Most people have had the unfortunate experience of knowing that others have talked about them behind their back. And if they were being honest, most people have had the experience of talking about others behind their back. Gossip is all too common. But is it a sin?
The Bible is clear that gossip is a sin and that Christians should refrain from it. Gossip often includes slander, mockery, and denigration. It exposes the gossiper’s insecurities as well as their jealousy, envy, and even hatred toward another person. The Bible encourages holy and healthy communication.
Why does the Bible often refer to gossipers as whisperers? Is talking about someone who isn’t present always gossiping? Is there a right way to share negative information about another person? What Bible verses refer to gossiping? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also see Is Jealousy A Sin? to learn more.
What’s wrong with gossiping?
Gossiping is defined as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true” (Oxford Languages). Gossiping hurts people.
It damages the reputation and character of the subject of the gossip through rumor and conjecture. It also damages gossipers by inflaming their pride and inflating their self-importance.
Why does the Bible refer to gossipers as whisperers? Whispering refers to those that talk softly about other people in an attempt to be secretive. Gossipers are often aware that what they are doing is wrong, but they share the information anyway. To soothe their own conscience and to make the person they are sharing with feel less guilty, gossip among Christians is often veiled in righteous motives.
Pastor Kent Hughes says, “Gossip often veils itself in acceptable conventions such as ‘Have you heard…’ or ‘Did you know…?’ or ‘They tell me…’ or ‘Keep this to yourself, but…’ or ‘I do not believe it is true, but I heard that…’ or ‘I wouldn’t tell you, except that I know it will go no further.’ Of course, the most infamous such rationalization in Christian circles is, I am telling you this so you can pray.”
Is talking about someone who isn’t present always gossiping? No. People can share general information about another person or compliment them without gossiping. For example, there is a difference is saying “I really like the Johnson’s new car” and “I can’t believe the Johnson’s just got a new car.”
“To gossip means to betray a confidence or to discuss unfavorable personal facts about another person with someone who is not part of the problem or its solution. Even if the information you discuss is true, gossip is always sinful and a sign of spiritual immaturity.” (Ken Sande)
If a person was trying to spin their gossip into something positive, they may say: “I can’t believe the Johnson’s just got a new car. I really hope they can get out of debt soon.” If the gossiper is a good friend of the Johnson’s, they should share their concern with them directly and not involve anyone else in the conversation.
Is there a right way to share negative information about another person? Sometimes loved ones need to communicate something about someone they care about, which is unflattering. In such situations, context, relationship, and motive are of utmost importance.
- Relational investment is important: Gossiping about the Johnson’s finances among people who aren’t relationally invested in them is a sin. If the Johnsons are essentially strangers or just acquaintances, then their decisions aren’t the gossiper’s business. Proverbs 18:24 reads, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (ESV)
- Healthy context is important However, for example, a concerned close friend or family member going to their pastor or minister and privately saying “I’m concerned about the decisions some friends of mine are making and I’m looking for advice on how to approach them about it in a loving way” wouldn’t be considered gossip. Proverbs 10:13 reads, “On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.” (ESV)
- Inward motivation is important: Gossip is avoided when people prioritize their own integrity over the instant, self-gratification of sharing secrets. 1 Peter 1:22 reads, “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” (ESV)
Also see Is the Law of Attraction Biblical? to learn more.
Why do people gossip?
Gossip is rooted in pride. Sharing secret and negative information about another person gives the gossiper a sense of self-importance at the expense of another person.
- Insecurity: Gossipers are often self-conscious people who struggle with insecurity. They seek the approval of the one they are sharing with and denigrate the unknowing subject.
- Superiority: Gossipers get excited about negative news or information about other people because it makes them feel superior. Jealousy and envy are often central to gossip.
- Hypercritical: Gossipers render judgments about other people’s lives, choices, and pursuits, which are often compensations for their own failures and shortcomings.
Also see What Does the Bible Say About Smoking Weed? to learn more.
10 Bible verses about gossip
- Proverbs 16:28, “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.”
- Proverbs 20:19, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.”
- Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
- Proverbs 11:13, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”
- Proverbs 26:20, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.”
- 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 18:8, “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.”
- 1 Timothy 5:13, “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.”
- 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.”
- Psalm 34:13, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”
English pastor Charles Spurgeon once said, “Remember that, as the receiver is as bad as the thief, so the hearer of scandal is a sharer in the guilt of it. If there were no listening ears there would be no talebearing tongues. While you are a buyer of ill wares the demand will create the supply.”
Also see Is Fear A Sin? to learn more.
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