The sermon for this post can be heard at this link
Last week we looked at a lesson based on the question of “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The actual answer Jesus gave was not as much what the young ruler needed to do as much as what he needed to give up.
In the sermon, I suggested that perhaps there would be something in our personality that we should give up. One of those personality traits that comes to mind is that of complaining. Even if you don’t think of it as personality, it certainly is a habit many of us have.
Recently, my wife and I read a book (actually, it was an audiobook) entitiled, “A complaint free world” by Will Bowen. The major premise of which is a challenge to go 21 days without complaining. As he says in his book, and I found out in my own life, complaining is an action that is never to far away from us.
This got me to thinking…Do I complain? Honestly, yes I do. I don’t think of myself as a complainer but complaints still are verbalized by me. Complaints fall into the category of expressing discontent with someone or something, criticizing someone, or gossiping about another person.
When we read the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, we see admirable things: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control…..Apparently, Complaining does not make the cut. That’s right, complaining is not a fruit of the Spirit.
There are many reasons why we complain. Sometimes because we forget the blessings of God. Israel sure did this. (Psalm 78:10-20). Other times, we complain because we do not want conflict. That is, we fear that the person we have a complaint against will get mad (or more mad) at us if we bring it up. We even complain to complete strangers just to start a relationship: “The weather is soooooooooooooo hot!”, we complain and viola! instant camaraderie.
There are many reasons why we complain but really, none of them are good reasons because they do not resolve the problem. Discussing the issue with the person who can resolve it is not complaining (as long as you don’t whine about it to them), it is taking steps to fix the issue. Telling the waiter that your dinner plate is the wrong one and asking them to fix it is not a complaint, assuming you use good manners and proper tone.
Can you go 21 days without complaining? It is a good question. I hope you will take the challenge with me. I think that the book by Will Bowen will be worth the read.
The company gossip keeps in passages that mention it are things like slander, idleness, malice, inappropriate conversations and things like that. One way you might notice gossip is if you see some of those characters hanging around.
If you were to use Strong’s concordance to find a definition of the word, you will find “whispering” and “secret detraction”. Whispering we understand: (Pssst! Listen to this but don’t tell anyone…” It is a secret simply because you don’t tell it in the open. Face it, who gossips about Joe when Joe is right there with them? Detraction is something that takes away from a person, perhaps their character or reputation may be attacked OR the person gossiping tries to make them smaller in order to try and increase their own status.
Some definitions that people gave me which I think are good are as follows:
- The speech intended to hurt, discredit, or simply set up in a bad light.
- Repeating what you heard or thought you heard, sometimes adding your own spin
- The propagation of rumor or slander, whether factual or fictional
David Watson, who preaches for the Benchley church of Christ provided this definition : The sharing of personal or negative information, either true or false, about someone else without righteous intent. (Note: This doesn’t mean that you want your intent to be righteous. It either is or is not)
Which brings me to the 4 things that I think will, if we keep them in mind, help us avoid gossip.
#1. What is the content of the information?
The content of the information, in order to not be gossip, must be absolutely true without spin or exaggeration. Just because something is true does not mean that it is NOT gossip, but statements which are false, misleading, or slanted for effect or sensationalism will quickly fall into gossip, rumors, or slander.
#2. What is the motive for telling the information?
Is it needed for the good of the person to whom you tell OR is it good for the person whose information you are sharing? Sharing information with people who do not need the information to protect themselves is a lot closer to gossip than we generally acknowledge. Sharing information that does not help the person you are talking about is almost always going to fall into the category of idle speaking and gossip.
When dealing with first graders, who are notorious for tattling, a question I often asked them was this: “Are you telling me this because you want them to be in trouble or because they are in danger?” To get a fellow student in trouble (e.g. they are not walking in line) is tattling but if they are in danger (e.g. He has a lighter and is burning his shoe lace) it is acceptable information sharing.
#3. Are you open about your part in the sharing of the information?
Have you ever told someone something you thought they should know, perhaps even so they could do something about it and then added “But don’t tell them where you heard it.”? If this is not “whispering” I do not know what is. Again, by itself, this is not a full proof example of gossip. However, I would hope we can tell the difference between someone needing to be in a witness protection program and a neighbor, friend or acquaintance who might be settling a grudge, simply stirring the pot of conflict, or who wants to avoid being embarrassed if the target of their information ever found out who was the source.
#4. Are you sharing this with someone who can actually solve the problem?
Sharing your dissatisfaction with your company’s vacation policy with the janitor is not going to solve the problem. It will only serve to discourage the janitor who may think he/she is working for a great company. If you have a problem with the vacation policy, talk to HR or the Boss but don’t discuss with others. Even if a majority agreed with you, you run more of a risk of sedition (a close cousin to gossip and slander) than actually solving the problem.
Ok, So I promised to share with you why Chloe’s report to Paul and his rebuke to the Corinthian church did not fall into Gossip. Based on the above 4 criteria: It was true, It was done for the benefit of those with a divisive mentality as well as those who were affected by it, there was transparency as to where the information came from and Paul was indeed able to solve the problem.
So often, when we discuss other people, their lives, or their circumstances, we might meet one of these four criteria but not meet all four. In the end, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you requires us to take extra precautions to avoid slipping into Gossip.
When we talk about the use of the tongue, it makes sense to talk about gossip. We all have a vague idea that gossip involves telling others about things that we ought not to share. We understand gossip to involve things like whispering, rumors, slander, but sometimes we are a little unsure about when we cross the line into Gossip.
Is it not Gossip simply because the information is true? Is it not gossip if you share information so that your audience know how to pray better?
Many passages talk about gossip and its “sister”, slander which give us some good clues. If the passage does not say “gossip”, it will use the word “slander”. Read the following passages:
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, (Rom 1:29-30)
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 2Co 12:20)
Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. (1Ti 3:11)
Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. (1Ti 5:13)
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, (2Ti 3:2-3)
We can learn about Gossip from the company it keeps. These passages show that gossip associates with those who refuse to have God in their knowledge, it is accompanied by slander, malice, idleness, and inappropriate conversation. Who wants to associate with that? Birds of a feather, flock together and we should avoid this particular group of birds.
Of course, not every negative communication is gossip and that leads to some of the confusion. In the following passage, you clearly see negative information was communicated to someone else (Paul) when others were not present:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. (1Co 1:10-11)
In the following posts, I will offer definitions of gossip, explain why the above passage is not an example of gossip, and mention some “not so hypothetical” situations of gossip. However, if you would like to hear a sermon about gossip, here is a link to one which you can listen to.
Question: What normal conversations have you heard that were actually gossip?
This post is not to try and tell you what gossip is, the purpose is to ASK what gossip is. I want your definition. When you read this, please take a moment and jot down a comment, even if it is half a thought. I am going to be preaching a sermon (or two) on gossip and want to see what others think about it.
Let me start with this: In First Corinthians, Paul starts off telling the Corinthians that he has heard bad things about them and he names Chloe’s house as the source of that information. Question: Why was that not gossip?
No, I am not accusing Paul of gossip. I am convinced that it was not and have my thoughts on why but would like yours.
Lord willing, in a few weeks, I will have a lesson together and yes, I will share! 🙂
Thanks in advance for any comments left here or on Facebook.
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (Jas 4:17)
At first glance this might be saying something different about sin than we think of. We generally think of sin as doing those things that we are not supposed to do. James talked about sin in chapter 1 as something that results from our own desires, desires which go beyond the boundaries God has established. So it is natural to think that now James is adding to a new twist to the definition of sin: The NOT doing of something that you know you should.
Sin, when it is limited to the “thou shalt nots” is easy to define. Don’t commit adultery, don’t lie, Don’t steal. Got it! Even the “Shalt” commands are easy to see and in a way are just opposites of ‘thou shalt not’. I mean, everyone understands “honor your Father and mother” is a positive command. If you don’t do it, you are wrong. So is James simply saying that if you don’t do the positive commands, you are sinning? The simple answer is usually the best.
But by making this statement in this way, James puts on his Christian brothers the need to do what is right, not just ‘not do’ what is wrong. What is right in this situation is: Not to quarrel and fight, not to be friends with the world, be humble, draw near to God, Cleanse your hands and purify your minds, humble yourself before God, don’t speak evil of a brother, make plans that include God, don’t be arrogant.
James is urging them on to maturity.
What if the only commands you had were “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Would those two commands alone be enough to fulfill what James has just told them? YES! Jesus said that these two commands sum up all the law and the prophets. The things that James has just mentioned, which they are struggling with, are things that, if they would remember Love, would be taken care of.
When Jesus was asked by a lawyer “who is my neighbor?”, Jesus spoke the parable of the good Samaritan. At the end, he asked the lawyer ‘who was neighbor’ to man in need. Guess what? The lawyer got the answer right! He already knew and now knew that he knew. Jesus simply said “go and do likewise”
It is right to confront a person who offends you to make peace, it is right to help someone who you have the ability to help and it is also right to not help someone who you can’t. It is right as a preacher to spend time visiting families and studying with the lost or saved, but it is also right to raise your own family. It is right to plan and count the cost of a venture but it is also right to include the Lord in your plans “If the Lord wills”. It is right to do right. It is right to live like Jesus did.
Sometimes it is hard. I think a lot of people wrestle with ‘the right thing to do’. They know there is a right thing but they are not sure what it is. If you lack wisdom, ask God, James said. Have you ever been asked by someone “what is Gossip?” It is one of those things that seem to elude people. However, there is a right, there is a wrong. Do what is right.
Let me close with a question: What is your definition of Gossip? How do you define it? When do you know you or others are engaging in it? How do you stop them or yourselves from doing so?