For the last couple weeks, we have been discussing the sin of gossip in Sunday school at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church. We have been using Matthew C. Mitchell’s book, Resisting Gossip.
This week we looked at the internal battle of gossip, what is the core of gossip?
In its essence, gossip stems from a person being judgmental of others. When we gossip, we slander [speak evil against] another person. Being judgmental is a necessary part of slander. Judging others is not necessarily bad. It is necessary in certain circumstances. “judging is necessary but dangerous.” (Ken Sande) But how do we fall into being judgmental? There are three ways.
1. Rushing into Judgment
Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.” People make rash judgments when they are not patient. Often impatience happens when do not take the time to listen to both sides of the story. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” Also, we fail to consider the source of the story, who is speaking. Proverbs 14:15 says, “a simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” Lastly, we assume we know a person’s heart and this causes us to jump to conclusion. This was Israel’s mistake when they assumed they knew that the Transjordan tribes were building an “imposing alter” against God in Joshua 22.
2. Prideful Judgments
James 4:11-12 says, “do not speak evil against [slander] one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” When we are judgmental, we are playing God.
We play God by not considering three things. First, is this my place? God goes us to serve as judges in certain situations. When he has not, we should hold back from judging. Second, we fail to apply the Golden Rule to the situation. Sometimes we are hyper-critical of others when we would not want the same standard be placed on us. Third, we fail to lower ourselves as Christ did when he came down as man. We fail to become servants and look up at others actions and instead look down on them.
3. Unloving Judgments
Paul speaks of love in 1 Corinthians13, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends [fails].”
In commenting on this passage Mitchell says, “He [Jesus] would surely be fully qualified to do so [gossip about us]. He knows the whole truth about us and could rush to judgment. He is the lawgiver and the judge. Yet Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus does not delight in evil. He does not sinfully judge us. He saved us by his own sacrificial death. If Jesus has shown us this love, we need to show it to others.” (Mitchell, 74)
Ultimately the sin of gossip is a failure to be like Christ. As we can see, it’s in very specific way. The layers of our sin are many and deep. Yet, we are not stuck fighting gossip as it happens. The gospel does not only encounter and stop gossip. It changes how we use our words and what words we use. This is what we’ll discuss in two weeks.