Have you ever had someone approach you almost stealthily and tell you something you did not really want to hear about someone you really did not want to hear it about? And have you ever had them say something like, “Now you have to keep this to yourself,” or “Don’t say a word to so-and-so that I am the one who told you?” In short, have you ever been gossiped to by someone who lacked the courage to be transparent and open with their tale-bearing? Of course you have! We all have!
You may ask, “How is gossip defined?” That is easy. Gossip is saying something critical, judgmental or condemning about a third party without their knowledge and permission. And it is almost always cloaked in strictest secrecy for fear of being found out.
Dr. Charles Stanley preached on this subject several years ago, and he said that he makes it clear that he is not bound by another person’s insistence that he keep their nasty little secrets to himself.
That is not to say what you tell me about yourself should not be held in confidence. That is called privileged communication. But even that has a limit if what I am told has to do with doing harm to another person–physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. But I am not addressing privileged communication. This is about gossiping and back-stabbing. And those things always have a harmful dimension to them.
Even second and third party prayer requests require permission. Otherwise, they need to be unspoken requests. Afterall, God knows the details. Who else really matters?
So what does the Bible say about clandestine and libelous secrecy? Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (KJV)
And Ephesians 5:12-13 has this to say: “For it is a shame to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” (KJV)
I must confess that I have been privy to critical, condemning, judgmental reports and remarks about third parties for my whole life. And I have agreed to keep my mouth shut about them.
But the Lord has convicted me severely about my cowardly desire to not incur the wrath of the tale-bearer and to not experience the consequences of their anger. So, I made a covenant with Him that, whenever I hear gossip–no matter how cloaked with supposed good intent it may be, I will go to the subject of the tale and tell them what I heard and where I heard it. That is what I would want from others.