Gossip as Entertainment
In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 1 Timothy 3:11
Working in addiction medicine, I frequently encounter those who’re making terrible life decisions. On the job, it’s often necessary to identify and call out self-destructive behavior to address and attempt to change it. To this end, I will often speak with my colleagues, getting their advice in difficult situations. In the office, we will frequently discuss the best approach to specific cases. It’s a fine line though, between conferring about a patient to help him and talking about a patient simply to run him down. How can I best help this guy? is very different than, Can you believe what this guy did? He is such an idiot. In both cases I’m talking about the patient, but in one case I’m trying to help and in the other, I’m simply gossiping about him for my own dark entertainment.
Christians, I think, are particularly susceptible to this sin of gossip, slander, or speaking maliciously of others, simply for pleasure. This is apparently nothing new. Paul must have encountered it and in today’s passage, he taught that women in the church must not engage in this kind of behavior. That Paul addressed women may be meant to suggest that women are particularly prone to gossip, but that doesn’t exclude men from the command. He insisted that speaking evil of others is evil itself. He went on to describe the antithesis of gossip or slander, as being trustworthy. Those in the church who speak evil of others engage in sin, hurting themselves, their reputation, and the reputation of the church, in turn, damaging the cause of Christ. No one trusts or thinks highly of a gossip.
Just like me in the office though, the Christian walks a fine line. In other passages, Paul instructed those in the church to call out sin in each other’s lives. We’re supposed to pray for the struggles of others. In doing so though, it’s easy to simply talk trash about those for whom we pretend to be helping. Sharing a prayer request with our friends can quickly descend into a gossip session about others.
In gossiping for our own entertainment though, Paul says we indulge in sin. Perhaps it’s a small sin, one that is acceptable in church circles, but the most destructive sin may be the one that we habitually engage in without ever causing ourselves enough self-destruction to have to deal with it. Any sin that we’re enslaved to inherently turns us from God, paralyzing us spiritually. While we’re pursuing our own appetite for gossip, we cannot simultaneously pursue the life that God desires for us.