The Cure for Gossip
Dr. Jim Denison
Some of you are new to our city. In the interest of public safety, I wish to help. A friend recently sent me a set of driving rules for Dallas. You’ll find them essential, I think.
If your Mapsco is more than a few weeks old, throw it away and buy a new one. If you’re in Denton County and your Mapsco is one day old, it is already obsolete.
There is no such thing as a high-speed chase in Dallas. We all drive like that.
Morning rush hour is from 6 to 10; evening rush hour is from 3 to 7. Friday’s rush hour begins Thursday night.
If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended, yelled at and possibly shot.
If someone actually has his or her turn signal on, it’s probably a factory defect.
f. Roads change names without reason. For instance, Lake Highlands Drive, when it crosses Northwest Highway, becomes Plano Road. It is then Avenue K, Greenville Avenue, and Highway 5 before ending in Sherman.
It is possible to be driving west in the northbound lane of East Northwest Highway. Do not let this confuse you.
You can tell who your enemies are when driving in Dallas: they’re everyone else. When you’re out of your car, it’s not so obvious. At least not to you. They don’t talk to you, just about you.
A “Dear Abby” column once carried this essay: “My name is Gossip. I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cunning and malicious, and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted the more I am believed. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I am nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same. Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip.”
What do we do about gossip? Social psychologist Nicholas Emler has concluded that gossip forms as much as 80% of a normal person’s conversation in a day. What cures this disease of the tongue and the soul? Jesus will tell us today.
Admit that gossip is wrong (vs. 1-2)
He begins: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
The word “judge” means subject someone to harsh, sharp, unjust criticism, in a habitual way.
The words are a present tense imperative: never judge. Stop judging. No exceptions, conditions, or loopholes. Don’t do it.
This prohibition applies to all unjust criticism. But typically we criticize people in their absence more than in their presence; we slander and gossip.
We need to know that we will be criticized by others as we are doing to them now: “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (v. 2). If someone will gossip about you to me, they will gossip about me to you.
And we need to know that God is paying attention to our slander and gossip:
“Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure” (Psalm 101:5).
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke12:2-3).
So refuse to speak about those who are not present.
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15).
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 2:1).
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:12-13).
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
Jim Cymbala is pastor of the remarkable Brooklyn Tabernacle and best-selling author of spiritual books. His church has grown from 20 to more than 7,000, in one of the harshest environments in America. He credits the unity of the church as one of its keys to experiencing the power of God. In that light, Jim says that when his church receives new members, his final charge to them is:
“Never slander or gossip about another member. If you ever hear somebody talking about a person not present, if you ever hear a critical word about the pastor of the church or a choir member or an usher, we charge and authorize you to stop that person in his tracks. Say to him, ‘Excuse me, has Pastor Cymbala hurt you? An usher hurt you? They’ll apologize. Come with me right now to the pastor’s office, or I’ll make an appointment for you. The pastor will bring whoever hurt you, and if necessary they’ll kneel before you and apologize. But we won’t permit talking behind their backs, slander, or gossip. We can’t be going to the prayer meeting and calling on God, ‘Lord, come in power!’ and then during the week be grieving the Holy Spirit by gossip and phone calls.”
Admit that gossip is wrong. This is the first step to its cure.
Confess your own sins (vs. 3-5)