Gossip and the Seven Deadly Sins

By: Dr. Gregory S. Neal

None of us likes to hear about how we are sinners, and how we have “fallen short of the Glory of God.” Indeed, in the Churches these days it is quite common to find that the subject of “sin” is avoided as much as possible. We don’t want to talk about our sins--but wax eloquent about the sins of others--because, I am convinced, we don’t what to face the fact that we truly are sinners.

At first glance, some sins don’t look like sins. Sometimes we open our mouths in a conversation without the intention of sinning, but the next thing we know we’re in the middle of a gossip-fest. And Gossip is a sin--a sin that afflicts clergy and laity alike.

Scripture against gossiping abounds. Among my favorites are:

“A gossip goes about telling secrets, but one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a confidence.” (Proverbs 11:13)

“A gossip reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a babbler. (Proverbs 20:19)

We all know the hurt and damage and fear and pain that gossiping can cause. Who has not been hurt by gossip? Who has not been pained by having a confidence broken? Who has not had falsehoods and misinformation spread about them by people whom they once trusted? Gossip has a powerful and destructive influence on relationships; it can destroy families, friendships, and even the community of faith. When we break apart into groups and talk about each other, or when we speak aloud about topics or individuals or conversations that were private, we damage not only those about whom we speak, but the whole community and, indeed, ourselves.

This is the power of sin. It infects and destroys not just the sinner, but it can have a devastating impact upon the whole community of faith--even those who are innocent of any sin at all can be hurt by the sins of others! Even those unintentional sins, like idle gossip, can deeply hurt and frighten those caught in the fray.

We hear so much about the extravagant sins of this age that we often fail to realize that many, far more subtle sins are equally has atrocious in the eyes of God as is murder. One of my favorite lists of sins is also found in Proverbs, and has been traditionally called “The Seven Deadly Sins.” Unfortunately, so few of us have read this list that we are more apt to think that there are some real heavy sins in this list. But, in reality, only one of them is truly “heavy.”

There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
a lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family.
(Proverbs 6:16-19)

Ouch! Each and every one of us can probably identify times in our lives when we have done at least 6 of these 7! Who hasn't been “haughty” (that is, shown great pride in ourselves)? Who hasn't lied? Who hasn't, at some time in their lives, “devised wicked plans,” or schemes, to achieve their innermost desires? Who hasn't had feet which hurry them into evil? Who hasn't testified falsely? And, who hasn't sown discord in the family--namely, the family of faith? We should notice two things about this list: firstly, they all have a direct and powerful impact upon the Body of Christ--they speak, for the most part, about sins which can and do take place within the community of faith. Secondly, certainly five of these sins can be understood as having to do, to one degree or another, with gossip. And, as the Scriptures make plain, they are an “abomination” to God.

How do we overcome the power of sin in our lives? We overcome it through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who works within us to empower us to love. Concerning the fulfilling of the Law, Jesus Said:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself."( Matthew 22:37-40)

This is how we defeat the sinful power of Gossip in our lives. We respond to God’s Grace with love for God, and with love for our neighbors.

© 1996 Dr. Gregory S. Neal
All Rights Reserved

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The Reverend Dr. Gregory S. Neal is the Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Commerce, Texas, and an ordained Elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Duke University, and Trinity College, Dr. Neal is a scholar of Systematic Theology, New Testament origins, and Biblical Languages. His areas of specialization include the Theology of the Sacraments, in which he did his doctoral dissertation, and the formation and early transmission of the New Testament. Trained as a Christian educator, he has taught classes in these and related fields while also serving for more than 25 years as the pastor of United Methodist churches in North Texas.

As a popular teacher, preacher, and retreat leader, Dr. Neal is known for his ability to translate complex theological concepts into common, everyday terms. HIs preaching and teaching ministry is in demand around the world, and much of his work can be found on this website. He is the author of several books, including
Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life, which is in its second edition, and Seeking the Shepherd's Arms: Reflections from the Pastoral Side of Life, a work of devotional literature. Both of these books are currently available from Amazon.com.