29They 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, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know Gods righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
(Romans 1:29-32 NIV)
(Romans 1:29-32 NIV)
The Apostle Paul, in the letter to those in Rome is describing a group of people who are classified as ungodly, unrighteous, and suppressers of the truth[i]. He uses descriptions like wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, murders, deceitful, and evil-mindedness. To say the least, these are intense adjectives. Interestingly, there is a word listed among these that seems almost out of place, at least out of category. He says, they are gossips. We dont typically place gossiping and murder as weighing in the same on the sin scale.
Gossip is placed in the same class as some pretty destructive forces. What is it about gossip that makes it so lethal and destructive? What is gossip?
The word gossip or talebearer, as used in ancient times meant,
scandal-monger (as traveling about),
one who carries tales, slander, informer.[ii]
a person who habitually reveals rumors or reports of an intimate nature,
personal or sensational facts,
The word was used to describe the occupation of a merchant, trafficker, or trader.[iv]
Just as a merchant would go about from place to place in order to peddle, traffic and trade his merchandize, so a gossiper or talebearer goes about from place to place to peddle, traffic and trade their information be it information, slander or some secondhand fictitious tale. As the merchant, after making their solicitations among the people, leave with profit in hand, so the gossip finds a deep internal and emotional profit from their sharing and acquiring of information about others. Often, being the in the know with something new to share, allows for a means of perceived connection with others and a sense of self significance.
Three ministers went fishing one day, all friends who pastored different churches in the same town. While they were fishing they began confessing their sins to each other. The first pastor said, "Do you know what my big sin is? My big sin is drinking. I know it's wrong, but every Friday night I drive to a city where no one will recognize me, and I go to a saloon and get drunk. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help it, it's my big sin." The second pastor said, "Well fellas, to be honest with you, I've got a big sin too. My big sin is gambling. As a matter of fact, you know all the money I raised for that mission trip to India? I took it to Las Vegas instead and lost it all. I'm so ashamed, my big sin is gambling." Finally it was the third pastor's turn. He said, "Guys, I probably should have gone first, because my big sin is gossiping."
Several things happen when we allow ourselves to talk about other people in their absence. Stories often become twisted, personality flaws and personal failures typically become the highlight of discussion. One or both parties involved in the discussion become seriously affected in how they look at this particular person. Residual feelings, hurts, wounds, and opinions become validated, reinforced, and more deeply entrenched within. Many of these hurts, wounds, and opinions are skewed in their initial interpretation, with great need of clarification. The challenge is that clarification can only come from the person whom the perception is towards. This clarification will rarely if ever be gleaned from talking to another, it is best found in the presence of the person in question. This is precisely why Jesus instructs us to go directly to that person.[v]
q What is it inside us that has a tendency to feel a sense of significance by being in the know? (as it relates to other people)
A turtle lays thousands of eggs without anyone knowing,
but when the hen lays an egg, the whole country is informed.
I have never been hurt by anything I didn't say.
Talk is cheap because the supply always exceeds the demand.
One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do
and always a clever thing to say.
Blessed are they who have nothing to say,
and who cannot be persuaded to say it.
James Russell Lowell
[i] ungodly, unrigheous, and suppressers of truth. (Romans 1:18).
[ii] New Testament Lexicon, ref. no. 7400.
[iii] Merriam-Webster, I. 1996, c1993. Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Merriam-Webster: Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.
[iv] New Testament Lexicon, ref. no. 7402.
[v] Directly to that person: (Matthew 18:21).