July 8

Gossip, Part 2

Proverbs 17:4 An evildoer gives heed to false lips; a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.

Proverbs 26:20 Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.

While we may be diligent to not spread gossip ourselves, the presence of gossip around us may cause it and its effects to come our way. There are two responses we should make: We should guard against it in the first place, and then, once we hear it, we need to know what to do and not to do.

Proverbs 26:20 (above) tells us that the lack of wood causes the fire to go out, or to not even start in the first place. We need to position ourselves not to hear gossip, both deep in our hearts as a conviction, and as part of our public personality. What’s your reputation? Are you one whom people tend to share gossip with? If so, it’s because they know you’ll listen. If you don’t tend to listen to gossip, people are much less inclined to share it with you.

Scripture is quite strong in describing those who listen closely to gossip, and enjoy listening to it. The Bible calls them evildoers and liars—harsh terms. The problem with gossip is that we often don’t know what is the fruit of “false lips,” and we often don’t see evidence of a “spiteful tongue.” So “giving heed” and “listen[ing] eagerly” can be a trap for us if the information isn’t presented truthfully and righteously, and if the intention of the talebearer is less than honorable. Add to that the fact that tales go into the inmost body automatically (see yesterday’s devotional), and we see that gossip can be terribly damaging to the hearer as well as the talebearer.

Once we hear gossip, we have an unfortunate responsibility. If we realize that we listened eagerly, we have to repent and ask forgiveness. If we heard it with a good and open heart, we still need to acknowledge that something has gone deeply into us—the kind of thing it takes the power of God (and not mind over matter) to get out. Gossip is like an ugly irritant that grows a deformed pearl of judgment unless it’s removed. We need to bring what we’ve heard before the Lord, and ask Him to take it out of our hearts. (Don’t tell yourself that hearing something negative won’t make a difference in how you think or feel about someone—that’s simply not true in the long run.) If the result is judgment against another person, repent and ask God to bless that person.

If you’ve spread gossip and found out later that it wasn’t true, you need to make it right by going back and setting the record straight. If you tend to be a gossiper, that’s a lot of people and a lot of work. The good news is that if you’re not, there’s very little work to be done!

Let’s determine that as far as gossip is concerned, “the fire goes out” and “strife ceases” with us.

Prayer: Lord, help me to do the work that needs to be done when I’ve received gossip, either happily or accidentally. Even when I’ve been “slimed” by gossip, let me do what needs to be done to destroy its effect. Let the fire die in me that strife will cease with me.

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