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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Loose talk

Mark 7:20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (ESV, emphasis added. "He" is Jesus.)

The Bible has a lot to say about sins of communication, including slander
and gossip. The Wikipedia (accessed July 4, 2009) says this about gossip: "Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It forms one of the oldest and most common means of sharing (unproven) facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and other variations into the information transmitted. The term also carries implications that the news so transmitted (usually) has a personal or trivial nature, as opposed to normal conversation."

The Wikipedia (accessed on the same date) says this about slander: "slander refers to a malicious, false and defamatory spoken statement or report . . ."

The Bible condemns both of these, but there is some difference. Slander may be a crime, and it involves deliberate spreading of falsehoods. Gossip is talking too freely about the personal affairs of others. Much of what passes for news, in this day and time, also constitutes gossip. Was, for instance, the pervasive media coverage of the crimes connected with the Watergate affair, or of former President Clinton's activity with Monica Lewinsky, or of the adulterous affair of current (so far) South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford news or gossip? Why was I interested in these matters? To be an informed citizen, or because I wanted to hear about all the dirty details, and, especially, to hear speculation about more possible revelations? It's hard to say, but I'm afraid that I haven't always paid attention to the news for good reasons.

It seems clear that exactly when talk becomes gossip is difficult to pin down. We surely may be legitimately concerned about people, and share these concerns when asking for prayer. But we have no business circulating statements about the private affairs of other people just to have something to say, at least not when those statements do not portray those people in a positive way. (It may not just be to have something to say -- we may be passing on gossip so as to receive some of the same in return, and have an unhealthy, and sinful interest in gossip.)

The New Testament condemns
slander in at least these passages, besides the quotation above: (Matthew 15:19, Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8, 2 Peter 2:1) Gossip is forbidden in 1 Timothy 5:13 and 2 Corinthians 12:20.

Romans 1 condemns both slander and gossip: 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (ESV, emphasis added.)

2 Corinthians 12:20 also condemns both, although not in quite as strong a language as Paul used in Romans 1:
20: For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (ESV, emphasis added.)

I close with this statement from the Proverbs:
11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. (ESV)

God help me. Thanks for reading.

4 comments:

i am Grateful... Kerry i am. said...

Mind-provoking thoughts Martin... Thanks for the heart-searching interpretations and for pointing out these realities. I pray "search my heart oh God..." ALL JOY! kerry

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comments, Kerry i am.

FancyHorse said...

It is good to be reminded that what we consider the "little" things are still sin in God's eyes, just as much as the "biggies" like murder, adultery, etc. When we point the finger at someone else, we have three pointed back at ourselves!

That last verse seems like it would be easy to misinterpret: "Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered."
There are some things that shouldn't be kept covered.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, FancyHorse. I think Paul would agree with you.