritual walk. Since there are so many scriptures about this topic, and I've already been writing (and you've been reading) for such a long time, I'd like to invite you back tomorrow for Gossip: Part two.

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