Introduction: In this sermon on gossip, Charles Kimball teaches about the heart of gossip. By getting to the root of gossip, we can learn the effects it has on others as well as how to overcome falling into this sin. Filled with scripture references, this sermon outline will provide you with study tools as well as sermon illustrations on gossip and controlling one’s tongue. Read on to prepare to preach about gossip.
Who am I? I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cruel and malicious and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted, the more I am believed. I flourish at every level of society. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I’m nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same. I topple governments and ruin marriages. I destroy careers and cause heartache and sleepless nights. I wreck churches and separate Christians. I spawn suspicion and generate grief, make innocent people cry on their pillows. Even my name hisses. I am gossip.
Fifteen hundred years ago Pope Gregory the Great classified the sins that cause humanity to stumble (the 6th century). He looked at every sin mentioned in the Bible and boiled them down to 7 categories of sin. His list of 7 sins is known as The 7 Deadly Sins. The 7 deadly sins are pride, anger, indifference, envy, greed, lust, and gluttony. The 7 deadly sins include nearly every kind of human sin imaginable. But there is a deadly sin that failed to be included in the list of the 7 deadly sins. The 8th deadly sin is gossip.
All the sins of the tongue are deadly. Profanity, insults, lying negativism, complaints, and criticism are all harmful. Gossip is a particularly deadly sin. Gossip has destroyed more people, tarnished more reputations, broken more friendships, and split more churches than any sin I’m aware of. Gossip is quickly told, quickly heard, and quickly spread. Worst of all, gossip is quickly believed. People will confess to theft, adultery, even murder. But no one confesses to gossip.
The book of Proverbs warns us of the deadly allure of gossip as well as its deadly effects over and over again. Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” Whether we admit it or not, we have a fascination with gossip. That’s why talk shows and grocery store tabloids are so popular. Proverbs says gossip is like a tasty morsel that we like to savor. Gossip is like a hot fudge sundae made with Blue Bell ice-cream. Gossip is like peach cobbler with real whipped cream. Gossip is like steak and lobster. Gossip is like an all you can eat buffet with a desert bar. We can’t get enough of it.
Not only does Proverbs warn us that we have a perverse attraction with gossip. Proverbs also warns us of the corrupting effect of gossip. When we listen to gossip, it goes to our “inmost parts.” Gossip sinks its teeth into our hearts, souls, and minds and corrupts us like a fast spreading cancer.
We know what gossip is when we hear gossip or when we speak gossip. But we don’t often take time to define words like gossip.
We want to see what God’s Word says about gossip. Let’s take a moment to consider the meaning of gossip and its sister words as the Bible uses them. It helps us to know the meaning of the words as they are used by Jesus and His apostles in the Greek New Testament. Simply put, “gossip” is talking about people behind their backs.
The New Testament Greek word for “gossip” (psithuristes, Romans 1:29) is literally “a whisperer” — a person who whispers behind your back with the intention of hurting you. The Greek scholar Godet describes a gossiper as someone who pours out his poison by whispering in our ears. With the telephone, we don’t even have to whisper behind people’s backs. We just badmouth them over the phone without their knowing. With the advent of E-mail, gossip spews forth through the Internet onto the computers in our homes and work places.
The Bible links gossip and slander together as sister sins (Romans 1:29-30). The New Testament word “slander” (katalalos) means “to speak evil of someone.” When we gossip, we speak evil about people; we badmouth them. The King James Version describes people who gossip and slander people as “backbiters” (Romans 1:30). When we badmouth someone with gossip, we bite them behind their backs, whether the gossip is true or not. All too often we can be like Dennis the Menace who whispered in his neighbor’s ear, “Now listen good. I can only tell you this once ’cause my Dad told me not to repeat it.”
I. The Origin of Gossip
Gossip is like a tasty morsel that we like to hear. The question is: Where does gossip originate? In a number of Scripture passages, the Lord informs us about the origins of gossip so that we will avoid it.
Gossip is fueled by hell’s flames
Gossip is one of Satan’s fiery arrows that he shoots at us and entices us to shoot at others. The Lord doesn’t mince words in James 3:6 when he tells us about the origin of the sins of the tongue: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
The flames of hell ignite gossip. Satan is behind all gossip, either directly or indirectly. When we listen to gossip, we give the devil a foothold in our lives. When we speak gossip, we’re speaking as Satan wants us to speak. As the old saying goes, “A gossiper is the devil’s postman.”
Gossip originates from the evil in our hearts
In Luke 6:45 Jesus tells us, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Jesus tells us that our words reveal what is in our hearts. Gossip comes from a heart full of evil. Insults come from a heart full of evil. Criticism comes from a heart full of evil. When we allow our sinful natures to control our hearts, evil fills our souls, and evil spews out of mouths.
Gossip can be the result of hatred
In Psalms 109:3 the Old Testament King David said of his enemies, “With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.” When we allow hurt, anger, bitterness, and rage to live in our hearts, we entertain thoughts of hatred, retaliation, and revenge (Ephesians 4:31). One way that we vent our anger, bitterness, and rage is through gossip. We wound people behind their backs by badmouthing them. We retaliate by shooting people in the back with verbal bullets. Unless we find comfort for our hurt and resolution for our anger, we often vent our hurt and anger with our tongues.
Gossip is a product of idleness
1 Timothy 5:13 tells us how idleness can lead to gossip: “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” People with too much time on their hands often become gossips and busybodies. As the saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
Sometime ago the LA Times carried a horrific story about a college student who visited a prostitute. As his lips approached hers, she moved a razor, hidden in her mouth, between her front teeth. With two quick swipes, she cut off his lips. Gossip is a razor blade in our mouths.
II. The Trouble with Gossip
Gossip is always trouble. Gossip obscures the truth. Gossip drives us from God. Gossip ruins reputations. Gossip destroys relationships. Gossip divides churches. The trouble with gossip is …
Gossip is incredibly destructive
James 3:6-8 says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Gossip is a wild fire gone out of control. We try to put it out. We try to control it. But the gossiper keeps pouring gas on the fire. Like a forest fire that is beyond control, gossip takes on a life of its own. The story grows and changes the more the gossip is spread. The story even grows within the mind of the gossiper.
Not only is gossip a wild fire. Gossip is “full of deadly poison.” I got food poisoning last year. The poison of bad barbeque got into my stomach. My stomach was so sick that I’d make you sick to describe it. I had 24 hours of misery and was washed out for days. Gossip is a deadly poison. It’ll make you so miserable that you will wish that you were dead.
Gossip is a characteristic of unbelievers
Romans 1:29-30 describes the lives of unbelievers who have shunned God: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents.” Gossip and slander belong to unbelievers who have rejected God. When we gossip, we talk like people who have rejected Christ.
Gossip spreads falsehood
Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” When we gossip, facts are distorted. Lies are spoken as truth. Half-truths are heralded as gospel. Gossip may have an ounce of truth to it. But gossip is usually combined with a ton of lies. People often have the attitude, “Don’t bother me with the facts. My mind is already made up.”
A couple of years ago, someone ran a red light and totaled my car. I replaced my Toyota MR2 with a Toyota Camry. When I drove the new car to get a haircut, the receptionist misread the emblem on the car. She thought I had bought a Lexus. She said, “I love your new Lexus.” I said, “What Lexus? That’s only a Toyota. I’ve never even been in a Lexus.” That’s how gossip works. Half-truths and misunderstandings are turned into unbelievable stories, like your pastor buying a new Lexus.
Gossip separates friends
Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” In a few seconds gossip can ruin a friendship that took years to build. Not only does gossip ruin friendships. Gossip can do great harm to a church.
People leave churches when they believe gossip. People leave churches when they have been wounded by gossip. Churches have split over gossip started by a single person. Proverbs 6:19 tells us that of the 7 sins God hates, the sin god hates the most is stirring up dissension among His people.
A grandmother was saying bedtime prayers with her two grandchildren. She said, “Tonight, we’re going to talk about sin. Do you know what sin means?” Seven-year-old Keith said, “It’s when you do something bad.” Four-year-old Aaron’s eyes widened, “I know a big sin Keith did today.” That’s how gossip works. We see the speck in our brother’s eye but ignore the log in our own.
III. The Antidote for Gossip
We know that gossip originates with Satan. We know that gossip is a product of our sinful nature. We know how incredibly destructive gossip is. Now we need to consider God’s antidote for gossip.
Overlook an offense
Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Overlooking an offense is an act of love and friendship. It is also a sign of Christian maturity. Christians can be too thin skinned. We can wear our feelings on our shoulders. We need to develop rhinoceros thick skin.
Churches are a family. Sometimes family members offend family members. Don’t be surprised when it happens. We’re too quick to get offended. We’re too quick to tell others about how another church member offended us. It’s wrong! God’s says to overlook the offense. If you must talk about the offense, talk to the person who offended you, and that person alone.
Don’t listen to gossipers
Proverbs 20:19 tells us, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” Did you hear that verse? Don’t listen to gossipers and their gossip. God’s word says, avoid the gossiper. When someone begins to gossip to you, tell them plainly, “I don’t want to hear any gossip. We don’t want gossip hurting our church.” Don’t worry about offending them by telling them you don’t want to hear any gossip. Gossipers need to be put in their place.
If someone gossips about you, Jesus tells us how to confront them in Matthew 18:15-17.
First, speak to the person one-on-one. If that doesn’t work, bring a couple of spiritually mature Christian friends with you to confront them. We must confront people with the right facts and the right spirit. Ephesians 4:15 tells us, “Speak the truth in love.”
Watch your tongue carefully
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Watch your tongue. If your words tear people down rather than building them up, keep quiet. As my mother used to tell me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
A man won the million-dollar lottery. He flew with his wife to New York City for a weekend get away. They had such an argument over how to spend the money that she threatened to divorce him. In a fit of anger, he went to the top of the Empire State Building. She ran up after him, thinking he might do something crazy. Once she got to the top she said, “Honey, I love you. We can work it out.” But by the time she reached him, he had already torn the check into pieces and thrown the pieces to the ground. They got to the ground as quick as possible to gather up the pieces of the check. But it was too late. The wind had gotten a hold of the pieces. They couldn’t piece the check back together again, no matter how hard they tried. That’s how it is with gossip. Once gossip gets out, it gets out of control. Once it gets into the wind of people’s ears, there’s no way to put things back together again.
Jesus warns us about sins of the tongue in Matthew 12:36: “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” We all need to pray Psalms 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”