I had a friend that was allergic to honey. He would take a spoonful of that sweet, sticky delight and swell up like a balloon ten minutes later. His body was hurt by what seemed so sweet. Gossip is a lot like that. Solomon wrote, “A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being” (Prov. 26:22). There is a perverse enjoyment about knowing the inside scoop on someone’s problem. Perhaps it makes us feel superior to know the bad thing someone else has done. For a moment we can forget that we’ve probably acted worse ourselves and look down on someone else with a smug superiority.
The problem with gossip is it goes down smoothly but it causes heart burn! Gossip burns the one who speaks it and the one spoken about. Solomon described the devastating effects of gossip as a blaze of fire near dry wood.
Without wood a fire goes out;
without gossip a quarrel dies down.
As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. (Prov. 26:20-21)
Gossip adds fuel to the fire of relational conflict. If we are going to build good friendships and live in healthy families we must get control of gossip.
One reason it is so hard to squelch gossip is because it is so tolerated in our society. There are wildly popular magazines and television shows that make millions of dollars by sharing gossip. Gossip is not something frowned upon, but vigorously sought and eagerly shared. As a result, the fires of strife burn in our society. Don’t feed on that stuff. Don’t buy those magazines or watch those TV shows. Those things teach you to constantly judge people, and to laugh when you hear bad news about someone. They turn you into a member of the annoying paparazzi.
James gives us four clear ways to deal with the temptation of gossip in these two powerful verses:
“11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:11-12)
To squelch gossip practice four levels of respect.
Respect People: We should value each other as people made in the image of God (James 3:9), who are made family. The emphasis of this text is on brotherliness. Scripture says that if we know something about our brother, instead of telling just anyone, we are to go to him about it (Matt. 18:15-20). That shows much more respect than telling others.
Respect God’s Word: Not only should my respect for my brother keep me from talking about him, but so should my respect for the law. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” James called this the “royal law” (James 2:8). When we gossip we ignore this law and pretend that we know better.
Respect God: Respecting God will also stop gossip. James says he “is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy.” When we gossip we set ourselves up as someone’s judge. We forget that our opinion matters nothing compared to God’s evaluation.
Respect Yourself: In reality, you need to look no further than yourself to stop gossip. James wrote, “who are you to judge your neighbor?” (4:12). Wham! Right between the eyes! With all my weaknesses, struggles, and sins, who am I to talk about my brother? Often those who gossip are the very ones walking around with the most failings and shortcomings (Matt. 7:1-5).
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)