‘Gossip is the Devil’s Radio’– Gospel is the Savior’s Radio

In a particularly revealing moment in the movie ‘Get Low’ a Robert Duvall classic (and Bill Murray is in rare form as the undertaker as well) a minister says ‘gossip is the Devil’s radio’. He is of course right about that. Gossip is by definition spreading a rumor about some absent person, which may or may not be true. It is hearsay, not eyewitness testimony. And there are some pretty serious moral problems with being a gossip. Pamela Rose Williams on her blog assembles some 15 key Biblical quotes about gossip (see below), but there are in fact more.

Gossip: Secrets, Slanderers & Talebearers

Leviticus 19:16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

Proverbs 11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.

Proverbs 20:19 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.

Proverbs 26:20-22 For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Jeremiah 6:28 They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron; all of them act corruptly.

Jeremiah 9:4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, or every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
Deceit, Backbiting, Busybodies, Malicious Gossips & Whisperers

Psalms 41:7 All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.

Proverbs 25:23 The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.

Romans 1:28-32 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

1 Timothy 3:9-11 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.

1 Timothy 5:13-14 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Titus 2:2-3 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good.

Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/gossip-bible-verses-15-helpful-quotes/#ixzz2Yvck4Wjm

What you notice about these quotations, some of which are more apt than others, is that leaders especially are warned against becoming gossips. John Wesley had an especially powerful sermon about this that you should look up online “The Cure of Evil Speaking”. His basic principle is that you should speak no evil of any absent person who is not there to defend himself. I agree with Wesley. It’s not right, its not reasonable, and its not fair. And as Jesus says, ‘if you have something against your brother or sister go to him/her… not someone else. In short, if you are not brave enough to challenge someone in person and to their face, then you have no right to speak about them behind their backs. If America would heed and follow Wesley’s advice, lots of talk shows, magazines, newspaper columns would be out of business. Hooray to that! Gossip, in short, is a sin, and its one that seems to especially plague Christian groups, especially Christian churches in smaller communities where everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, or at least thinks they do and should!

Consider for a moment the opposite of gossip— namely Gospel. Sharing the Gospel is about telling the Good News, telling the truth, not merely a rumor, about someone who now resides in heaven— Jesus. Suppose every time you were tempted to gossip instead you gospeled. Imagine how much more healthy and helpful that could be. If you are so keen about spreading supposed news about an absent person, why not spread some good news about the Person that people actually need and deserve to know the most about?

And this brings me to the issue of online behavior. People online, especially when commenting on blogs have a tendencies to hide behind false names so they don’t have to accept any consequences for their negative and often nasty comments. They like firing and falling back with no possibility of correction or come-upance. This as well is not Christian behavior at all! If you don’t have enough courage about your convictions to name who you actually are when you want to comment on something online, then you should keep your mouth shut. Period.

Think on these things.

  • pastordt

    Glory be – amen. Sigh.

  • David Hull

    Dr. Witherington… a question- where is the line between gossip as you defined it, sharing a rumor that is not based on first hand, eyewitness information, and voicing an opinion about public figures?

    In recent memory people like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell et al. all have rumors and/or opinions shared about them in the blogosphere, from pulpits, in bible studies etc. Obviously in these situations the advice you mentioned about approaching the person privately doesn’t seem to be followed.

    What are your thoughts on this distinction? Most people seem to side step this question by highlighting that they are talking about what someone is doing or saying versus talking about the person but this seems to present a false being/doing dichotomy.

    I am looking forward to your insight!

  • BenW3

    If someone puts something out there in print or through other public media, that’s one thing. Spreading rumors based on hearsay or second hand information is another. The basic rule is if you have something against your fellow believer, you go to them. If you don’t have the guts to do that, then shut up…… basically. I agree with Wesley that much of what you are talking about is a sin, and James has a lot to say about taming the tongue. BW3