The Gangrenous Sin of Gossip

March 12th 2024

The Gangrenous Sin of Gossip

A Clinical Contrast

According to the Mayo Clinic website, gangrene is defined as: death of body tissue due to a lack of blood flow or a serious bacterial infection [that] commonly affects the arms and legs, including the toes and fingers. It can also occur in the muscles and in organs inside the body.[1] In the same way a condition like gangrene is physically hazardous to the human body, gossip is spiritually detrimental to the body of Christ.

A ‘Respectable’ Rebellion

Scripture associates gossip with slander. A slanderer is literally described as a talebearer, an informer, and someone who maliciously and stealthily spreads harmful information about another person in either an open or a private setting (Prov 11:13a).[2] Though you and I may consider gossip to be what the late author and evangelist Dr. Jerry Bridges[3]termed a “respectable sin,” that is, a sin that many Christians consciously or unconsciously consider “acceptable” behavior,[4] God takes slander very seriously.

A rather explicit example in Scripture of God’s righteous indignation toward those who gossip is found in Psalm 101:5, where he pronounces, “Whosoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy.” In his own words, God defines gossip as “secret slander.” The irony of that divine definition is that to an all-knowing, all-seeing, and ever-present God, nothing is truly secret. As God says to the prophet Jeremiah, “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes” (Jer 16:17). Conversely, in Luke 8:17, Jesus declares, “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”

Scripture is clear: there are no “secret” sins – none.

Not even the most clandestine of sins, like gossip, can escape the knowledge and awareness of an omniscient and omnipresent God, who hears every slanderous syllable that you and I utter against each other. We know that to be true from such Old Testament texts as Proverbs 15:3, which reads, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good,” and, likewise, in the New Testament in such passages as Matthew 12:38, where Jesus warns, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

A Divine Disdain

Perhaps you’re beginning to sense now that God possesses a divine disdain for gossip. The reason God takes so seriously the sin of gossip, as to threaten to destroy those who unrepentantly engage in it, is that gossip involves the intentional character assassination of people who are created in his image (Gen 1:27). Moses’ sister Miriam learned that lesson the hard way, as God, in his righteous anger, caused her to become leprous as a consequence of gossiping about Moses with her brother Aaron (Num 12:1–16).

Gossip is the fruit of that which Jesus says in Mark 7:20, “proceeds from within and defiles” a person. In other words, gossip is first and foremost a heart issue. It is a heart issue because gossip literally issues, which is to say, it originates in and proceeds from, the heart. Consider that against the backdrop of what Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Because gossip is an outward expression of what resides within a person’s heart, God’s Word cautions us to “not associate with one of loose lips” (Prov 20:19). The wisdom of that text is brought further to light by the 19th century Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who, in his sermon titled “True Unity Promoted,” provides a sobering illustration of how gossip causes harm to the body of Christ, saying:

Gossip is a very ready means of separating friends from one another. Let us endeavor to talk about something better than each other’s characters. Dionysius went down to the Academy to Plato. Plato asked what he came for. “Why,” Dionysius said, “I thought that you, Plato, would be speaking against me to your students.” Plato made this answer: “Do you think, Dionysius, we are so destitute of matter to discuss that we talk about you?” Truly we must be very short of subjects when we begin to talk about one another. It is far better that we magnify Christ than detract from the honor of his members.[5]

A Nonsensical Notion

In accordance with Paul’s apostolic command in Ephesians 4:29, followers of Jesus Christ are to, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” In the context of how deeply offensive to God the sin of gossip actually is, it is important to note that the word unwholesome in Ephesians 4:29 carries with it the picture of a piece of corrupt, putrid, and rotten fruit that has fallen to the ground from a tree and is no longer fit to eat.

That is how God sees the gossip that you and I engage in – as rotten, putrid, verbal fruit that proceeds from our heart to our tongue (Jas 3:8). Needless to say, gossip is not a “respectable sin.” It is objectively nonsensical in light of God’s Word for a believer in Jesus Christ to regard the sin of gossip, or any sin for that matter, as “respectable,” when it is our sin that sent Christ to his death on a cross (1 Tim 1:15; Rom 5:6).

Think about that the next time you’re tempted to secretly slander a fellow image-bearer of God.

[1] Mayo Clinic, “Gangrene,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gangrene/symptoms-causes/syc-20352567. [2] Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains, Hebrew (Old Testament), 8215. [3] The Gospel Coalition, “Jerry Bridges,” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/jerry-bridges-1929-2016/. [4] Ligonier, “Respectable Sins,” https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/respectable-sins. [5] Answers in Genesis, “True Unity Promoted,” https://answersingenesis.org/education/spurgeon-sermons/607-true-unity-promoted/.

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Author: Darrell Harrison