Gossiping and backbiting have become so much an acceptable part of society today that most of the times it isn’t even considered a sin but a harmless conversation about the private affairs or character of a person behind their back. The reasoning? After all, it physically harms no one, is entertaining and fulfills a basic human mental and emotional need. In fact, the art of gossip has developed and become so subtle over the years, even to where it is often unidentifiable and doesn’t even prick the conscience anymore (or could it be that our conscience has become immune to it).
Is engaging in gossip indeed harmless? or is it even more dangerous than we ever imagined it to be?
This is what SOP says regarding it.
“Gossip reveals a lack of true culture and refinement, and of true goodness of heart; it unfits one both for the society of the truly cultured and refined in this world, and for association with the holy ones of heaven.”
“We think with horror of the cannibal who feasts on the still warm and trembling flesh of his victim; but are the results of even this practise more terrible than are the agony and ruin caused by misrepresenting motive, blackening reputation, dissecting character?”
‘“In the Scriptures, backbiters are classed with the haters of God, “with inventors of evil things,” with those who are “without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful,” “full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity.” It is “the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.” ‘ The Signs of the times March 1, 1905
Wow! Imagine, spiritually, the results of gossiping are considered even more dangerous than cannibalism.
Remember “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” Proverbs18:21
Although as Christians we are aware of the ill effects of gossiping, yet, we must admit, we find it extremely difficult to overcome.
The following is a powerful tool from the scriptures which I have found helpful in dealing with this vice.
Consider the story of the woman caught in adultery. (John 8: 3-11)
I find similarities and parallels between this incident and the act of gossiping or backbiting.
This classic incident involves five parties.
First–The woman caught in adultery–The Victim or accused
Second–Those accusing and wanting to stone her–The accusers or prosecutors
Third–The crowd who stood by silently witnessing the event- The silent witnesses
Fourth–Jesus–The advocate or defendant
Fifth–The Father in heaven – The Judge
Interestingly, this aptly fits a courtroom setting.
The five parties being; the accused, the prosecutor, the defendant, the witnesses, and the Judge.
We might not be aware that every time we engage in backbiting, unknowingly we are taking part in a spiritual judgement proceeding. What party we belong to is determined by what role we choose to undertake, during which obviously the person who is the target of backbiting is the victim and not present at the scene.
So, we can either choose to be one of the following four parties.
The most popular being the second party- the accusers. This role could involve mocking, ridicule, character assassination, misrepresenting intentions and actions, sarcasm, prying into personal and intimate affairs, etc.
But beware! The next time you have the urge to indulge in gossiping, remember this:
We are stepping into the very shoes of the Satan and exhibiting his character, who is “the accuser of our brethren” who accuses “them before our God day and night.” Rev 12:10,
Why do we gossip?
The bottom line is that it makes us feel good about ourselves. We think ourselves better than the other person by highlighting their faults and weaknesses. This attitude is completely contrary to the counsel of the scriptures: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” Philippians 2: 3
Humility is the key. When we gossip, we nurture a heart of pride. This is a harsh fact regardless of whether we accept it.
Under any circumstances, gossip is still not justifiable or permissible, even if the facts discussed were completely true. The accusers of the woman caught in adultery had caught her in the act and were merely following the penalty imposed consequently on violation of the seventh commandment under the old covenant (or “according to the law of Moses”, as they framed it), yet Jesus intervened on her behalf.
And what did Jesus do?
“He stooped, and fixing His eyes upon the ground, began to write in the dust. There, traced before them, were the guilty secrets of their own lives.” DA 264,
What happened next is remarkable. Their expression suddenly changed as they regarded the writing on the ground with astonishment and shame.
Here again is a powerful lesson. The moment we shift our focus from another person to our own self, our sins, our faults, our guilty secrets, our weaknesses, our character defects, our shortcomings; the desire and the need to gossip will automatically die. “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” Proverbs 26:20.
The next party is the crowd of silent witness. There could have been many among them who were sympathetic towards the woman. In the spiritual realm, the silent witnesses are the angels of God, who are always present to witness the events.
The most dangerous role undertaken is when we take the position of passing judgement on others. Accusing is one thing but passing judgement is literally seating yourself on the judgement seat which rightfully belongs only to God. Indulging in negative facts or unwarranted rumours is bad enough but when we pass judgement on other’s characters and actions, then we are stepping on to a different level.
How can we even entertain the thought of assuming the judgement throne of God and sit in the judgement seat against our own brethren? There is only one person in the entire universe who has the audacity to do that. “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:4
‘ “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Do not think yourself better than other men, and set yourself up as their judge. Since you cannot discern motive, you are incapable of judging another. In criticizing him, you are passing sentence upon yourself; for you show that you are a participant with Satan, the accuser of the brethren. The Lord says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” This is our work. “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”’2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Corinthians 11:31. DA 173
Dear Brethren, let us choose to be a defendant and an advocate and follow the example set by our Lord Jesus. We ourselves are sinners and imperfect and definitely in no way eligible to point out or highlight the defects in our brethren. Remember, even though Satan accuses us day and night before our heavenly Father, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” 1 John 2:1
So let us accordingly stand boldly on behalf of our brethren, even as Moses stood as an advocate on behalf of the sinful Israelites. And in the great judgement day we should have gained the experience of being an advocate and thus eligible to sing the song of Moses and the lamb. (Rev 15: 3)
The accusers (pharisees and scribes) brought the woman to Jesus to see what he would do?
Next time you are presented with a similar situation which provokes you to engage in gossiping and backbiting, remember this courtroom imagery and consider which party you choose to be a part of.
Be a defendant and an advocate of your brethren.
And always, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5