What the Bible says about Gossip and False Witness
Our poor choice of words offends God and is sinful
What is Gossip?
In short, gossip is any communication that hurts people. “The words of a talebearer/gossiper are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” Proverbs 18:8.
What does God say about Gossip?
Romans 1:29 tells us that those who gossip will not inherit the Kingdom of God. God is generous and allows us to repent and any gossip behavior will be forgiven. If you have gossiped or created false witness ask God to forgive you. Gossip is compared in severity with such sins as homosexuality, murder, inventors of evil, and haters of God. Clearly, we are to aggressively guard the body of Christ against gossip.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification that may give grace to those who hear it” Ephesians 4:29.
“A soothing tongue is life to the body, but perversion in it crushes the spirit” Proverbs 15:4.
“From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be this way” James 3:1.
“An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire” Proverbs 16:27. What happens to the victim of accusations? These accusers – this lynch mob of tongues – charge him, convict him and condemn him to death! Accusation is a deadly gossip.
Gossip slanders neighbors. It destroys a person’s character or personal reputation. But beware! He who lives by the sword of slander shall die by the sword of slander. “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy” (Psalm 10:1) – additional proof that God considers gossip severe sin to “destroy” those who gossip.
Gossip talks indiscreetly. People who spread gossip say just anything that comes into their minds. They do not engage their minds before they engage their tongues. They do not evaluate what they are about to say or its effect on others. “A serpent may bite when it is not charmed; the babbler is no different” Ecclesiastes 10:11.
The apostle Paul warns in Gal 6:7, 8 – “Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.” (We may reap more than what we have sown – like a boomerang – it comes back to us.)
Human nature greedily swallows gossip. God warns here that gossip is never superficial but that we thoroughly assimilate it to become part of us. Lies about others die hard because, in our vanity, we are so eager to elevate ourselves while putting down others Proverbs 26:22.
2 Cor. 12:20 tells us that gossip is a reflection of a lack of acknowledgment of God. It further tells
us that gossip is a reflection of an unrepentant heart.
1 Tim 5:13 says of younger widows, “They go around from house to house; and not merely
idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.” The Bible
emphasizes that women, although not exclusively, are particularly susceptible to the sin of
1 Tim 3:11; 2 Tim 3:3; Titus 2:3 indicate that “malicious gossips” are not to be tolerated
in the church. Amazingly, the term that we translate, “malicious gossip” diabolous, is also
translated, “devil”. A malicious gossip is a slanderer, one who spreads stories, true and
false, that hurt and bring pain to others.
“Faithful are wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” Proverbs 27:6.
“Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Reprove a scoffer and he will hate you” Proverbs 9:8.
There are around 127 passages in the Bible concerning gossip. “Do not spread false reports. (Exod. 23:1) Paul addresses the same thing in 2 Timothy 2:16. Do we sometimes wonder why our walk isn’t where we think it should be or where we would like it to be? Are we given over to a destructive pattern of chatter-gossip? Is there anything in our life that will allow someone to bring shame down on us as a representative of our Lord? (Titus 2:7-8) We, as Christians, need to remember that we are delegates, representatives of our Lord, in speech and in actions. We must live above criticisms, by not giving room for criticism to spawn and grow. We need to be persons of integrity, slandering no one, being peaceable and considerate. (Titus 3:1-2)
If we spread rumors (gossip) about ourselves, it is no different than spreading rumors about someone else. It is still a lie (Prov. 6:16-19), something that is destructive toward someone else, and the likelihood is that the damage will be far reaching. We build ourselves up, thinking we are something great, when in fact we are just deceiving ourselves and others—blowing smoke. (Gal. 6:3) We need to test our own actions, our motives. Are our motives for selfish gain, or are they to build and strengthen our walk, unifying the body of Christ?
When we gossip, or even participate in gossip, we are actively and voluntarily engaging in a destructive purpose, character assassination and theft. Basically, gossip is s destructive need for personal gratification, making one’s self feel good about one’s self by destroying the character and reputation of another.
You see “misery loves company.” Some people cannot stand the thought of someone else succeeding, whether spiritually, physically, or financially; so they search for reasons to accuse and discredit the person , ministry, business, etc. to make themselves feel better about who they are.
What Can I do to avoid gossiping?
First of all, guard yourself against gossip at all costs. Remember, God will judge every carless word you speak. Secondly, if you have been guilty of gossip, repent. If we confess our sins to God, He is always faithful to forgive us. Third, if we are aware of a brother or sister who is involved in gossip we need to “love them.” The bible tells us that, “everyone whom the Lord loves, He disciplines.”
Titus 3:10, 11 tells us to “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” The Bible teaches us that gossip is to the body of Christ, as cancer is to the human body. Both must be dealt with immediately and decisively, if the body is to remain healthy, and become all that God has intended it to be.
Helping People vs. Hurting People – What will be your legacy?
What qualities do you bring out in your neighbor?
- Builds up/edifies (Eph 4:29) - Tears down/destroys (Proverbs 17:4)
- Helps (Proverbs 15:4) - Hurts (Proverbs 15:4)
- Blesses (James 3:9, 10) - Curses (James 3:9, 10)
- Heals (Proverbs 12:18) - Wounds (James 3:6-8)
- Encourages (Heb 3:13) - Discourages (Proverbs 25:27)
Gossip is directly opposite from Gods request to love one another.
John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give to you, that ye love one another; as I have love you, that ye also love one another.”
“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” John 15:12.
“These things I command you, that ye love one another” John 15:17.
Obviously, gossip is directly opposite to loving our neighbor as the Lord clearly is commanding. Gossip destroys love and results in bitterness and destruction of our reputation due to our sinful, ungodly behavior.
Guidelines to guard against gossip
1) If you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all (Eph 5:4)
2) Never speak about a person in any way other than compliments and praise, unless they are present, and even when they are present, “Let all that you do be done in love” (I Cor. 16:14).
3) Never share any information about another person unless they have given you their specific permission to do so (Proverbs 6:19).
4) Never speak about another person in any other way than how you would share it if they were present (Proverbs 25:23, Mt 5:37).
5) When in doubt, keep you mouth shut (Rom 14:23).
Proverbs 20:19 tells us not to associate with a gossip. Why? Because in our association with them we will become like them (Proverbs 13:20). And “do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” Eph 5:11.
“Gossip indicates an unclean heart” Matt. 15:10-20
Those who guard their mouths and tongues keep themselves from calamity (Proverbs 21:23). So we must guard our tongues and refrain from the sinful act of gossip. If we surrender our natural desires to the Lord, He will help us to remain righteous. God rewards the just and the righteous, so we should all strive to remain as such.
False Witness – the 9th commandment
And closely related to Gossip
False impression is false witness.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor:” Exodus 20:16
The temptation to try and smear someone you don’t like is always around you. The Bible, of course, is very clear about what God’s position is concerning spreading lies and rumors and innuendos about brothers and sisters in Christ.
“A false witness will not go unpunished and he who breaths out lies will perish” Proverbs 19:9. Again, this points out the severity, that this is a major sin.
God commands, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” but liars and lying abound. Everybody knows that marketers lie about what products can do. Books, magazines, and movies feature liars of many different stripes. The media and the public have caught prominent government figures from presidents on down lying about important issues.
“A false witness shall perish; but the man that heareth speaketh constantly” Proverbs 21:28.
“A man that heareth false witness against his neighbor is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow” Proverbs 25:18.
“For out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Matthew 15:19
“Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous” Exodus 23:1.
“A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.” Prov. 19:5
“An ungodly witness scorneth judgment; and the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity.” Prov. 19:28
“A false witness shall perish; but a man that hearth speaketh constantly.” Prov. 21:28
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murders, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
Commandment #9 prevents us from TELLING, SPREADING or LIVING a lie.
“A man that bearth false witness against his neighbor is a maul; and a sword, and a sharp arrow.” Prov. 25:18
“A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.” Prov. 14:15
“A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.” Prov. 14:25
We use a large number of euphemisms to soften the act of lying; some are duplicity, fabrication, and evasion, stringing someone along, inaccuracy, exaggeration, fudging, rationalization, falsehood, ‘whopper’, deception, misrepresentation, dishonesty, putting someone on, putting up a front, and fibbing.
Clearly, false witness is creating an impression which is false. This includes the spoken, and written word but also the unspoken word. For example, a UCLA communications professor has determined that 67% of all communications is non verbal. False witness is false impression also created by non verbal communication, ex: facial expression, rolling of the eyes, and exaggerated body language, hand signs that were designed to overstate, lie, mislead or create false impression however subtle.
There is a personal, living, Almighty God whose ways and laws are reality in spite of the way things may appear to our senses (II Cor. 5:7). They are intrinsically right and true. Therefore a person who is honest, who is willing to speak the truth, who will acknowledge and submit to it when he sees it, will eventually be converted to be like God. Have it become part of your Christian life not to lie or create a false impression to others.
We are God’s workmanship (Eph 2:10). God, as creator, is making us kings and priests to administer and teach a way of life based upon revealed truth. Because He desires to share and perpetuate what He is with an entire family of children bearing His characteristics, He cannot have anybody in His family who does not embody truth as Jesus did.
“You shall not bear false witness” thus has far-reaching spiritual applications. It is not a commandment that we can carelessly ignore as being insignificant compared to other “more important” ones. The word “bear” indicates “spread,” “carry,” “render,” and “give.” It concludes the giving of testimony (verbally or by example) in any case that tends to produce injury. The ninth commandment regulates man’s relationship to other men much as the third commandment does in man’s relationship to God. This commandment directly involves faithfulness and loyalty in our mouth and example for God before men.
This principle holds true in every area of life upon which a name is built, whether in marriage, child training, employment, or health, or business. Many run from the truth about themselves. Nothing destroys a reputation quicker and more permanently than for a person to be known as a liar or hypocrite.
According to an article by Jan Mendenhall in June/July 1997 issue of Aspire, college kids lie to their moms in 50% of conversations. Dating couples lie to each other a third of the time, and spouses deceive each other in about 10% of major conversations. 12% of four million Americans lost their jobs for “misrepresentation.” A November 1997 survey conducted by the publishers of Who’s Who Among High Schools reveals that 76% of the students listed in their publication (supposedly the elite achievers) admit having cheated. Two-thirds of them believe it is “no big deal” to cheat to get a good test grade – and 65% of their parents agree! These are clear examples of a false impression that violates the 9th commandment.
Therefore, the ninth commandment covers not only making a false witness about another or an event with the tongue, (e.g.: lying, gossip, or creating an impression which is false.
A wise person is one who recognizes truth, understands that he must meet his obligations and submits to it. This process produces a good witness whether the obligations to truth is met verbally or behaviorally. If a person will not do this, he deceives himself that he can somehow “get away with it” and his witness and name will demonstrate his poor character.
Here is a good maxim to live by; Never believe anything bad about a person unless you know it to be absolutely true; Never tell it unless it is absolutely necessary; and remember, fear God, for He is listening while you tell it.
By Jeff Yeargain, Newport Beach, CA
www.christianyou.net/pages/gossip.html “What does the bible say about gossip?
www.gotquestions.org/gossip-bible.html “What does the bible say about gossip?
http://www.topical-bible-studies.org/21-0024.html Thou shalt not bear false witness
http://apostolic:Inavex.com/biblestudy/files/9th-com.html The 9th Commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness (Lie)
Jan Mendenhall Aspue Magazine, June/July 1997