Three preachers were on a non-productive fishing trip when they began to discuss various topics to pass the time. One preacher said he thought it would be nice if they confessed their biggest sins to each other and then prayed for each other. They all agreed, and the first preacher said that his biggest sin was that he liked to sit at the beach now and then and watch pretty women stroll by.

The second preacher confessed that his biggest sin was that he went to the horseracing track every so often and put a small bet on a horse.

Turning to the third preacher, they asked, "Brother, what is your biggest sin?"

With a grin, he said, "My biggest sin is gossiping."

Hmmm…that just might have been their last time hanging out together.

Every person reading these words has at one time or another been the victim of gossip. And every person reading these words has at one time or another been the agent of gossip. 

What does it feel like when you know people have been talking behind your back? Not good, huh? I wonder why we can’t remember how painful it feels to be the victim of gossip when we are about to share a juicy tid-bit of “information” about another? I wonder why we can’t remember just how painful and lonely it feels to be the victim of chatter when we are about to share a “concern” for a brother or sister in Christ who seems to be “struggling” with a particular issue?

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of “Words That Hurt, Words That Heal” has lectured throughout this country on the powerful, and often negative, impact of words. He often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying "yes." Others laugh, and quite a large number call out, "no!"

Telushkin responds: "Those who can't answer 'yes' must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue." (Rick Ezell, “One Minute Uplift”).

The Bible says, in the book of James, “…a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring” (James 3:5-12/NLT). 

One of the things I’ve found so helpful when tempted to gossip about someone else is to turn that gossip into prayer. The truth is, we never pray for folks we gossip about, and we never gossip about the folk for whom we pray.

Let’s not let gossip and slander - which grieves our Lord – destroy our church. If you have something that is bothering you about someone else, go to that person. Don’t let ill feelings, and potentially false impressions, stand between you and your brother or sister in Christ and between you and fellowship with your Lord Jesus Christ.

This blog was written by Mike Thomas, the Community Life Pastor. You can follow him on twitter @JMichaelThomas.

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