In nearing the end of our Wisdom Is series, we picked up the theme of gossip and slander this week. The whisper (gossip and slander) is like so many other issues in Proverbs. Naturally, whispering appeals to us though it is destructive for human flourishing and absolutely not what we were created to do. In the sermon we spent some time with this question: If we know whispering about each other is destructive, why does it appeal to us so much?
The big answer, of course, is that humans crave acceptance. There is an echo of eternity in our hearts. We remember in the Garden a time of being fully known and fully loved. We remember a time of total acceptance and our heart longs to be in that place again. But as humans do, we often try everything in the world to gain acceptance other than the one way God created. Rather than coming to the Gospel with hands open wide, we will turn to our hands and ponder ways of feeling acceptance through their work. Often this can look like “good works” to feel OK with God. But other times, it can look like pure evil in hopes of feeling OK with man. And so, we gossip and whisper. We put others down so as to elevate ourselves. In short, as long as someone else is excluded we can feel accepted. So, we perpetuate rumors, speak with innuendo, shade truth for our own purposes, and make public what should have been kept private.
I believe the biggest reason for whispering is acceptance, but the Bible gives us another reason that is very practical. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, Paul makes the connection between laziness and gossip. He basically says, “Because some of you are not busy at work, you become busy in the lives of everyone around you. And not busy for ministry sake, but busy for gossip’s sake.” This is also true in the case of the widows in 1 Timothy 5. They were charged by the church to do ministry work and visit with people. But their ministry turned into an opportunity to whisper. It is also speculated from Paul’s letter that these women fell into other troubles such as spreading not just gossip but false teaching. What brings all of this home to me is that while there is a connection between idleness and gossip in the New Testament, I think the same connection exists in Proverbs 26. In Proverbs 26, the section immediately preceding the verses we looked at Sunday (starting in verse 17) talk about the sluggard! The implication being, laziness is fertile soil for gossip and slander.
I think the bottom line is this: when you aren’t doing what you should do, you will start doing what you shouldn’t. As I said Sunday, humans weren’t created to whisper about man they were created to shout about God. So, if we aren’t shouting about God it becomes very easy for us to fall into whispering about man. I think the same holds true for work. We were created to work. Work was a gift from God before sin ever entered into the world. Whether you “have” to work or not isn’t the point. Our financial picture isn’t the greatest motivation for working hard. We should work because God built us to be workers. When we refuse to walk in the way God created us, things get out of whack and sin issues pop up. Ultimately, we whisper because we are insecure about our standing before God. That is a gospel issue and we should take it to the cross. But secondly, we whisper because we are idle. So, if gossip and slander are a regular part of your life, be asking the gospel question. But also be asking, “How is it that even with what God has given me to do (work, church service, evangelism, family, community ministry, intentional rest, friendships, etc) I find time to whisper?” Which of the things God has given you isn’t getting a fair shake? Which is creating the ungodly margin for gossip?
-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)