What Does the Bible Say about Gossip?
If we are going to talk about gossip it makes sense to define what it is, so here is a dictionary definition of gossip.
“Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”
I think some may make the mistake of thinking that gossip is about spreading lies or mistruths. This is not totally true. I would say the majority of times the spreading of gossip is wrapped around truth. The problem is that it may be incomplete truth. However, that truth, whether it is complete or incomplete, is used to talk about someone else.
The Bible speaks about gossip and one verse that gives real color to what gossip is can be found in Proverbs.
“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13).
This verse really sums up what gossip is: betrayal. It may not be a betrayal with actions, but it is a clear betrayal with words. One of the reasons it becomes betrayal is because it takes place outside of the presence of the one who is the subject of the gossip.
Here is a simple rule of thumb. If you are talking about someone who is not present, then it is very possible to slip into gossip. I would say it can happen intentionally or unintentionally. Regardless of how you get there, it is gossip nonetheless which means it is betrayal.
Prayer Request Gossip
One of the classic forms of gossip that often gets overlooked and dismissed is what I am calling prayer request gossip. Here is a typical prayer request gossip conversation.
We need to pray for Jimmy.
Why what happened to Jimmy?
Oh you didn’t hear, Jimmy did…and you proceed to spill the beans on Jimmy.
What is surprisingly absent from prayer request gossip is prayer. This is usually because the intention was not to pray but to talk about Jimmy. Prayer gets used as the excuse or cover to allow you to gossip. Be careful when you start a conversation about who you need to pray for, and you talk about the person but never actually pray for them.