27 Scoundrels create trouble; their words are a destructive blaze. 28 A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.
Which words do you think are the absolute worst? A lot of church people would argue “damn” is a bad word and GD is the absolute worst (even though both are in the Bible). Using God’s name to damn someone or something is strong language. Others might say the F-word is the absolute worst—and for many years it was banned from TV and movies even though Ret Butler could tell Scarlett O’Hara in 1939 “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” in the major motion picture “Gone with the Wind”. However, if you polled the nation as a whole in 2021, you would likely find the absolute worst words you can use are racial slurs. GD and F-bombs are dropped all the time—even on television—but saying the N-word will get you fired or even ruin your career.
100 years ago, wrong or right, the N-word was used freely and openly by people of all colors in social settings. Even US presidents like Woodrow Wilson, Lindon B Johnson, Harry Truman, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt unashamedly used the N-word. It just wasn’t considered a bad word 60 years ago.[i] Things are different today. Celebrities like Paul Dean have had their careers disrupted or ruined because of the N-word. Even Madonna—who made a career of scandalous, unapologetically provocative behavior—had to issue an apology a few years ago for using the N-word.
In the 1600s, the foulest words you could use were swear words associated with God’s name. Swearing by "God’s bones" or "God’s blood" was considered extremely taboo and not to be used in polite company. Such foul language was fit only for sailors and pirates. (Incidentally, the term “bloody” in the UK, as in “You bloody bastard!” may have descended from the swear “By God’s blood!” which eventually shortened to “bloody” and is still considered quite offensive in the England.)
One term we use today to “pretty up” our cussin’ is the word “darn”. Where did the word darn come from? Do we say it just because it sounds sort of like damn? Darn actually evolved down through the centuries from a phrase used in 16th century swearing, “Eternal damnation”. “Eternal damnation” got shortened to “tarnation” (used by miners and cowboys out west: “Tarnation, these misquitos are eating me alive!”). Then, “tarnation” was shortened again to just “tarn” and then that became “darn”. What started out as one of the most offensive things you could say in the 16th century has now become a rather inert word that might be used by Ned Flanders sort of folk. Can you imagine Ret Butler telling Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a darn.” It just doesn't have the same punch.
Putting Pearl Earrings in a Pigs Ear
We like to pretty up our words to make them more palatable. For instance, we don’t eat pig; we eat pork. Pig is English; pork comes from French and Latin. I guess pork taste better to us than pig. The same rule applies for hamburgers. We don’t eat cow; we eat beef because beef was originally the French/Latin word and so “100% all beef patty” sounds more appetizing than “100% all cow patty”. I guess if you give food a fancy name, it’s easier to swallow. Snails become escargot. Squid becomes calamari. It’s the same animal, but if you give it a French name on the menu, people will pay top dollar for it. If you call it by the English animal name, it's fish bait.
And that brings me to another form of foul language people try to pretty up—gossip.
Gossip is one of the vilest forms of speech that comes from human lips, but—ironically—it is the one that’s most common and accepted in polite society. If you come into a church dropping F-bombs and GD, even the most accommodating congregation will soon escort you out the door. However, gossip is often runs wild in churches. This despite the extensive prohibitions against gossip throughout the Bible.
Leviticus 19:16 - Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.
Proverbs 11:13 - A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.
Proverbs 16:28 - A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.
Proverbs 17:4 - Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.
Proverbs 20:19 - A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.
Proverbs 25:23 - As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!
Proverbs 26:20 - Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.
I could go on, but it would take too long.
I could go on, but it would take too long.
Just based off the number of times the Bible speaks negatively about gossip, you would think Christians would be far more concerned about gossip than cuss words. I think Jesus and the apostles would be.
In Romans, the Apostle what Paul listed gossip right alongside some of the most despicable sins.
29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents.
Notice, Paul lists gossip among such despicable sins as murder and hating God. Wow!
You need to understand, destructive, sinful, disgusting language is not limited to so called “foul language”. When people gossip, they are speaking in ways repugnant to God—even if they use polite acceptable words. Gossip is hurtful and offensive and God hates it.
Definition of Gossip
The dictionary definition of gossip is “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” That’s the technical definition, but gossip is sneaky language that easily disguises itself in our conversations. If we don’t clearly understand the nature of gossip, we may engage in gossip without even knowing we are doing so. Also understand that not everything people label as gossip is gossip. Sometimes, people are just ashamed and if you say anything about their shameful conduct, they will accuse you of gossip. Sometimes we do need to talk about each other's business; that's part of what living together in authentic community means.
It's important to now what is and what isn't gossip. So, here are seven questions that may help you decide if it's gossip.
Is it Gossip?
1. How Certain am I that the information is factually correct?
If it's not true or only partially true and you are spreading it, you are a gossip. Don't do it. Sometimes, however, we don't intend to gossip. Maybe we're
2. Was the info given in confidence?
If someone shared something with you in confidence (or assumed confidence), then it's a terrible form of gossip to share that with others. Deep meaningful relationships are only possible if people know they can trust you to keep a confidence. Sometimes people need to share something with you and ask for help or maybe even just vent. They need to trust you won't turn around and share that with others. One reason gossip is so evil is it erodes our ability to have deep, meaningful relationships with other people. We end up angry, hurt, and isolated and the whole community it damaged.
3. Is this important enough to share?
Not everything you hear si important enough to share. Just because something is interesting, fascinating, or juicy doesn't make it important. Is someone's life or spiritual/emotional/physical health at jeopardy if you remain silent? Is it truly important or are you just wanting the enjoyment of talking about this situation? Be honest.
4. Am I telling the story to build others up in Christ?
Sometimes we do need to talk about each others business when it means building each other up in Christ. In the Church, your business is my business if it is about growing in Christ. But gossip is not about building each other up in Christ. Gossip is about derive our entertainment at the expense of someone else's situation and it's distrusting. I can often tell when someone is about to share gossp with me; they get a certain gleam in their eye. I don't like to gossip, but I love to eat a good steak. I get a gleam in my eye when I'm about to eat a juicy ribeye. When someone who loves gossip is about to share it, you can almost see the same gleam in their eye. They've got something juicy to tell and they can't wait to devour it. It's disgusting. Most church people would agree pornography is distrusting. I want everyone to understand that gossip is just as distgusting.
As I said before, it's not necessarily gossip if keeping quiet could truly hurt someone. However, we need to be honest in answering this question. Are we truly trying to protect someone or are we making an excuse to give us the opportunity to have the pleasure of talking about someone else's business?
6. What is my motive for telling this particular person about it?
7. Have I prayed about it?
Ask God whether you should talk or remain silent. Consider: if Jesus were sitting in the room with you during the conversation, would he be pleased with what you're saying? The fact is, Jesus is there. He is not pleased when we gossip.
If you are prone to gossip, everyone you talk to likely knows you will talk the same way about them when they're not around. You don't want to be known as a gossip. People want to feel like you have their back, not that you're always talking behind their back.
Gossip is poison—even though it taste sweet. It destroys the person who shares it, harms people who hear it, and hurts people about whom we gossip. Gossip is a deadly evil.
If you are more concerned about “cussing” in the world outside the church than you are about gossip in the church, then you need to check yourself. You need to pray to the Lord for forgiveness for the times you engage in the evil of gossip. You need to repent and make a commitment to clean up your foul language or else you may be in danger of eternal damnation.
How we use words matters. Our words can either build up and bring life or tear down and bring death. Let us pray our words bring life instead of death.
Father, forgive us for using foul language, especially when disgusting gossip was disguised as pretty words. Help us to be honest, faithful, gracious, and loving when we talk to and about one another. Help our most important motive be love and to build one another up in Christ. Father, You created the whole universe with words; You spoke and it was. You made us in Your image and gave us powerful words to speak. Forgive us for deforming Your image by speaking words that bring darkness and death. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we may speak words of light and life from this day forward. Amen.