Monday, February 17, 2014

What Is Gossip and What Do I Do With It?

We've only made it through chapter 1 of James in our Sunday series, but we've already seen repeatedly that James has much to say about the tongue (see 1:9-10, 13, 19, 26; 2:3, 12, 14, 18; 3:1-12; 4:11-12, 13, 15-16; 5:9, 12). Our speech, as Jesus said (Luke 6:45), reveals our hearts.

One of the sins of the tongue that James is aiming to kill is gossip.

What is Gossip? 

Kent Hughes gives some wise guidance in his excellent book, Disciplines of a Godly Man (HT: JT):  
Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face. Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.

Let's "receive the word with meekness" and take aim with James at our own hearts and speech.

Prov 26:20-23:
For lack of wood the fire goes out, and
where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. 

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart.

So, how do you know if what you want to say is gossip? As you examine your own heart, apply the "face" rule and the golden rule:
The "face" rule: If you wouldn't say it to their face, don't say it to someone else's face.
The golden rule: Would I want someone to say this about me to someone else?

And how do you know if what another says to you is gossip? What do you do when someone begins to feed you gossip morsels?

Hear and heed this wisdom from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:
What is gossip? It is not necessarily false information. Slander is false. Gossip might include true information, and maybe that’s why gossip doesn’t always feel sinful. What makes it sin is, first and foremost, that God says it’s sin. But gossip spreads what can include accurate information to diminish another person. That is not how people behave when they are living in the power of the grace of God.
What should we do when a conversation starts slipping into gossip? We should immediately challenge the sin: “Hey friend, sorry to interrupt, but this is gossip. So here’s the deal. This conversation is now on hold until you go get _________, and then you can start over and say whatever you feel you must say right to his face. I am willing to be a witness to that conversation, but I will not participate in gossip. What do you choose to do?” Amy Carmichael established this rule at her mission station: “Never about, always to.
And his fitting conclusion: 
“Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26). Therefore, let’s always ask ourselves, “These words about to rise up out of my mouth or go out through my keyboard – do they build up? Am I being constructive? If the person I feel like discussing were here with me right now, how would his presence change what I feel like saying?”

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