“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:29-31)
The Oxford Online Dictionary defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true.” A gossip is someone who “likes talking about other people’s private lives.” Gossiping is common in neighborhood groups, among friends, in bridge clubs, with co-workers, golf buddies, or any close-knit group of people including extended family and church congregations. Recognizing gossip isn’t very hard, but resisting it is difficult because it involves disapproval of what others are doing, while they are doing it.
Slander takes gossip to the next level, being “a false and malicious statement damaging a person’s reputation” (Oxford Online Dictionary). People may claim they have no evil intention toward a person when they gossip, but slander is intentionally evil. Both are the corrupt talk forbidden in Ephesians 4:29. Both gossip and slander are the sinful fruit of unbelief as described by Paul in Romans 1:28-30 “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice…They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:28-31)
Our speech should be “building up… giving grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4 gives us a very convicting reason to refrain from these: corrupt talk grieves the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. John Gill comments: “Not a believer’s own spirit, sanctified by the Holy Ghost, which is grieved by sin; nor the spirit of a good man, that hears our words and sees our actions, and is displeased and troubled at them; but the third person in the Trinity: and this is said of him…is offensive to him; and he may be grieved, not only by unconverted persons, by their stubborn resistance and opposition to the Gospel and means of grace, and by their contempt of his person, office, and grace, but by believers themselves, and who are here spoken to.” * The seriousness of grieving God with our words should bring deep conviction when we are tempted to speak ill of others, or listen to others gossiping. And it is a very short leap from gossip to slander, which murders the reputations of others.
We have more than enough reason to refrain from gossip and work on building up our brothers and sisters in Christ today.
* John Gill’s Commentary on the Bible, Ephesians 4:30, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/ephesians-4-30.html