We all encounter gossip of some kind on a daily basis, yet most followers of Christ have received very little training on how to deal with it. Matt Mitchell, author of Resisting Gossip, is actively trying to change that. He recently released the audiobook version for the 6-year print anniversary and is still passionately trying to change the way the church thinks about it and handles it.
He shared with us 3 insights into what gossip is to help us better combat it, and offers thoughts into why it might be so prevalent even in our Christian communities today.
“[It’s important to know] that there are at least three people involved in every gossip situation: (1) the speaker, (2) the listener, and (3) the subject of the gossip. Resisting Gossip helps each of those three to assess their hearts
and know how to do the right and righteous thing in their particular circumstances.
[With that in mind], my definition of the sin of gossip is bearing bad news behind someone is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart. All three parts of that definition are important. There is (1) bad news involved (normally a shameful story, whether true or false), it is (2) shared clandestinely when the other person isn’t present, and it comes (3) out of a twisted motivation within the person (Matthew 12:34). If you want to know if something is gossip or not, ask yourself why you are sharing or receiving it.
Second, gossip can be motivated by many different things–not just jealousy or revenge, as is commonly understood. In the book, I identify at least five different heart-level motives that often result in gossip, and I’m sure there are more. For example, a lot of gossip in our culture comes from an out-of-proportion desire to
escape boredom. We talk about people to amuse ourselves. But I’m learning that the foolish people of the world do not exist for my entertainment. The good news is that God offers greater and more precious promises than these multiple temptations to gossip. There is always a way out in Christ!
Third, you can’t control [what other people are sharing about you], and that’s okay. There are two chapters in the book on this. If people are gossiping about us, it’s out of our power to control, so we need to learn to entrust our reputations into God’s sovereign hands. Jesus was gossiped about–the nastiest rumors! So we should expect to receive some of the same treatment and handle it in a Christ-like way (1 Peter 4:12-19).
With so many Christians believe that gossip is a far less serious sin than premarital sex, adultery, stealing, and viewing pornography, [I wrote the book] for ordinary Christians who want to resist gossip. Most other books about this problem spend a lot of words convincing the readers that gossip is bad, but Resisting Gossip believes that Christians already know this. Instead, it focuses on convincing readers that gossip can be successfully resisted because of the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Readers will gain both new information and new confidence in battling this.
One reason is that we’re conditioned to think that way. The world actually celebrates gossip, and the church has turned a blind eye. Since most of us haven’t been clearly taught about this problem, our thinking about its seriousness is bound to be fuzzy.
Another reason is that gossip is stealthy; it’s an under-the-radar sin that is more difficult to detect and therefore harder to condemn.
But the biggest reason is probably that gossip is something that hits too close to home. We all are guilty on some level, so we explain it away and re-label it, downgrading its importance relative to the “biggies” you mentioned. The problem is that gossip makes the Bible’s list of “biggies” (see Romans 1:28-32), so we can’t ignore it and still be living God-pleasing lives.”
If you want to learn more, please check all the different resources that we have available on Resisting Gossip.
About Resisting Gossip
It’s on Facebook, on the television, in the break room, and even in our churches. With gossip being so prevalent in our culture, it can be hard to resist listening to and sharing stories about other people’s business. But what does God say about gossip? And is it possible to follow his instructions? In Resisting Gossip Pastor Matt Mitchell not only outlines the scriptural warnings against gossip, but also demonstrates how the truth of the gospel can deliver believers from this temptation.
About Matt Mitchell
Matt Mitchell is a graduate from Moody Bible Institute and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In 2012, he received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in biblical counseling under the leadership of the faculty of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). His doctoral project included writing his first book – Resisting Gossip.
He is active in his association of churches, the EFCA, serving the awesome Allegheny District as the chairman of the Constitutions and Credentials Board, and as the book review coordinator for EFCA Today. His greatest joy in serving Jesus is passionately communicating scriptural truth and seeing lives changed.
Matt Mitchell has been the pastor of Lanse Evangelical Free Church, a 120+year-old church parked along Interstate 80, since he was a rookie pastor in 1998. He is Heather’s hubby, and Daddy to Robin, Andrew, Peter, and Isaac. They live in the woods of Central Pennsylvania with a flock of free range chickens. They do the “homeschool adventure” thing, cut firewood for their outdoor furnace, love to read great books together, and go for long hikes as a family.