We are now in the second week of our Sunday School class on gossip at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church. In the first week we answered the question, what is gossip? Gossip is “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” (Resisting Gossip, 23) This week we discussed how scripture talks about five different kinds of gossips.
Gossip 1: The Spy
Proverbs 11:13 says, “a gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” In this passage the Hebrew word for “a gossip” is rakil. This means a “peddler of secrets, a deceiver or spy.” A spy loves to get a juicy piece of bad news out of people. Mitchell quotes an email he received from someone on this type of gossip. “I think for some people gossip is like a thrill or a high from being the first one to tell someone else about things. It’s like a competition to see who knows the low-down on someone else first. It makes them feel better about themselves because they ‘knew’ before you did.” (Resisting Gossip, 48)
The heart of the spy is to have power over others. They want to have the control that comes with being the first to know and then having the power to tell others.
Paul speaks in Ephesians 1:18-20 about Christ’s power, which is in contrast to the spy. Paul says Christ’s power is “immeasurable.” Jesus used his power to help others. Rather then using it selfishly, Jesus used his power to even give up his very life. Likewise, we are to use the power of our words to help others and encourage others, not to lord over one another.
Gossip 2: The Grumbler
Proverbs 16:18 says “A perverse man stirs up dissension and a gossip separates close friends.” The Hebrew words for a gossip here is nirgan. This gossip is one who is a whisperer – he murmurs about another person behind their back. “The grumbler complains. He criticizes. When she is upset about something – and misery loves company – she will talk about others behind their back. We often euphemistically call this ‘venting.’” (Resisting Gossip, 50)
The heart of the grumbler is jealousy of others. The source of their “venting” is looking at what others have and unjustly wanting it for themselves. The opposite of jealousy is contentment. Paul speaks in Philippians 4:12-13 about the “secret of being content in any and every situation.” This secret is found in looking to Christ to supply our needs, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Gossip 3: The Backstabber
The backstabber is like the grumbler, only worse. Mitchell says, “backstabbing gossip overflows from a heart bent on revenge, retaliation and real malice. The backstabber actually desires the target of his gossip to experience pain.” (Resisting Gossip, 52)
This was David’s experience. He says in Psalm 45:5-9, “My enemies say of me in malice, ‘When will he die, and his name perish?’ And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. They say, ‘A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.’ Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”
The heart of the backstabber is revenge. They want to take out their enemy with a vengeance. Scripture has a strong warning for backstabbers. Proverbs 26:27-28 says, “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him. A lying tongue hates those it hurts and a faltering mouth works ruin.” Paul warns in Romans 12:19 to not take revenge but leave it to the Lord. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Gossip 4: The Chameleon
The Chameleon is one who goes along with gossip to try to fit in with the crowd. Proverbs 29:25 says “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” The heart of a chameleon is the fear of man. Rather than fearing the Lord, one who struggles with this kind of gossip is focused on what others think more than God. The answer is to meditate on the greatness of God and remember that he is greater then anything of this world.
Gossip 5: The Busybody
Mitchell defines the busybody. “The busybody is a person who is idle, not engaged in purposeful business and wants to be entertained.” (Resisting Gossip, 56) Paul specifically mentions individuals in the church who are “not busy; they are busybodies.” (2 Thessalonians 3:11)
Many foolish people exist in the world and we sometimes think that we can, as busybodies laugh at their foolishness. Whether it is someone falling down the stairs or being caught in the public eye for their misdeeds, their foolishness does not exist for our entertainment.
The heart of the busybody is selfishly serving themselves rather than loving God and loving others. Christ did not laugh at the foolish, he helped them. Rather than whispering about others foolishness, go to them and build them up. Help them in their time of need.
So which kind of gossiper are you? Do you have a tendency to gossip in a specific way? Take some time to reflect over your sin, asking God for the sweet cleansing balm of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Then go and begin speaking as one redeemed by Christ.