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Religious Reflections

Can we talk?

Pastor Bruce K. Meier

How many of you remember the "Joan Rivers Show" on TV? One of her trademark statements was; "Can We Talk?" You just knew some juicy little tidbit was about to spill forth from her mouth. Whether it had any value or not was of little interest, it was simply a juicy bit of gossip our ears were itching to hear.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26) There is an old saying that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. That saying is an outright lie. While arms may be strong and fists may be large, it is the wagging tongue that carries the biggest blow. And the term for that wagging tongue is "Gossip."

So just what is gossip? Perhaps we can define it as the following: Gossip is information that may or may not be true, but that is nobody's business but the person or persons the rumor is about. Gossip comes in a variety of forms. It can be out and out rumor. It can be inquiries about persons from people we think might have the "inside scoop." It can be slanderous statements made with the pure intent of hurting a person.

No matter how you look at it, gossip carries no value. All one needs to do to understand the value of gossip is to see the company it keeps as recorded in 2nd Corinthians, the 12th chapter, verse 20: For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.

In a world that places little value on morals, ethics and integrity one would expect gossip to abound. But when one professes to be a Christian and then proceeds to spew forth gossip, we now find gossip in its most vicious form. For such gossip comes in the guise of some beneficial outpouring when in truth it is best described in the Book of Proverbs, the 16th chapter, verses 27 and 28: A scoundrel plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire. A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends. Put very succinctly, a person who gossips is the devil's broadcasting station. The apostle Paul describes someone who gossips as a "busybody", as someone who doesn't necessarily have a fulfilling life of their own, so they insist on talking and ruining someone else's.

So how do I know if I'm gossiping? Here are five practical questions to ask yourself before sharing information:

Is it true?

Is it necessary?

Is it beneficial?

Do I have permission to share it?

Is my motive pure?

If you can't answer "YES" to all five questions, do yourself, others, and the Church a favor, remain silent. The question now changes from "Can we talk?" to "Should we talk?"

And then ask yourself the most important question of them all. Will the words I speak as a Christian bring glory and a positive witness to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ or a tear to His eye?

One fact stands clear. You cannot speak words of gossip and the Gospel message at the same time. When speaking gossip, Satan has silenced the Salvation message that Christ has died upon the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and rose again from the grave that we might have eternal life with Him in heaven.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

- Bruce K. Meier is pastor of the Sunnyside Calvary Lutheran Church.

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