Gossip is contagious and is one of the best strategies the enemy uses to divide us as Christians! It plays on the small (and sometimes large) thought we already have in our heads and tempts us into engaging further in discussions that only do harm to us or to others.
No one, really, is immune from being sucked into it – especially Christians! We are just as, if not more, vulnerable to and susceptible to engaging in conversation that can quickly become hurtful to someone else (or the Christian faith).
Here are 4 things to keep in mind about the spirit behind gossip and how to respond as a follower of Christ.
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Christians and Gossip
Gossip is basically talking about someone in a negative way that could lead to others doing the same. It is often intentional and meant to damage someone's credibility or reputation or simply to point out the faults (or sins) of others. While you might think that gossip is restricted to “mean girls” at school or disgruntled workers in an office, gossip is everywhere! Even in Christian circles.
Actually, I'd say that gossip might actually be worse among Christians! Yes, I know this will probably ruffle a few feathers but speaking the truth usually does that!
Oftentimes, we feel the need to call out other believers when we feel they are acting “not-so-Christian” or doing things that don't conform to the Bible. We tend to forget that we, too, were (and still are) sinners and that everyone is fallible to the tactics of the enemy (and gossip is one of those tactics).
Whether we are facing gossip among other believers or out among the rest of society, it is important that we avoid being pulled into it. And more importantly, that we attempt to prevent it from spreading.
Gossip hurts people in so many ways! Small chatter among friends can quickly explode into a much larger conversation, overheard by others not directly involved in the conversation. Many times the stuff being talked about is only speculation with no actual proof. And even if there is “proof,” what good can come from the discussion?
As Christians, we must always use our words with the same loving intention that Jesus would have used. We must always avoid using our words to hurt or break down others. Our words should always be used to build others up and speak life into them.
And when we have the chance, we should use them to teach others to do the same.
The Spirit Behind Gossip
Why do people gossip about one another? While gossip isn't something new, the tabloids and media have made it more “acceptable” to talk about others and call out others for their faults. But we must remember that these are the tools of the enemy!
Often times, just like with those who bully others, gossip is meant to make someone feel better about themselves by making someone else look bad. And for those who fuel the gossip fire, well, a scandalous conversation is so much more interesting than talking about the good in someone (another impact of social media).
Many are simply so bored or not content in their own lives that they need the drama and scandal to live vicariously through another. Regardless of why, gossip destroys people – their esteem, their families, their lives. And gossip is completely against what God calls us to do.
The main spirit behind gossip is simple – Satan. He knows our weaknesses – and that of others – and uses gossip as a way to enable us to do his dirty work.
When you gossip about another you are doing the enemy's work to tear us apart as a community. Why? Because gossip comes from a spiteful, hateful place!
How Should Christians Respond to Gossip
As Christians, we should respond to gossip in the same way we are called to respond to everything else in life – with Jesus in our hearts. We should always be mindful of what comes out of our own mouths at all times. But we should also always be alert to the tactics of the enemy which can easily encourage us to participate in gossip without realizing it.
We must always, just like in every single area of our lives, be alert to the tactics of the enemy. We must always “check” ourselves because, unfortunately, we are at the most risk of falling victim to his tactics. Those who seek to build the Kingdom (Christians) are the ones the enemy will always try to recruit.
1 – Mind Your Own Words
In an age where talking about others' faults seem to be encouraged by the media, it is important that we make sure we are being mindful of the words that come out of our own mouths. When we speak, it should always be with love and never with something that could hurt another person.
Discouraging a culture of gossip starts with our own tongue! What we allow to come out of our mouth matters on so many levels. We always hear about using words of encouragement to build up our children and family. But every single person out there is either already our family (fellow followers of Christ) or we want them to be (to be saved). When we open our mouth to speak anything about anyone, we should always ask:
Is this going to help them or is it hurtful? And before you say that when something doesn't qualify as helpful it isn't automatically hurtful – it absolutely is one or the other. Because what you speak out loud is heard by others. Others with their own idle intentions. And when they hear something that isn't absolutely helpful about another, it can quickly become hurtful because of their own agenda.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26 NIV
“The one who guards his mouth and tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs 21:23 CSB
When you engage in conversation with others, sharing your thoughts and a recap of the day's events, make sure what comes out of your mouth is always helpful. When speaking of another person, If it could, in any way, cause them harm – directly or indirectly – don't say it!
2 – Acknowledge That it IS Gossip
The first step in responding to gossip as a Christian is to acknowledge that the conversation is gossip! Many times we find ourselves in the middle of conversations that take sudden turns. What starts as general chatter could quickly turn to “you know what I heard about so and so” type conversations.
When you hear others talking about someone, before you indulge the conversation, ask yourself “What is the point of this conversation?” Is it to shame someone? Or maybe just to know more about someone else's personal business?
Either of these should give you a clear sign that you are about to be enticed into a gossip conversation! Don't let yourself be drawn into it!
Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy;
do you really want junk like that in your belly?” Proverbs 18:8 MSG
“At the same time, they also learn to be idle, going from house to house; they are not only idle, but are also gossips and busybodies, saying things they shouldn’t say.” 1 Timothy 5:13 CSB
“In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” 1 Timothy 3:11 NIV
“With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors,
but through knowledge the righteous escape.” Proverbs 11:9 NIV
3 – Confront Gossip and Shut it Down
Once you've realized that a conversation is, in fact, gossip, you have two options:
- Ignore it and walk away
- Confront it and shut it down
Ok, I guess you really only have one option if you are truly wanting to respond as a Christian should! As followers of Christ, walking away and ignoring a slanderous or gossipy conversation is really no better than engaging in the conversation. When we don't attempt to stop the discussion, we are, in essence, keeping the fire going.
Instead, we should find a way to confront it and stop it from happening or progressing any further.
How can we do this without causing a much bigger fire?
If you are among other Believers, try to remind them of God's direction on this subject. Ask them how this discussion is helping the person in question (or if it for their own personal satisfaction). Yes, they'll be disgruntled that you called them out but they should know better! Remind them that our words are only supposed to be used to help and encourage and not to tear down or gossip about others. And remind them that, whatever the “story” is, it isn't theirs to share.
Without wood a fire goes out;
without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” Proverbs 26:20 NIV
“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.” Exodus 23:1 NIV
“Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.” Proverbs 10:19 NIV
“and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 ESV
“to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Titus 3:2 NIV
If you are among mostly non-believers, there are some other subtle ways that you can shut down the gossipy conversation without causing an even bigger one. This can also be used when responding to gossip as a Christian among other Christians.
- Change the subject – When we get together with a group of others and start talking about this and that, honestly, there are often multiple conversations happening at once. When something a little more interesting is brought up, many will then direct their attention to the most interesting thing. So when you see a group indulging in gossip about someone, change the subject to something else that might be more interesting or get their attention.
- Redirect to a more positive discussion about the person – This is often an easier way to distract from the negative discussion about a person. When I hear others talking bad about someone or pointing out some flaw in them, I like to simply point out (and go overboard with it) something great about them. It could be something they've done, a kind gesture you've witnessed them giving someone when (they thought) no one was looking – just something that can put them in a positive light to break the “mob mentality” of a negative conversation.
4 – Turn Gossip Into an Opportunity for Prayer
This one is much easier to do when responding to gossip among other Christians, but even among non-believers, prayer is also helpful. Once you've changed the subject and/or redirected the conversation to something more positive about the person, encourage the group to pray for that person.
Remind them that whatever that “thing” is that is bothering them about this person, that prayer is so much more helpful than idle chatter and gossip. Because at the end of the day, isn't that what we are called to do with our mouth? To speak life into others? To use our words to build others up?
And the best way to build them up is through prayer!
And let's not forget to ask God to help us as well. To help us in keeping our tongues under control and to be used only to bring Him glory!
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3 NIV
What Does the Bible Say About Gossip
Just like with any other question you may have, the Bible has plenty to say about gossip and what God thinks about it! He is crystal clear about us controlling our tongues and using it only to spread love and do good.
Here are just a handful of Bible verses about gossip in addition to the ones I've already listed.
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” 2 Timothy 2:16 NIV
“A gossip betrays a confidence;
so avoid anyone who talks too much.” Proverbs 20:19 NIV
Related: What Does the Bible Say About Gossip
Responding to the Spirit of Gossip as a Christian
As Christians, we are called to use our words in one very specific way – with love. The Bible is abundantly clear on how God feels about those who gossip, spread lies, and/or use their words to hurt and spread malice among others. Unfortunately, this is one of the easiest ways the enemy gets us doing his dirty work.
Gossip destroys people. Gossip destroys the church. Gossip destroys the body of Christ.
I encourage you to always be mindful of what you are about to speak. And be alert to situations that can easily engage you into a gossipy conversation as well. And I pray that you have the courage to not just avoid those who gossip – but to confront them (in a loving way) and shut down this tool of the devil so it won't be able to carry out the mission it was intended for (destroying lives).
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