Craig Smith - Gossip
Hey, Mission Hills, so good to have you with us, no matter where you are or how it is that you’re joining us. So glad that you are joining us for the beginning of a new series that I actually think may be one of those important series that we’re gonna deal with this year. God has some amazing plans in all of our lives through this series.
Now, before I get into the content of the series, though, I need to deliver some bad news. And here’s the bad news. Not everything that you were told as a kid is true, okay? Some of the things that we were told as children is simply just not true, okay? Now, I’m not talking about the stuff that adults sometimes tell kids to make their lives easier, that is the adult’s lives easier. So, if any of you were ever told that that song the ice cream trucks play, “Oh, they only play that when the ice cream truck is out of ice cream,” okay, if anybody was told that — by the way, not true. Some of you are like, “What?” Right. But that’s just to make adults lives easier. And there’s some things that sometimes get told for that reason. I’m not talking about that kind of stuff, okay?
I’m also not talking about the kind of stuff that we sometimes tell kids in order to just kind of mess with them, lovingly mess with them. Like when my kids were little, every time we get near an automatic door, I would say out loud, “Open, please.” And for years, my kids believed that those doors were voice-activated, okay? And I just loved that moment when one of them finally came home and went, “Dad,” right? I’m not talking about that kind of stuff either, okay?
I’m talking about stuff that the adults told us that they actually believed was true, at least I think they believed it was true. And the reason they told it to us was because they thought it was gonna make things better for us, okay? And there’s actually quite a few of those things that we were told that turn out not to be true. So, we’re actually gonna do a little kind of a countdown, okay, top five things that most of us were told as kids, it turns out not to be true. And so if you’re watching with somebody and I hope you are, why don’t you just tell them if you were told this truth.
Here’s number five. Number five is if you swallow gum, it stays in your stomach for seven years. How many of us were told that? It’s just not true. It just absolutely isn’t true. In fact, this is a little bit gross, okay? But if you’re a parent and you’ve had small children in your life, then you know that when they swallow gum, it passes quite easily and quickly and fully intact, okay? That is enough said on that. Sorry. Sorry. I don’t even know why I went down that particular road. Okay.
Number four, you have to wait 30 minutes after you eat, before you go in swimming. How many of us were told that, right? Now, that one might be one of those self-serving ones. I think my mom told me that just because she didn’t wanna go in swimming yet, okay? But I actually found out, as I was researching this, that the 1908 Boy Scout Manual actually says that you have to wait 90 minutes before you go back in after eating or you’ll cramp up and die, and it literally says, and it will be your fault, okay? Well, turns out that’s just not true. You don’t have to wait 90 minutes. You don’t even have to wait 30 minutes.
Okay, number three, if you swallow watermelon seeds, a watermelon plant will grow in your stomach. How many of you were told that? Okay. I definitely heard that one growing up. I guess apparently like stomach acid is nowhere near as strong as watermelon seeds, some kind of like titanium-encased seed going on there. Okay. Not true. It’s just not true. It doesn’t happen.
Number two, sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyes. I definitely heard that one. How many of you did, right? Here’s the interesting thing is like, we never were sitting closer to the TV than we are today to our screens, right? I mean, I might be five or six feet away from a screen and, you know, and my parents were like, ”Oh, you’re ruining your eyes.” Well, now I spend all day, every day with my screen right there, like typing, you now. Boy, if that would ruin our eyes, that our eyes are all in massive trouble. And it turns out, in fact that it’s just not true.
And then the number one thing, the number one thing that we were told as kids, it turns out just to not be true, drum roll, please, is sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you. And most of us know that’s just a lie, right? We know that it’s just not true. And I know we were usually told that by a well-meaning adult, who’s trying to make us feel better after somebody made us feel bad by something they said about us or something that they said to us. But the truth of the matter is while sticks and stones do break your bones, words can kill your soul. Words are incredibly painful things, incredibly dangerous things. And the reality is that we live in a world that’s based on words. It’s more true now than it has ever been before that our words have power and our words have the power to wound. And our words have the power to do some tremendous damage.
If you’ve ever doubted that human beings have a sinful nature, you don’t have to look any further than the comment section in YouTube or Instagram or Facebook, because it’s not just that we put out words in so many platforms like that, but other people can come back at us with words. And if you look at the comments section on any of those social media platforms, you will see, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we use words in ways that they were clearly never intended and they’re powerful and words wound. In fact, I came across this really powerful video. It’s by a woman named Lindsey Stirling. She’s a violinist. I love her work. And also, it’s a collaboration with Switchfoot, which is a very popular Christian band back in the ’90s. And they recorded the song. And in the song, I’m gonna play a clip of it for you, you’re gonna see some words appearing. And those were all words that were actually said to them in comments about their work online.
Words are powerful. Words wound. And they don’t make clean cuts, right? They’re infectious wounds. They’re wounds that they get infected. They’re wounds that actually start with toxin in them and that toxin just sinks in deep and it continues to do damage long after the words themselves have been spoken and long after the speaker has even forgotten that they’ve said them.
The Book of James written by an early follower of Jesus, in fact, the half brother of Jesus himself said this all the way almost 2,000 years ago, what the power of words, he said this, this is James chapter 3, verse 5, ”The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds and reptiles, and sea creatures are being tamed, and it has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Words wound and our words inject poison that ultimately doesn’t just break bones. It kills souls. And so, what we’re gonna do in this series is we’re gonna tackle four kinds of what I call “toxic talk,” that I believe we’re all tempted by, okay? We’re all tempted by each of these and these aren’t specific to a gender. They are not specific to an age group. They’re not specific to any particular kind of grouping or category of people. These are things I think that always…all of us struggle with, that all of us always struggle with, okay? And what we’re gonna do in this series is we’re gonna do two things. Number one, we’re gonna learn to recognize, and number two, we’re gonna learn to resist these kinds of toxic talk. We’re gonna learn to recognize and to resist these kinds of toxic talk.
And the first talk that we’re gonna tackle, first toxic talk that we’re gonna tackle, a lot of Ts there, is, I’m gonna be honest, it’s one I struggle with. And it’s one I struggle with more than I am comfortable with you knowing how much I struggle with it. And the funny thing is it’s actually not a kind of toxic talk that I ever thought that I did struggle with. In fact, if you’d asked me a few weeks ago before I began preparing for this message, I probably would have told you, “Well, that one is one that I don’t really struggle with because in my head, this is something that particular groups of people, and I’m gonna be perfectly honest with you here, that I tended to think that this was something that women struggled with.” And I know that’s totally sexist. Women, I apologize. It was wrong, but I tended to think that women did it. And sometimes, I thought that older people had a tendency to do it, especially older women. So that’s ageist, right? And so, I just confessed those sins of assumption before you right now. But I didn’t think that I struggled with it and yet, as I began to understand God’s heart towards this particular kind of toxic talk and to understand how God defines it, I began to realize I do struggle with that. That is actually something that’s a part of my life that I need to recognize, and I need to resist. And the talk that I’m talking about is gossip. It’s gossip.
Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible and turn with me to the Book of Proverbs, Chapter 16. We’re gonna be in verse 28 to start off today. And while you’re making your way to Proverbs 16:28, let me just say this, a little bit of a different series for us for the next few weeks. Typically, at Mission Hills, what we do is we unpack a passage of Scripture and we take it apart, make sure we understand all the pieces, then we put it back together and make sure we understand what it looks like to apply it in our lives. But the Book of Proverbs doesn’t really have passages. It has pearls, okay? It has pearls of wisdom. And so, we’re gonna have to jump around a little bit in the Book of Proverbs to get all of God’s wisdom regarding these particular kinds of toxic talk, especially our beginning with this one called gossip, okay?
So, Proverbs 16:28 says this about gossip. It says, ”A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Perverse person stirs up conflict and a gossip separates close friends. Now, let me give you a little kind of Bible hack here, actually, and that is that the Book of Proverbs is written in poetic form. And what that means is that it’s kind of stylized language and it’s not prose, meaning it’s not like, you know, the kind of written speech that you would do if you would kind of like trying to capture how you would talk out loud, okay? It’s a little bit fancier. It’s a little bit more sort of formal. It’s a little bit more stylized. And in Hebrew, poetry isn’t defined by rhyming. It’s not even actually defined by rhythm.
In Hebrew, poetry is defined by something called parallelism. And what that means is that if you look at a piece of Hebrew poetry, you’ll typically see two or more lines where one line kind of begins and it has some elements, and then the second, maybe even the third or the fourth line, then kind of repeat very similar ideas. Each of the ideas in the first line are paralleled by similar elements in the second or the third or the fourth. And often, it’s the case that you just have two, okay? And the most common way that you have that parallelism work out is what we call synonymous parallelism, which means that the second element that connects to the first one is very similar. It’s synonymous with the first one, but a lot of times, it expands it a little bit.
And when we recognize that form of writing, we look at this Proverb and it tells us immediately, whereas we recognize these parallel elements, it tells us two things about gossip that I think we got to grab a hold of right off the bat. And here’s what it tells us. It tells us that gossip is twisted talk that creates division. It’s twisted talk that creates division. In fact, can we just go back real quick and I’ll show you why it does that. It says a perverse person, and that’s paralleled by the word gossip, okay? So, gossip is…a gossip is a perverse person, and it says stirs up conflict and that’s paralleled by separates close friends. So again, gossip is twisted talk that creates division.
Why do I say it’s twisted talk? Well, because that’s what perversion means, right? It says that a gossip is a perverse person, and you need to set aside whatever it is that you’re picturing right now, because sometimes we hear the word perverse or perverted, and we have certain images that come to mind, but really, perverse or perverted literally just means that it’s bent, that it’s twisted, that it deviates from true, okay? Well, one of the ways to think about this is an arrow. See, for an arrow to work right, for an arrow does fly true and hit the target it was intended to, the shaft has to be perfectly straight. And in fact, if the shaft is bent, if it is twisted, if it is literally perverted, if it deviates from straight, then the arrow isn’t gonna fly straight. It’s not gonna fly through and it’s gonna end up doing something it was never intended to do. It’s gonna hit something it was never intended to do, and it’s gonna cause damage, where it’s never intended to cause damage.
And so what it’s interesting, the Proverb says is that a gossip is a kind of twisted talk. And what twisted thing does it do? Well, what does it say? It says that it separates close friends. It creates division and that’s not what talk is supposed to do. In fact, God gave us the tongue. God gave us our words so that we could do some really great things. He gave us our word so that we can praise him, okay? There’s power in that. He gave us words so we can encourage one another and there’s tremendous power in that. He gave us words so that we can communicate ideas and collaborate and figure out how to move forward together on mission with Jesus, extending God’s influence in the world. All of our words have the ability to do that. And ultimately, one of the biggest and highest goals of our talk of our tongues is to create unity, okay?
So our tongues can bring unity to our community, if they’re flying true. But if our words are not being used the way they’re intended, if they’re twisted, if they deviate, if they’re perverse, instead of bringing unity to the community, they bring division. That’s what he says, right? He says they separate close friends. Now, why? Why does gossip separates close friends? Well, basically it’s because gossip destroys trust. And you know this. You’ve experienced it, I’m quite certain. At some point in your life, either somebody has gossiped about you in which case, you stopped trusting them, or you have gossiped about somebody, in which case, they’ve stopped trusting you, okay? Gossip destroys trust.
But why? Why exactly does gossip destroy trust? Well, check this out. This is Proverbs chapter 20, verse 19. It says this, ”A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid anyone who talks too much.” A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid anyone who talks too much. That’s what a gossip does. We’re beginning to zero in here on exactly what gossip is. And I wanna just acknowledge for a moment that if you’re at all like me, before I began studying this, I really kinda tended to think about gossip in a way that wasn’t biblical. It wasn’t defined the way God does it. When I pictured somebody gossiping, I tended to picture somebody kind of, you know, going behind somebody’s back and then speaking something probably that was a lie, something that wasn’t true to, and that was designed to damage their reputation, was designed to hurt them or embarrass them in some way. That’s what I tended to think about gossip as being. But as I began to study it, I realized that that’s not quite true.
The reality is that gossip often involves true information that shouldn’t be shared. It just shouldn’t be shared. In fact, I think what this begins to tell us right here, when it says that a gossip betrays of a confidence, is that the best way to think about gossip is just this: gossip is making public which should have been kept private. That’s all it is. It’s making public what should have been kept private. It’s not necessarily a lie. In fact, I think typically, in the Bible, gossip isn’t a lie. Typically, it is true, and it’s not even always intended to bring harm to another person. Sometimes the harm comes inadvertently. It comes accidentally. But it comes because what should have been kept private ends up going public. It ends up going wide. That’s what gossip is.
And for me, at least, when I began to realize that, that’s when I had that light bulb moment where I realized I struggled with this kind of toxic talk. I absolutely do. Gossip is any time that we take something that should have been private and we go public with it. And when I say public, I don’t even necessarily mean like, you know, we splash it all over the internet, okay? I’m not talking about getting on YouTube and recording something that all your subscribers listened to or are posting it in a forum where you know lots of people read it. I’m not even talking about it really going far and wide. Really, when I talk about public, I just mean that you’re making it more public than it should have been. You’re in possession of some information that some people around you are not and you make it more public by giving it to them and you shouldn’t have done that. That’s all the gossip is.
And we do it for a lot of different reasons. It’s interesting to me that there’s actually three different Hebrew words that are translated as gossip, as a gossiping person. And if we look at those three Hebrew words, we find out some interesting insights into why it is I think that we gossip, okay? The first word is rakil and it really kind of translates to the informer. That’s the first kind of gossip, the informer. Hebrew word again, it’s rakil. And another way to translate it would be a teller of tales, a storyteller. This is a person who just has a deep-seated need to inform other people about something, okay? And then the reality is that sometimes we’re informing people about something that we’ve got no business informing them. We might do that for a lot of different reasons.
Sometimes we inform people because we like being the center of attention, right? And the reality is the gossip sells, right? You know that. When we start telling a story that we thought was interesting and people start kind of checking out, you know, you drop a little bit of gossip into that, a little bit of information that we have that they don’t have, and suddenly the attention perks up, right? I heard a comedian talking about this recently. I don’t even know who it was. I was listening on Pandora and it just popped through, but he’s…he was saying, ”Hey, little kids learn this real early on because, you know, when they’re telling stories, they’re all over the place and they’re starting and backing up and throwing in all these details. And adults are like, ”Oh my gosh, when are we gonna get to the point?” ”And then the kid drops in something like, “And I was at the playground,” blah blah blah, “and then I saw uncle Tommy and he was there with a woman that wasn’t his wife, but she was sitting on his lap.” And suddenly, as adults, we’re like, ”Whoa, what was that?” Right. And I think early on, we learn that people like that kind of stuff. And so sometimes we inform simply because we like to be the center of attention. Okay.
Sometimes we become the informers and we gossip because honestly it makes us feel good to be in the know. It makes us feel special to have information that not everybody else has. The problem with having information that npt everybody else has is they don’t know that we have it. So we kind of let them know that we have it. And then they know we’re special too, right? I struggle with that one.
I’ve got some friends that are mentoring me from really large churches. And sometimes because of that relationship, I find out, you know, there’s a new book coming out or something like that. And sometimes I find myself really tempted to drop that information. “Well, you know, this church is gonna do this.” Or, “Oh, you know, so-and-so’s got this book coming out.” And I’m not damaging their reputation, but the reality is I’m informing people about things that it really wasn’t my place to inform them about. And the reason I’m doing this because I kinda like them knowing that I’m in the know, right? So that’s another reason that we sometimes inform people about stuff. But the reality is just because you have information doesn’t mean that it’s your job to inform other people about that information. I’ve gotta be really careful about that here.
Here’s a question that I find that is important for me to ask myself. It’s this: Is it my place to share this information? Is it my place to share this info? Again, it doesn’t have to be bad information. It might actually be really good information. In fact, I’ll tell you a time that I succeeded, but I really, really struggled. I came that close to not succeed. And my youngest daughter, Lynae, she wanted a husky for the longest time. She was just like so obsessed with having a husky. She was so excited about it. And we said no for a long time. And then, by the Lord’s blessing, we were able to actually move into another house that had a little bit more room. And we thought, you know what, we’re gonna bless her. We’re going to say yes to her getting a husky and my wife and I decided to get her. Coletta and I decided together we were going to do that. And we talked about how to inform her together. And we decided we’re going to do it as a Christmas present. But we made that decision like two weeks before Christmas came. And I got to tell you, for like…for two weeks solid, like every time I saw her, and I was by myself, meaning my wife wasn’t there, I had like this deep seated need to inform my daughter. I was gonna tell her, “Oh, I just wanna let you know, this is gonna happen. Now, you got to keep it a secret.” And the only reason I wanted to do that was I wanted to be the hero. I wanted to be the one to get, to see her face light up because of information that I gave her, right?
So, you see, sometimes I… By the way, I didn’t, okay. And it made for an awesome moment that we were able to reveal that information together on Christmas morning, okay? But see, sometimes we become the informer, but just because we wanna be the hero, right. Maybe that’s something that you struggle with. So that’s that question, is it my place to reveal this information? That’s one kind.
Second kind of gossip is what I call the backroom whisperer, the backroom whisper. And then the Hebrew word for that is ragan, okay? And the idea here is this is typically…this is negative information about someone. And it’s usually shared for the purpose of damaging their reputation, either it’s to make them look worse or it’s to make you look better. And again, I’m not talking about false information, okay? False information technically is something called slander. We’ll actually pick that up a little bit later in this series. Gossip is no, it’s absolutely true, but by sharing it, you’re causing damage to the other person’s reputation or you’re making yourself look better. And I’ll be honest, I struggle with this motivation.
Not lot long ago, I actually found out that there’s a pretty well-known large church pastor in America that built just a massive multimillion-dollar home. I found that out and I shared it with some people. And I realized, as I was kind of preparing for this series, the reason I shared it was because I wanted them to have some questions about him. And the thing is, I don’t even know the guy. I’ve listened to his preaching; I think he’s an amazing communicator. I’ve actually learned from some of his messages, but there’s a part of me, I’ll just be honest with you, it’s insecure and it’s jealous. And that was an opportunity to maybe take him down a notch and maybe explain, you know, I would do it differently. That’s not how I would ever do it. So that puts me up a notch, right?
But the thing about a backroom whisper is that it’s whispered. In other words, it’s communication that you’re giving to people and you wouldn’t really wanna be identified as the source of that information. You’d be embarrassed if it came out that you’re the one who shared that, okay? And honestly, even if you could find it in a public forum, but you’re with people that didn’t know it, would you be okay if the person who is about found out that you’re the one who told those people, right? That’s a really important question. Would I be comfortable being identified as the source of this info? Would I be comfortable being identified as the source of this information? And if the answer is no, don’t share it. That’s gossip.
Third reason I think that we find ourselves leaning towards gossip or the third kind of gossip that you might struggle with is what I call the blabbermouth. And the Hebrew word for that is pathah. Okay. Now, it literally means one who just talks too much. They’re literally, actually, it’s a wide open one. Like there’s just no barriers. There’s no filters. It’s just out there, right? Okay. That’s the blabbermouth. And typically, people who gossip because they’re not being careful about their words, they’re not out to hurt somebody. They’re not even aware necessarily that the information they’re sharing could cause damage or a loss of trust or whatever it is. They’re not really thinking about it at all. The reality is they’re just speaking too quickly. They’re just speaking. And it’s just out there before they even know it. Or maybe they’re not even aware that they’ve said anything that’s a little bit questionable because they’re moving on to something else really quick, right? That’s the blabbermouth, that’s pathah.
Check this out. If you just look back up, we were joking about Proverbs 20:19. Look at it again. It says ”A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid anyone who talks too much.” Talks too much. The reality is sometimes we gossip having no idea that we’re doing it just because we’re not careful with our words. Another Proverb says this. This is Proverbs chapter 10, verse19, ”When words are many, sin don’t stop. But the wise man shuts his mouth.” By the way, if you’re wondering what is the CT translation, that is Craig’s translation? But it’s actually almost a very literal rendering of the original Hebrew. When words are many, sin don’t stop. Okay, sin doesn’t stop. Moving forward, sin doesn’t stop getting out there and spreading. Toxic talk doesn’t come to an end when words are many. Okay. But the wise man just shuts his mouth.
I actually love this, as a number of Proverbs, to speak about this principle, Proverbs 17:28 says, ”Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Man, I love that. Love it. You can apparently raise your IQ or at least your perceived IQ if you just talk less, if you just listen more. I think there’s probably a reason why James, we talked about back at the very beginning of this message, speaking about the power of the tongue also says this, he says, “Be slow to speak,” okay? So, the blabbermouth doesn’t necessarily have bad intentions. They’re just not careful. Because of that, they’re making public what should have been kept private.
So, here’s a key question. Does this need to be said or do I just need to say something? Because one of the main reasons that I struggle with this one, again, it’s not necessarily because I’m trying to hurt anybody or I’m trying to make myself look good. Sometimes I find myself tempted to do this kind of gossip simply because I’m in a situation where I just…I feel like I need to contribute. Maybe I’m hanging out with some guys. And sometimes, unfortunately, what happens is guys start talking about their wives, not necessarily really bad stuff. Just, “Oh, it’s so hilarious. She does this.” Or, “Do you guys have this issue going on?” You know, sometimes just light stuff. And sometimes I feel like, you know, gosh, if I don’t say something, I’m not one of the guys. And so like, “Oh yeah, you know, Coletta does this or that. Oh, how about this?” You know, and I…honestly, it’s not that I need to say it. It’s not that it helps the conversation. I just wanna be part of the conversation. And so I look for an opportunity to jump in and so I end up saying something, not because it needs to be said, but just because I needed something to say. That’s a really powerful question. Is this something that needs to be said or do I just need to say something? In which case, maybe say something different or maybe just don’t. Right?
Three kinds of gossips, right? Three kinds of gossips. Which one are you? Maybe take a moment right now. Even the person you’re watching this with, or maybe you’re watching at the same time as somebody around you that you can text with, maybe you text them and just say, “Hey, I think this one’s probably the big struggle for me.” Which one is it? Is it the informer? Is it the backroom whisperer or it’s the blabbermouth? I think most of us struggle with one or more of each of those three, but the reality is, whichever one it is, okay, it always has the same impact. Gossip destroys trust, okay? Gossip destroys trust and it builds a wall out of the rubble. That’s what gossip does. It creates division because it destroys trust and then it uses all the broken pieces of that trust to build a wall, a barrier between us and the other person. Okay. That’s why it’s so dangerous. It’s awful and yet, it’s addictive, right?
Gossip is hard to get away from. And as I said already today, sometimes we engage them without even thinking about it because it’s just almost automatic. Why is that? And I think, it’s because of what Proverbs 18:8 says, it says, ”The words of a gossip are like choice morsels.” They’re like the best bits of food. “And they go down to the inmost parts.” But there’s something about gossip that just triggers our reflex for give me more of that. And so we give people attention when they’re doing it. We get their focus when we’re doing it. And they want more. And that makes us feel good. And so it goes down like a choice morsel, like the best bits of food. It’s automatic, it’s easy, it’s addictive, but it’s awful.
In fact, the Apostle Paul, one of the early followers of Jesus, writing about a group of people, these are far from God, he said this. He said, ”These people have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, of murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invent ways of doing wrong.” These people who are far from God, and as he describes his people, one of the things he says about them is they’re gossips. It’s a pretty scary list of things for gossip to be found among, isn’t it? It’s a sobering reality for me.
The Apostle Paul also wrote this, talking to a church that he was hoping to come and visit soon because he heard they were having some real problems, and he wrote this, this is a 2 Corinthians 12:20. ”I am afraid that when I come, I may not find you as I want you to be and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord and jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.” Again, that’s a very serious list of sins, of poisons, of toxins, to find gossip among, but it belongs there. And many of us can speak to the reality of that. Either we’ve experienced its poison operating on us, or we have spread that poison and seeing the impact that it’s had on others. It’s poison. It is toxic talk.
So, what do we do? Well, at the risk of being a little bit cheesy, but in the interest of memorability, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna tell the toxic talk of gossip to scram, S.C.R.A.M. And we’re gonna tell the toxic talk of gossip to scram. And let me tell you this before we talk to you about what each of those letters means. Gossip is…it’s rooted in our sin nature, okay? And then that means that you don’t have the ability to just stop gossiping. You can’t just stop gossiping anymore than you can just stop sinning on your own. You can try and you might make some progress here and there, but this isn’t something you can accomplish on your own. This is only something that God can do.
In fact, you might remember back at the beginning, we read a verse from the Book of James that said that no human being can tame the tongue. You cannot remove gossip from your life. Only God can remove gossip from your life. Only God can remove the temptations from your heart that lead to gossip, okay? But one of the things the Bible teaches us as followers of Jesus is that we’re supposed to cooperate with the work of God in our lives. God’s given us the Holy Spirit, as followers of Jesus, he’s transforming us from the inside out, but we’re supposed to cooperate with his work in our lives. And when we cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit, we often see faster progress, okay? Only God can do this work, but we’re called to cooperate.
And so what we’re gonna do is we’re going to tell gossip to scram. What does the S mean? S means slow down. Slow down. As we saw, sometimes we gossip not because we’re being malicious, not because we’re trying to do damage, not because we’re trying to build ourselves up or anything like that, but just because we’re just not careful in our speech. So, we’re gonna slow down. Again, the Book of James says that we’re supposed to be slow to speak, slow to speak. So, we’re gonna slow down.
You might go, “Man, that’s tough. How do I do that?” Well, here’s a little life hack. Here’s a little life hack. Good habits leak. Good habits leak. And what I mean by that is if you establish a good habit in one area of your life where it’s easier to build a good habit, you’re gonna find that that good habit leaks out of that area and begins to affect other areas of your life where it might be a bit harder to establish, okay? So, it might be really difficult to figure out how to slow down when you’re just in the midst of talking to somebody. But all of us are constantly spewing language out there where we have a real easy built-in system for slowing down. That is that we text, right? And we write Facebook posts, or we write emails or Instagram comments, whatever it is.
So, here’s the thing. The next time that you type out some statement, whatever it is, no matter how long or short, the next time you type something out, don’t hit send. Just step away from it for two minutes, for five minutes, and then come back and read it again before you post it or before you hit send. Read it again and maybe ask some of these questions that we asked earlier on. Is there anything in here that I shouldn’t be sharing? In other words, is it my place to share this information? Is there anything in here that I’d be uncomfortable if somebody found out? In other words, would I be comfortable being identified as the source of this information? Or am I just saying this because I’m desperate to be heard? In other words, does this need to be said or do I just need something to say, okay? So, we’re gonna slow down. It’s the first thing we’re going to do.
Second thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna check our motives. We’re gonna ask ourselves, when I’m tempted to gossip, what exactly is it that motivates it, right? Am I the informer? I just wanna be listened to. I wanna feel good because I have inside information. What is it? Is it because I wanna tear somebody down? Do I gossip because I want to actually bring them down and not so I can bring myself up? Am I a backroom whisperer? Or am I just not careful? I’m just one of those blabbermouths, that my words just get out there and before I even realize it, they’ve done more damage than I ever would have thought that those words could possibly do because I didn’t think about them? Okay, what’s your motivation for gossip?
I think it’s what we identify that so that we can begin repenting of it, telling God, “God, I’m sorry. I find this in me. And I’m so sorry. Please work it out of me. Please do.” And then we can begin sort of recognizing it and working to resist as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to resist that particular temptation to gossip in our lives, okay?
R is to remember who we represent. We wanna kind of get in the habit of remembering that when I speak, it’s not just Craig. Okay. When I speak, it’s not just Craig and it’s not even Craig, the pastor of Mission Hills or Craig, the husband of Coletta. I’m a representative of Jesus Christ himself. I was made as God’s image, which means I was made to represent him in creation, extend his influence. I was redeemed by the blood of Jesus on the cross. And I’ve been privileged with the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with others, which means that they’re gonna see me and they’re gonna form an opinion of who Jesus is based on what they see and hear from me. And that’s true of you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, that is true of you. So, you need to remember who you represent. That becomes a powerful sort of resistant to the temptation to gossip. Okay.
A, avoid tempting situations. As you begin to identify what motivates you to gossip, the next thing to do is to identify those situations where you’re most likely to do it. Is it when you’re in the comments on Facebook? Is it when you’re texting with somebody late at night? Is it when you’re in a small group of people that you feel a little bit insecure around? Okay, identify that situation where you’re most likely to give into the temptation. And then, as much as possible, avoid that temptation, at least until you’ve gotten a handle on this gossip thing. Avoid that situation that’s most tempting, until maybe you’re in a better place or maybe never go back into that situation. Sometimes that’s what you have to do to avoid spreading this kind of toxic talk.
And then finally M, make it a team effort. Make it a team effort. We’re not called to do anything by ourselves. We’re herd animals. God made us that way. So one of the most powerful things you can do, if you wanna get a handle on the toxic talk of gossip, is actually to enlist some people that are close to you, that hear, you may be in a variety of settings and say, ”Hey, I’ve realized I have a tendency to do this. I have a tendency to go public with what should have been kept private. And I don’t wanna do that anymore. So would you help me?” Maybe you come up with a safe word and every time you think maybe you’re heading down or they think you’re heading down that road, they’re gonna give you that safe word, or they’re gonna pinch you from behind, or they’re gonna just suddenly burst in and, like, get it in the way of anything that you were saying. You know, I don’t know, I’m kinda joking there, but the point is get some people around you that can help you do this. And if you have somebody you’re tempted to gossip to on a regular basis, talk to that person and say, ”I need to get a handle on this. So, when I start doing this, please, please call me on it.”
Why is this so important? Well, not only is gossip toxic, but the reality is that when we begin to get a handle on it, we actually begin to foster something much, much, much better. And that’s this. Listen, when we keep private what should not be made public, we foster peace. When we keep private what should not be made public, we foster peace. We foster peace between us and others, and we foster peace between others and others. And that’s a powerful thing that we need to be pursuing, okay? So we’re gonna get a handle on this.
Some questions for you. Question number one. How can I slow my speech? Give some thought to that. What can you do to make your speech a little bit slower? Number two, what motivates me to gossip? Get a handle on that, okay? What motivates you to gossip? Number three, how can I remind myself of who I represent? What can you do? Maybe some of you put on your mirror on your phone or reminder but remind yourself on a regular basis that as a follower of Jesus, you represent Jesus and your speech does too. So how can you remind yourself of who you represent? Four, when am I most tempted to gossip? You’re gonna identify those things. And then number five, who can I ask to help me cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in my life on this issue?
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, who can do in us what we could never do on our own, including remove the toxic talk of gossip from our lives and our relationships. Let’s ask them to do exactly that. Would you join me in prayer?
Holy Spirit, we thank you. You are a gift to us from God, our Father. And we know that you were aware of our temptations and our tendencies to gossip, as well as aware of all the damage that it causes. Lord, we cannot accomplish on our own the necessary work of removing this toxic talk from ourselves. So Holy Spirit, we invite you to have your way with us, do your work in us to remove this toxic talk. We’ll cooperate as best as we can. We ask for forgiveness for all the ways that we’ve been public with what should have remained private, we’ve broken trust and created barriers and caused division. We ask for your forgiveness. We invite you to transform our language, our words, so that gossip is no longer part of our vocabulary.
If you wanna use your words for something really powerful right now, would you just begin speaking to God? Would you just begin praying to God? You’re gonna pray and you’re gonna ask him to do this. You’re gonna ask him to speak to the hearts of those who are listening right now, all over the world, who don’t have a relationship with this God that we’re talking about. They don’t have the Holy Spirit in them because they don’t have a relationship with God, the Father. Would you just begin praying for them right now? And if that’s you, let me just speak to you for a moment.
Gossip is going public with what should have been kept private. I’m not gonna gossip. I’m gonna do the exact opposite right now. I’m gonna make sure that you know publicly news that cannot be kept private and it’s this: God loves you. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you. That’s who Jesus is. He’s the Son of God. He came, he lived the perfect life, and he willingly went to the cross and he died as a sacrifice for our sins, to pay for all the wrong we’ve ever done, for all the harm that we’ve ever done with our words, with our deeds, with all of it. He died on the cross and he paid for all of it. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And having risen from the dead, he offers us forgiveness, salvation. Instead of being far from God, we can be drawn near to God, have a relationship with God. And as I said, the Holy Spirit who comes inside us and begins to transform us in ways we could never do on our own.
If you’ve never begun a relationship with God through trust in what Jesus did on the cross for you, you can have that right here, right now. Here’s what you’re going to say. The most powerful thing you’ll ever do with your words, right now, wherever you are, you’re gonna say this to God. Would you just say this after me?
God, I have done wrong. I admit it. I have sinned and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place. Thank you for loving me enough to do that for me. I believe you rose from the dead and I trust that you’re offering me forgiveness now. I’m ready to accept your forgiveness. Jesus, I’m gonna follow you. I commit my life to following you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.