Did You Hear About…
For those who are blessed to call Southeast Michigan their home, the greatest home-town blessing of all may be located inside a simple structure on the east side of Woodward Avenue south of downtown Pontiac. You have to get there early, before they are all gone. I’ve learned through years of experience that the sweet spot is right between 6:45am and 7:10am when the first few trays come out of the back before the longing flocks of humanity descend on the targets of their carb-laden happiness.
Of course, I’m referring to the legendary apple fritters of Avon Donuts. Blessed is the person who can delight in these fritters. They are irresistible.
They are also terrible for you. Our lawyers required me to state that consuming apple fritters, as I may have just encouraged you to do, will absolutely lead to the detriment of your health. Please, ignore our lawyers. In part, because I made that part up. But also, because Avon’s apple fritters are worth the harm, they cause.
Which is the same reasoning, I suppose, that we employ with more than the food we consume with our mouths. We enjoy the sweet savor of the words we assemble in conversations and digital platforms to gossip, even though those words ruin our souls.
Proverbs 26:22 says the “words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels.”
In other words, gossiping is similar to a donut. Each story, real or not, is like a delicious morsel that you just HAVE to grab, HAVE to enjoy, HAVE to be around. We love the scoop, the power, the relational equity, and the attention that gossip brings.
Gossip is destructive and sinful, according to God’s Word. If we continue hanging out in the book of Proverbs- we can see the wisdom that:
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
So how do we know when we’re gossiping or sharing with others? I love the definition that Matthew Mitchell uses in his powerful little book Resisting Gossip. Matthew defines it like this:
“Gossip is sharing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.”
Sometimes I think we blow past a definition like that without examining how many ways our lives intersect with its truth. To break it down some, we gossip when we actively share bad news. Perhaps that would be talking with a friend, texting, posting a hot take, or infamous in Christian circles, sharing a “prayer request” that throws someone under the proverbial bus. If it’s negative news we’re sharing and we’re doing it a context where the target isn’t there to receive or defend themselves, then it’s likely that we grabbed a box of soul-crushing donuts and started chomping.
Scripture takes this participation to the extreme. Proverbs 17:4 states, “An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.”
So, in this light, even actively encouraging the sharing of bad news by listening to or receiving bad news behind someone’s back would be as harmful as sharing the gossip! You may not be the person at the lunch appointment sharing gossip, but if we give an audience to gossip it’s just as bad!
To finish working through Mitchell’s definition, though, I think it’s very insightful to meditate on the fact that “Gossip is sharing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.”
Gossip happens because there is something wrong at the core of us. Jesus said that “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). The thoughts, emotions, will, and hopes of our heart determine what comes out through our words.
What would your words about others be saying about the state of your heart?
With a good counselor, Pastor, or wise friend, we could all spend a long time working through that thought. And it matters. Because in light of the gospel, Jesus living and dying in our place, for our sins; and our response by repenting of our sin and believing in Him — we are given a new heart, a new nature, in the likeness of God’s love and heart for others. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we ought to feed and exercise our hearts and mouths towards encouragement and kindness, truth saturated with love, and hope oriented around the joy of new life in Christ.
God knows everything we say, and we must give an account to Him about it! We need to do something about the delicious problem of gossip. We can start by submitting to the Spirit’s leading through the Word:
1️⃣ Choose to believe the best of even our enemies.
1 Cor. 13:7- Love believes all things, love hopes all things
2️⃣ Choose to say nothing at all about that pesky individual.
Proverbs 17:27 — Whoever restrains his words has knowledge
3️⃣ Choose to say something good.
Ephesians 4:29 — say what is good for building others up
4️⃣ Choose to Talk TO Someone, not ABOUT them.
Matthew 18:15 — “go and show him his fault.”
We all can do something about the problem of gossip. Whether it is being more intentional and aware of what we say, or by stepping in and standing up to people who are sharing bad news behind someone’s back in a manner that seems motivated by an evil heart.
This challenge would be even more impossible than resisting your favorite bakery item. Still, having been resurrected with Christ to walk in the new life He purchased for us, we can allow our words to give life to those who hear, instead of spreading rot from within.
Ultimately, we get to tell not of the shortcomings of other image-bearing souls, but of the day when there will be no more bad news of which to speak. That is our story to tell. That is our song to sing. May our hearts, heads, and words be so full of the praise of our conquering King, that no space remains for morsels of decay.