Proverb 20: 19

One who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a gossip.

There is a Jewish concept called Loshon hora. It is a very complex idea. Not complicated in the sense that it is difficult to understand but complex because there are so many tendrils of thought that it is an expansive concept. One can write entire books on it so please appreciate that my explanation or definition is needfully simple. At its base I would describe loshon hora as meaning speech which has the effect of prejudicing one person in the eyes of another. Fascinatingly, this applies even if what is said is true. Some things, I guess, are just better left unsaid. Our mothers taught us that but some of us forgot, me included.

Yesterday’s proverb warns that trouble is often found resulting from our mouths and tongues. Loshon hora is the principle that the words we speak should be words of encouragement and edification. Ephesians 4: 29 exemplifies this ideal, “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” If our words do not meet the 4:29 test, we should arrest them. This is why we need to set a guard over our mouths so words which disparage others don’t tumble out.

The second part of this verse is particularly challenging, but it is also quite clear. Don’t hang around a gossip. Often people don’t know what to talk about so they talk about others. Here is my advice. Ask people about themselves. Ask them about their youth, interests. Frankly, I think people have a lot to say if we will start them down the right path. I like to hear my mom talk about the old days on the farm. I can see through her life experiences things like plowing behind a mule or working in tobacco. There are stories about things I will never experience. I think my brother and nephew are missing a great opportunity to not only learn but also to experience something vicariously through her stories.

Most people probably have stories they can tell you or hobbies to talk about.  So the next time someone begins to gossip, change the subject. Ask them about their high school years or where they grew up. Ask them about their favorite book, movie, vacation. What piece of art moved them? There is a world of experiences to discover. Take advantage of those experiences to learn something new.

In all our words, we should avoid making anyone look bad in another’s eyes. There are times when you might be forced to tell someone the truth about another, but most of the time we can avoid speaking unfavorably about others, and we should. Gossiping is a sin. Let’s get that straight. It is also a very common habit and so easy to fall into. Let’s all redouble our efforts to keep our language uplifting and edifying. One of the ways to help ourselves in this, is not to go around with gossips. When you cannot avoid a gossip, try to redirect their speech so they don’t drag you down with them. And, if they are Christian, pray for them.


Psalm 64: 8

So they will make him stumble; their own tongue is against them.

David wrote this psalm as a complaint against a group of people who were gossiping about and plotting against him. In the end, it is their own words and schemes which will trip them up. That is the way with gossip, the outcome of treachery.

You may feel vindicated if someone has been badmouthing you. Take solace in the fact that their words will eventually turn around and bite them. If you are prone to gossip, heed this warning. Gossip is like a snake, you may think you have it by the tale but it finds a way to turn and bite you.

For that matter, gossip just isn’t kind. Our Father is kindness, gentleness and goodness. It is hard to imagine that gossip would fit in with Him and if it doesn’t fit with Him, then it doesn’t fit with us. We are supposed to live our lives in Him, after all.

This psalm also reveals that the schemes and traps we plot against others, ensnare us. Again, great vindication if you have been the subject of such plots. Not such good news if you are the architect of schemes.

There is not grace, no goodness is talking about others or devising ways to trip them up. Our job is to show the love and mercy of God to everyone. It’s not always the job we would choose but it is the one to which we have been appointed by our Father. Let only good proceed from our mouths, O Lord.

Dangerous Language

Romans 1:29 – 31

[B]eing filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.

Paul is describing a wretched group of people here. First, he shows the malevolence with which they are filled and then he tells us how those things manifest. He begins with “they are gossips” and then goes on through some pretty atrocious attributes. It strikes me that he begins this list of horrible characteristics with gossiping. One would think Paul could have headed his list with something more diabolical than gossip. But maybe, just maybe, gossiping is much more treacherous that we thought. Otherwise, why is it even included in this list? It is keeping pretty bad company.

Most of us recognize the other items in this list and most of us would denounce them. But how many would say that gossip is a real problem and denounce it? How many of us would balk at a gossiper as we would a hater of God or an arrogant, boastful inventor of evil? You see, God is showing us in this passage that the same unloving attitude that makes one an evil hater of God is that which causes us to gossip. Gossip is malignant and creates discord and strife in the body of Christ. It is a big problem as evidenced by its inclusion in this verse. Paul wished to cut it off in the churches to which he ministered. We, therefore, need to be mindful of gossip as well.

Gossiping is not really frowned upon in our society as can be easily evidenced by watching any reality show. They are all about drama and gossip. How many other television shows are completely based on gossip or gossiping? Quite a few. This general acceptance in our society makes it difficult for Christians to recognize the danger of gossip. It even cloaks when Christians are participating in gossip because it does not stand out anymore. And it seems that no one is immune to either the lure or the effect of gossip. But gossip is very damaging to the body of Christ.

Thus, we must all be vigilante to police our words and root out gossip from our lives. As Ephesians 4: 29 instructs us, we should only speak those words which are good for edification. And when we find ourselves trapped in a conversation which turns to gossip and running others down, we must find ways to extricate ourselves. It is best for us when we are around others who are using their words for edification rather than for tearing apart. And maybe as we make an effort to remove ourselves from gossip, others might be influenced as well. Take this message from Paul to heart and be mindful about the things you say and help others grow in their use of language too.