A gossip is a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it. The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament means “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.”
Gossip is distinguished from sharing information in two ways:
1. Their intent. Gossipers often have the goal of building themselves up by making others look bad or by exalting themselves as those who “know”.
2. The information that is shared. Gossipers speak of the faults and failings of others, often revealing embarrassing details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or consent.
In Romans Paul reveals the sinful nature and lawlessness of mankind, stating how God poured out His wrath on those who rejected His laws. Because they had turned away from God’s instruction and guidance, He gave them over to their sinful natures. The list of sins includes gossips and slanderers (Romans 1:29b-32). We see from this passage how serious the sin of gossip is and that it characterizes those who are under God’s wrath.
A particular group identified by Paul for indulging in gossip is widows. Paul cautions widows against idleness and gossip. These women are described as “tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” (1 Timothy 5:12-13). Because women often spend a lot of time in each other’s homes and work closely with other women, they hear and observe circumstances which can become distorted, especially when repeated over and over. Paul states that widows should not get into the habit of going from home to home, looking for something to occupy their idleness.
Women are certainly not the only ones who have been found guilty of gossip. Anyone can engage in gossip simply by repeating something heard in confidence. The book of Proverbs has a long list of verses that cover the dangers of gossip and the potential hurt that results from it. Passages include Proverbs 11:12-13; 20:19 and 16:28.
Many a friendship has been ruined over a misunderstanding that started with gossip. Those who engage in this behavior do nothing but stir up trouble and cause anger, bitterness, and pain among friends. Sadly, some people thrive on this and look for opportunities to destroy others. And when such people are confronted, they deny the allegations and answer with excuses and rationalizations. Rather than admit wrongdoing, they blame someone else or attempt to minimize the seriousness of the sin.
Proverbs 18:7-8 says: A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
By contrast, those who guard their tongues keep themselves from calamity (Proverbs 21:23). So we must guard our tongues and refrain from the sinful act of gossip. If we surrender our natural desires to the Lord, He will ensure that we remain righteous. Gossip quickly develops into a chief problem within the church, and without active prevention will result in the destruction of what was once a vibrant Christian community.