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Does the Bible Say Gossip Is a Sin?

  • Clarence L. Haynes Jr. Contributing Writer
  • 2021 17 Mar
Two women gossiping over coffee

In 2011 I met my future wife. We got married three months after we met. Because of the speed with which we got married there were a lot of conversations and speculation over our decision. This led to plenty of talking about us and what and why we were doing this so quickly. Most of these conversations did not happen to us or with us, they were simply conversations about us. Needless to say I discovered that many hurtful things were said.

What these people were engaging in was gossip. If I am to be honest, I have been on both sides of the gossip train – maybe you have been too. The problem is that people who engage in this activity often won’t acknowledge or recognize they are participating in it. Who wants to admit they are a gossip?

Unfortunately, far too many Christians engage in gossip or gossip-like behavior. You could probably even argue that in some cases people see it as acceptable behavior. After all why not talk about other people when they aren’t around? Isn’t this what everyone does? While it may seem to be true, it’s not. When it comes to the use of our mouths and the words that come out of them the Bible is clear about how we should use them. You don’t have to take my word for it, let’s see what the Bible says about gossip.

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Woman holding a finger over her mouth to be quiet

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.

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man pensive sad wondering outdoors

Is Gossip a Sin?

To answer the question of whether gossip is a sin I want you to consider these questions.

Are you looking to build up or tear down?

Are you building unity or ripping it apart?

Is what you are saying going to cause someone to think differently about another person?

Would you want someone to talk about you the way you are talking about that person?

You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to know that gossip is sin. Gossip divides. Gossip destroys. Gossip defames. Gossip is deadly. These types of actions are opposite to how God would want us to interact with each other and speak about each other. We are commissioned to be kind and compassionate to one another. I have yet to hear any words of gossip that fit that criteria.  

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

If you are engaged in gossip, I don’t think you can do this.

Bible Verses about Gossiping 

Here are a few verses that lets you know what the Bible says about gossip.

“A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much” (Proverbs 20:19).

“And if they are on the list, they will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t” (1 Timothy 5:13).

“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly” (2 Timothy 2:16).

“He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, But he who repeats or gossips about a matter separates intimate friends” (Proverbs 17:9, AMP).

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

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Group of friends hugging

How Should We Deal with Gossip?

I want to give you three simple things to do to deal with gossip.

1 - Shut it down – If gossip is betrayal then you need to take the initiative to shut it down. Don’t allow it to come out of your mouth. If someone around you starts gossiping either ask them to stop or if they won’t then remove yourself from the conversation. 

2 - Shout it out – As easy as it is to slip into gossip, you should be willing to call it out for what it is. There is a saying that the NYC police department uses: if you see something say something. I would say the same thing about gossip. If you see it happening, shout it out and don’t let it continue.

3 – Shield don’t shovel – You should recognize that when gossip happens you should seek to protect the one who is being talked about. In other words, shield that person’s reputation and character and don’t shovel any more gossip on it.

These things are not always comfortable especially if you are in a group of people talking or even among friends. Yet these are necessary things so that we can protect and cover those in the body of Christ. Gossip, regardless of whether the information is true or not, is destructive and can cause unnecessary pain to other members in the body of Christ. The remedy is to simply do what Jesus told us in Matthew, which we refer to as the Golden Rule.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

Gossip may seem interesting when you are not the one being talked about, but all you have to do is reverse the rolls and you will know how painful it can be. For this reason, avoid it at all costs.

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Two women laughing together

A Prayer to Turn a Deaf Ear to Gossip

Lord,

Help me to guard my ears and my mouth. Let me operate in love and self-control so that I don’t participate in the tearing down of other people. As David prayed in Psalm 19:14, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

Stand Together

Being on both sides of the gossip conversation as I have been, I will say neither side is good. It’s not good to talk about and it’s not good to be talked about. Let’s take a stand today against gossip and learn to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ and not against them. As you continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ, become the one who can be trusted and the one who protects. After all this is what love does.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7).

Related articles
Is Judging Others a Sin?
Is Cursing Really That Big of a Sin?
Bible Verses about Gossip

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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com



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