3 New Testament Examples of Gossip

by Reagan McClenny


Scripture: Mt 11:16-19 Aug 13, 2023

Gossip is exploiting truth or perception about someone to harm them; as Christians, we should not participate in gossip but instead tell the truth, confront it, and focus on loving people over drama; if we live wisely, the test of time will prove gossip false and justify us before God.


Listen, I've got something I've gotta tell you, but you have to promise that you're not gonna tell anybody else. I couldn't believe this when I heard it. It turns out it's true. Have you heard? You haven't heard? I've got to tell you. I need your advice on something, but it has to be in confidence. We've all been there, haven't we?

A friend comes to us needing to vent or seeking advice in a difficult situation with someone. A coworker closes the door behind them as they come into our office and has something that they've got to tell us. A brother or sister in Christ calls us up and ask us not to tell anybody else what they're about to tell us.

A text message comes in asking, did you hear what happened with so and and something goes off in the very back of our mind. Should I be hearing this? Do I need to hear this? Is this gossip? And sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. And those situations are tough. And as long as there are people problems and communication, there is opportunity to sin with gossip.

And I wanna try something different tonight. We've got some young men going around the congregation they have a handout for you. It's two-sided. Do me a favor, let's stay on the front side of that for now. You've got a really fancy. Pretty flow chart on the back that you've actually received before, but we're not gonna start there.

Start on the other side. What I would like to do tonight, instead of just talking about gossip, which is ironic, maybe I, I wanna give you some New Testament examples of gossip and use those examples to, to make some points that I believe are found in the text and how we. As Christians should respond when we're placed in situations like this.

So three New Testament examples of gossip, and then we'll see if we can find some truths and some applications. That come from these examples. Begin with me if you would in Matthew chapter 11, turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 11. We'll start reading in verse 15 and look especially at verses 16 through 19 of Matthew chapter 11.

And as you're turning there and as these young men finish handing out these handouts, thank you for being here tonight. Thank you for being back here tonight for so many who are here this morning. And I pray that what we talk about this evening, in fact I was saying a prayer on my way up here, and what we talk about this evening will be helpful to all of us as we consider these things from God's word.

Let's start with our first example in Matthew chapter 11, and we'll begin reading in verse 15. On this occasion, Jesus is talking about John the Baptist, who is now in prison. And remember he sent messengers to ask Jesus, are you the Christ or do we look for another? And then Jesus talks about John the Baptist to this group of people, and just as John the Baptist had been rejected by some, Jesus was rejected by some also.

So this is what he says, verse 15. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. But to what shall I liken this generation, it is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions and saying, we played the flute for you and you did not dance. We mourn to you and you did not lament for notice.

Verse 18, and this is the gossip for John came neither eating or drinking. And they say this generation, these people say he has a demon. The son of man came eating and drinking and they say, look, a glutton and a wine biber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. But Jesus says wisdom is justified by her children.

So in this first example, the things that they were saying behind the back of John the Baptist and Jesus, and in fact there are a number of other instances in the gospel where Jesus knows what they're saying in secret. He knows what's in their hearts and he calls 'em out on it. On this occasion, they're saying about Jesus, well, He's a glutton and a wine bber about John the Baptist.

He has a demon. All right, let's turn now to Second Corinthians chapter 10. This is an occasion where the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, and there are some people there looking to discredit Paul. And these are the things that they're saying to the Corinthian brethren about Paul behind his back.

Second Corinthians chapter 10, and let's read in verse 10.

Second Corinthians 10 and verse 10 for his letters. Paul's letters, they say, you hear that phrase again? That's coming up over and over. His letters are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak. And his speech contemptible. Paul says, let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters.

When we are absent such, will we also be indeed. When we are present, and then the final example comes from the end of the gospel of Matthew. Matthew chapter 28. Let's turn over there together. Matthew chapter 28.

This is after the resurrection of Jesus. Starting there in verse 11 of Matthew 28.

Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city, those who were guarding the tomb where Jesus was, they come into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. They told them the truth. No doubt about the angel and the stone and falling down like dead men and all of those sorts of things.

And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave them a large sum of money to the soldiers. They gave a large sum of money to the soldiers saying, tell them his disciples came at night and stole him away while we slept. And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure.

So they took the money and did as they were instructed and notice. And this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Now that's true whenever Matthew's gospel was written. But that's true up until the 21st century as well. That's one of the rumors, right? That explains the empty tomb.

Well, his disciples came and stole him away, and we could cite dozens more probably of examples of gossip from the old and New Testament. But I want us to think about these three specifically tonight. And what I'd like to do to begin with is just see three truths about gossip from these three accounts.

Number one, anyone, no matter how good they are, no matter how bad they are, can be gossiped about. I've thought before raise your hand if you've ever been gossiped about somebody has gossiped about you. All right, so we've got quite a few hands up for that. That's happened to me before and I thought to myself slightly offended.

How could they say that about me? Don't they know me at all? Like, like why would they think that that could possibly be true? But that's not the way gossip works. Anyone can be gossiped about. And no matter how good you are, no matter how well you're living your life, no matter how open and honest you are about who you are, even as a Christian, people can still gossip about you.

John, the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul, those are the three people who are gossiped about here in our examples. And gossip is about fundamentally the heart of the one gossiping. Not the person being gossiped about whether good or bad. And the other side of that coin is true. It's not just no matter how good you are, somebody can gossip about you, no matter how bad a person is.

I mean, this person is just scum of the earth. And I think sometimes we justify ourselves by saying, this guy's a, a really bad person. This woman is a really bad person. And so I can say these things about them because they're true. Maybe they are. We can still fall into the trap of gossip no matter how bad the person is that we might be talking about.

I've had a couple of requests for a sermon on this topic over the last three months or so. And I'm just gonna read to you the request I received from a young person asking for a lesson on this subject. Will you listen carefully to this? I would love to hear a lesson on gossiping, not only to be reminded that we shouldn't gossip.

Also to reflect on our own lives and realize, maybe admit that we are the ones gossiping. Now, that shows a lot of maturity, doesn't it? We should not. We cannot get into our minds and hearts that if something is true about someone and they're not a good person, then it makes it okay to gossip about them.

That's not the way it works. Like so many sins of relationship, and that's what gossip is, a sin of relationship. This sin fundamentally is about our hearts, not about their hearts, whether good or bad. Number two, gossip again, fundamentally takes truth, or sometimes it's just the perception of what we believe to be true or some people believe to be true, and it exploits that truth.

In a hurtful or harmful way, is there a kernel of truth? To any or all of the three examples that I read from from Matthew, the two from Matthew, and the one from Second Corinthians. Fact checking has become a thing in our culture and our society, mainly because our politicians lie so much. And so a lot of times there are these organizations who rank things, rank things that people say, you know, it's mostly true or partially true or totally true, and.

Same thing on the other side, you know, it's totally false. Mostly false, partly false. Or maybe it's somewhere in the middle. It's half true. And if you've had any experience with some of these rankings from some of these organizations, sometimes we need fact checkers. For the fact checkers, but if we were to rank our three examples, how would you rank them in regard to how much truth they contained in them in these rumors?

What about Jesus and John? Well, Jesus says himself that these, these rumors, these things that people say about him and John the Baptist are, are based in a certain reality, right? John the Baptist came neither eating or drinking. Is that true? Yeah. I mean, he's out in the desert. He's doing his thing. He's eating bugs and dressing in camel's hair and eating honey and all those sorts of things.

And they say about him, he has a demon. There's some perception there that this guy acts a little crazy. He's not eating or drinking, he is not a part of society. And then what do we see with Jesus? He came eating and drinking. Is that true? Well, what did we study this morning? We find him working his first sign at a wedding feast.

And was he in many ways a friend to tax collectors and sinners? Yeah, he was, he is a friend to everyone and he reached out to tax collectors and sinners trying to bring them to the truth. And so they take that perception and that truth that he is a friend of tax collectors and sinners. And they exploit that.

They exploit that to say, well, he must be a, a glutton in a wine biver. So there is some truth. There is some truth, at least in terms of perception that led to that rumor that led to that gossip. What about Paul in Corinth? Bill Reeves and I actually had a lengthy discussion about this text in second Corinthians, chapter 10 verses 10 and 11.

Bill Reeves said, that is absolutely untrue. My take on it was, well, maybe there's a kernel of truth in that. I mean, you read Paul's letters and. Man, he is strong sometimes in those letters. And then what we know about him in person was there are a number of occasions where there are other people who are more eloquent.

There are other people who are viewed as the spokesperson when he is in these environments with people. I think it is possible likely even that Paul was a better writer than he was a speaker. And so they take that perhaps truth, maybe at the very least, perception and say, oh, you know, Paul, he writes these things.

But when he comes in person, he's just, he's just not much. And Paul to his credit says, all right, if they, the people that say that when we get there I'm gonna act just the same way I'm acting in this letter, but we see that there is this idea of Partial truth that is exploited. So those are our first two.

What about this third one in Matthew chapter 28? Well, one of those fact checking organizations has for a total lie, they call it pants on fire. And I think that's what Matthew 28, 11 through 15 would be pants on fire. Right. And yet still there is a perception there of, well, he can't be raised from the dead.

There has to be another explanation. And so as good an explanation as any is that his disciples came and took him away. And so there are gonna be some people who accept that more plausible alternative. Now, I, I go through these three things for, for this purpose, may I suggest that this is exactly what the devil does, and this is what gossip tempts us to do.

This is a form of manipulation. Either we are being manipulated or we are manipulating others, maybe sometimes both. But there is harm that is being done by this truth, and that should tip us off that this might not be a conversation that we should be a part of. If there is harm that is being taken place to that person about whom we're talking.

Even though there might be some truth to it, and that's the third thing that I think we see in these three accounts is that gossip. Gossip is always used to tear down to discredit others. Have you ever heard that rumor about how amazing and awesome somebody is? Maybe you have heard something like that.

Is that gossip? This happens to me from time to time in. In fact, it happened to me this morning right out there in the foyer. I met somebody for the first time who is a family with somebody who goes to church here, and they said, oh, I've heard so much about you when they, when I introduced myself.

And my usual response to that is jokingly, well only believe the good stuff that they've told you. And if someone says back as they kind of did this morning, well, it's all good stuff. Do I then get upset about that because somebody's gossiping about me. Someone was talking about me behind my back and they were talking about me behind my back to somebody.

I don't know. But it wasn't a negative thing. It wasn't something that was used to tear down or discredit. It was a good thing. And maybe if we spent more time talking well about people behind their backs, there wouldn't be much occasion for us to talk poorly about people behind their backs. Well, the question that we always want to ask is, well, what is gossip?

What are we really talking about here? And, and maybe this is helping us to think about what that exactly is. Now, on the other side of your handout, there's a flow chart there. I gave this to you about two years ago, maybe 18 months ago. I was really proud of this. It's super complicated, isn't it? I mean, just you got arrows going here and here, and there's verses and you're supposed to pray and all this.

That's one of those, you know, mad moments in my office. I guess where I came up with this, I actually wrote it out all on the whiteboard first before putting it on a piece of paper. I'm giving it to you again because I do think it might be helpful. Is this gossip, is this something that I need to, to repeat?

Is this something that I need to hear? But we all know that in the moment it's not gonna be. Hey, hey, hang on a second. Call me back in 10 minutes. Okay, call me back. And it's, where's that flow chart that Reagan gave me? Let's see exactly what this looks like. Let's see if we can simplify what we think about gossip a little bit.

And, and I think a really good verse, and it especially applies to this third point we're making is Ephesians chapter four and verse 29. Would you turn over there? Ephesians chapter four and verse 29.

Is this gossip or is it somebody who genuinely needs help? Is it an opportunity for me to help? Is it someone who needs to vent a little bit? Is it someone who needs some godly advice? Let's think about that, those questions in the context of Ephesians four in verse 29. New King James says, let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth.

That maybe makes us think about profanity and things, and certainly that would apply here, but, but really the Greek is more the idea of let no corrupting word proceed out of your mouth. Something that is going to be corrupting to others, but. As with all of the other things in this context, there's something we're supposed to put off, don't do this anymore and something else we're supposed to put on something we're supposed to do.

But what is good for necessary edification? And we know that word means building up. So let no word that's gonna tear down, that's gonna corrupt, proceed out of your mouth. Instead, let those words that are gonna edify, that are gonna build up, that's what should. That's what should come out of your mouth, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

Maybe what we need to do in regard to gossip is memorize this verse, and whenever that little voice in the back of our mind says, Hey, is this something I really need to be listening to? We need to say this verse to ourselves and ask ourselves. Am I listening to this or repeating this to corrupt this person's life in some way?

Or is it necessary? Is it necessary for me to hear this or to repeat this, to build them up in some way, to build them up in the faith? Am I trying to give them grace or the opportunity for grace in some way? Or am I only interested in judgment and being judgmental? That transitions nicely to our response to all of those scenarios.

We started our sermon with. What we need in those scenarios is wisdom and Jesus'. Last words in addressing the gossip about John the Baptist and himself there in Matthew chapter 11 was wisdom is justified by her children. That's what we're looking for in these instances. The wise response where we can justify in the sight of God, the words that we use, the things that we say.

So what is the wise response? How can we justify the things that we say? And by that I mean before God say, this isn't gossip. This is the reason why I'm listening to this. This is the reason why I'm repeating this so that I might edify somebody else. So now think about a couple of things with me. I say a couple, think about five things with me.

Number one. Always tell the truth and be sure of the total truth. Be careful about the way you frame things, the way I frame things, taking a half truth or perception and exploiting it in some way. That's, that's what gossip is. And just because something is true doesn't mean that it shouldn't be told. The old saying is true.

Know all you tell, but what don't tell all you know. Which brings us to our second point. Be the one to not listen. If you realize it's gossip to not repeat it. If you hear it and you realize that it is, and maybe taking it a step further, you be that person in the office. You be that person in the family, you be that person at school, you be that person among your friend group who's not gonna put up with gossip in your presence.

Remember, if they will gossip to you. They're probably also willing to gossip about you. Proverbs chapter 11 and verse 13 says, A tail bearer reveals secrets, but he was of fateful spirit conceals a matter. And it's not that we're trying to hide the truth, but if it doesn't need to be repeated, we're not gonna repeat it.

And I think I think I've done a pretty good job through the years. Making sure that gossip stops with me. And by that I mean when I hear something, I think about it. I get my flow chart out. No, not really, but I, I apply those principles, right? And I say, I think this is gossip. I'm not going to repeat it.

I've done a pretty good job with that through, through my lifetime. So here's what I'm working on now, trying to do something a little bit better instead of having gossip. Stop with me. I hear it and I don't repeat it. It. What I'm trying to do is have it where gossip stops at me to where I'm realizing more quickly that, hey, I think this is gossip.

And going so far as cutting somebody off and saying, do I really need to hear this? Why are you telling me this? Now that's a little more awkward, isn't it? That calls people out a little bit more, but I think it's, it's sowing better seed to hopefully re. Reap better fruit if I can say this is gonna stop at me.

And I think the reality is if we do that enough, that gossip stops with me. Gossip stops at me, it'll naturally go a stop a step further where gossip just stops around me. Something that a gossip doesn't want is to be called out on that gossiping. And so if I'm the one to say, Hey, do I really need to hear this?

I don't need to hear this. Just stop right there. It's not gonna be too long before people are gonna stop gossiping around me altogether. So always tell the truth, be the one not to put up with it. And then number three, if you hear something about someone, go to the subject and encourage others to do the same thing.

Preachers can fall into the sin of gossip to and it's just a standard policy that I've started doing the last several years. It's when somebody calls me and they start asking some questions or talking about a preacher, I just ask, Hey, have you talked to them? Have you talked to him about these things you're talking to me about?

And if they haven't, then a lot of times what I'll say is, we'll go talk to him. If I can help in some way, y'all call me and I'll be happy to help. Sometimes I've gotten the response. But I don't have to do that. I don't have to go and talk to him because this is public or everybody knows about this, or whatever the case might be.

And there are some cases where that's exactly true. You don't have to go and talk to that person, but consider the next point. Number four, the wise response is to love people more than drama. The loving thing to do is to go and talk to the person who is being talked. About the subject of the gossip, but even more the loving thing is often to not listen to something negative about someone else.

Maybe the person talking to you or to me does need to vent, and maybe it is true the things that they're saying, and I'm not discounting that. I'm not saying that there aren't instances where that's right or that's healthy. But will I be able to look at this other person the same way? If I hear all of these things about them, is it going to impact my love for them if I hear these things about them?

And we need to be honest with ourselves. If we are the kind of person who just honestly kind of likes drama. There are a couple of different places in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 18 in verse eight, and Proverbs 26, 22, 18 8 and 26, 22. They both say exactly the same thing. The words of a tail bearer are like tasty trifles.

They go down into the inmost part of the body. Proverbs 18, eight and 26 22. Jewish tradition sometimes replaces that phrase, tasty trifles. You know, we see what's going on there, right? It's like a sweet it's not helpful, it's not healthy, but boy, it tastes good. It's a tasty trifle. But Jewish tradition sometimes replace that phrase with wounds.

So the words of a tail bearer are like wounds. And I think that dichotomy is actually really helpful to us when we think about the content of gossip. It seems tasty. It tastes good going down, but really all it does is cause harm. It causes wounds to us. To others, and social media has exposed some of this in regard to people who love drama more than people.

A vague posting has become a thing. So these intentionally vague but negative social media posts that in indicate something bad has happened, but they give no details about what exactly bad happened. Right? And it's, it's a cry for attention maybe sometimes. And sometimes it's it's a revealer of drama.

How could this happen to me? And all the comments, what happened? What happened? What happened? How could someone treat me this way? Well, who treated you that way? I'll get after 'em. Those sorts of things, and it's often an invitation from the poster for others to gossip and we need to be careful as Christians, we probably don't do that.

Maybe it's even vague posting like Pray for me, asking for prayers is a wonderful thing. Obviously you didn't need me to tell you that, right? One of the very best things in my judgment about social media is the opportunity that we have to pray for others and to ask others to pray for us. It is powerful that in a moment I can send out a request for prayer and there can be dozens, hundreds of people praying for me, for you.

For others, it's a wonderful thing, but we need to be careful when people will inevitably. And with the best of modus, ask us what's wrong. We need to make sure that we're careful not to turn their good response into an opportunity to gossip. Let me suggest three questions that might be helpful to us.

There are at least three people involved in gossip, right? So the one who's sang something, the person that they are saying it about, and the person that they are saying it to. So at least three people. Would you agree with that? I think we should ask a question about each of those three people. If, if I'm the one that someone is talking to, why do they, why do they need to tell me this?

Why do they need to tell me this? Why do I need to hear? This is another way of asking that question. But in thinking about and putting our focus on people instead of drama, why does this person need to tell me this? Do they need to tell me this because they need godly advice? Well, then they should tell me.

And I should hopefully give them godly advice in regard to this. Are they hurt and hurt deeply and they need to come to somebody that they trust who can pray for them and pray with them so that maybe they can get over some of these feelings of, of betrayal and, and bitterness that they have in their heart?

Well, they need to tell me. I don't need to tell anybody else, but they need to tell me, and we need to pray about that together. But if I can't come up with a good reason why they need to tell me this, then I should stop them in that moment. Maybe on the other side of it, why do I need to hear this? And then finally, why do they, this third party that's being talked about, why do they need this said about them?

And if I don't have a good answer to those three questions it's probably indicative that I need to be careful not to listen and certainly not to repeat what I hear. I leave you with this. Fifth and final thing. It's aism. This is something my dad has said for years in regard to all of these things, especially when there's gossip swirling around us or about us.

The final thing is this, let the test of time prove all. Always tell the truth. Be the one not to put up with it. Go to the subject. Love people more than drama. And let the test of time prove all now credit where credit is due. That concept did not originate with Larry McClinney. I would say it originated with Jesus.

We think again about our three examples. Do any of those rumors mean anything now to the lives of Jesus, John or Paul? Of course not. And what does Jesus say again? In Matthew chapter 11 and verse 19 and calling them out about this gossip, wisdom is justified by her children. Jesus and John came and lived the lives that God called them to live and he, they lived those lives in wisdom and they were going to be justified by God.

Whether people accepted them, rejected them, or gossiped about them, the test of time would prove all and has proven all with Jesus and John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul. And now in the year 2023, John and Jesus are justified by wisdom and the gossipers, this generation, as Jesus calls them, that rejected them.

They are now the ones who are condemned. We don't have to, and we shouldn't chase all of these things that might be swirling around us. Instead, we keep our head down. We live our life as a Christian, knowing that wisdom is justified by her children, and the test of time will prove all. Well, I. Again, I'm, I'm grateful when people have requests for things that they, they would like to be preached on.

And I hope that this is helpful. I hope this is helpful for all of us. Not just in keeping gossip from coming to us, but taking that look in the mirror and asking, am I the one doing this? Am I the one gossiping? And if we are as my granddad used to say, stop it. Well, you need to quit it. Because this is a sin like any other, and though it seems in some ways more innocent, this sin can keep us out of heaven too.

This sin can separate us from our Lord. And so we need to be aware of the devil's tactics in regard to this and all things regarding our speech and our tongue. Thank you for your kind attention this evening. The lesson tonight was not intended to bring someone to Christ, but. But know that these concepts of how to live life, this is what being a Christian is about.

And it begins with an imitation of Jesus by coming to him saying, I want to be like him. I want to be his disciple. I want to follow him, and he has the power to direct us in the way we ought to go. And so if you're not yet a disciple of Jesus Christ, if you haven't become his follower, you can be baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins that you might rise to walk in newness of life.

Not that you're better than everybody else, but you do live differently than everybody else because you're striving to be who he has called you to be. And if you're already a Christian and you realize there's sin in your life and you need the help of your brothers and sisters, we'll pray for you and we'll pray with you.

All you have to do is come now together we stand, and while we sing,

all things are ready. All.