Understanding Gossip

It is written:

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. (1 Peter 4:15)


For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. (2 Thessalonians 3:11)


1 Timothy 5:13-And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.

Gossip is often as practiced as it is misunderstood.

Notice the word translated as ‘busybodies.’ The Greek etymology behind this word has some interesting information for us:

“(3) It is doubtful that the widows were involved in much more than lazy idleness, except perhaps to spread the heresy; that is all the text will bear (cf. Comment on 2: 11). περιέρχεσθαι describes moving from one place to another, such as Paul’s trip from Syracuse to Rhegium (Acts 28: 13; cf. variant in Acts 13: 6), Jewish exorcists going from city to city (Acts 19: 13), and OT martyrs going about in animal skins (Heb 11: 37). The context here confirms that the goings and comings are the result of idleness, hence the translation “flitting.” οἰκία, “house,” idiomatically almost always occurs with the article. The younger widows should not be enrolled in the church’s care, not only because they are idlers but also because they are φλύαροι καὶ περίεργοι, λαλοῦσαι τὰ μὴ δέοντα, “gossips and busybodies, speaking about things that should not be spoken.” φλύαροι, “gossips,” and περίεργοι, “busybodies,” are both substantival adjectives, parallel with ἀργαί, “idlers,” and the predicate of the verb μανθάνουσιν, “they learn.” φλύαρος occurs only here in the NT and means “gossipy, foolish” (BAGD 862), “tattler, babbler” (LSJ, 1946), talking about something that does not concern oneself (Roloff, 297). The cognate verb φλυαρεῖν (cf. 3 John 10) means “to talk nonsense” (BAGD 862)….“However, Fee says “the word means to ‘talk foolishness’ but not in the sense that ‘gossipy’ connotes. Rather, in most of its extant uses it means to prate on about something, either in a foolish manner or with foolish ideas. In the latter sense it is picked up in polemical contexts to refer to speaking what is foolish or absurd vis-à-vis the truth—precisely Paul’s condemnation of the F[ alse] T[ eachers] in 1: 6; 6: 20; 2 Tim 2: 23” (JETS 28 [1985] 148 n. 9). The primary meaning of περίεργος is “meddlesome, a busybody” (BAGD 646). It can describe behavior roughly analogous to φλύαρος, “gossipy.” (William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46 (Word Biblical Commentary), 293-294 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

The harm which gossip can do is truly beyond imagining. One author illustrated it like this:

“There was a peasant with a troubled conscience who went to a monk for advice. He said that he had circulated a vile story about a friend, only to find out the story was not true. “If you want to make peace with your conscience,” said the monk, “you must fill a bag with chicken feathers, go to every dooryard in the village, and drop at each of them one fluffy feather.” The peasant did as he was told. Then he returned to the monk and announced he had done penance for his folly. “Not yet,” replied the monk, “Take your bag, make the rounds again and gather up every feather that you have dropped.” “But the wind must have blown them all away,” said the peasant. Words are easily dropped, but no matter how hard you try, you can never get them back again.” (Anonymous, Best Sermon Illustrations: More Than 2000 Stories In One, 985 (Kindle Edition); AAA SMARTWORLD 2019)

May the Lord help us to guard our tongues and refrain from gossip and slander.

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