March 17, 2009
The Danger of Idle Talk
Ask a few people to define gossip, and most will mention something about spreading rumors. That is correct, but it’s not the whole truth. Gossip includes any idle or malicious talk that harms someone else. In other words, damaging speech is a universal sin—we have all been guilty.
For example, have you ever commented negatively on how a person dressed? Suggested to a friend that someone you both know should consider changing jobs or hobbies? Told an acquaintance about another man or woman’s personal life? Let me ask you a final question: Did you feel a check in your spirit while you were speaking? All of these can be examples of gossip—words that do damage despite sounding innocent.
Idle comments are often delivered in a way that makes them seem unlike the traditional definition of talebearing. Three common ways that people mask gossip are 1) by speaking in jest, 2) by offering others’ personal details “as an example,” and 3) by disguising the spread of information as a prayer request. Of course, not every tease or illustration is gossip. And the body of Christ is certainly called upon to pray for those facing hard times. Therefore, we must know the difference between worthless chatter and wise speech.
What makes the difference is the heart’s motivation. (Ps. 19:14). Lips move loosely when the intention is to mar a person’s good name or create instant camaraderie—which often happens while discussing someone’s misfortune. However, a desire to please God and show His grace toward our fellow man prompts us to speak only that which is good for building up others (Eph. 4:29).
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