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  • Writer's pictureMark Hallock

Fighting the "Respectable" Sins of Gossip and Slander

One of my favorite authors, Jerry Bridges, wrote a book several years ago called Respectable Sins. In this book, he essentially addresses different types of sins that are somewhat “respectable” to most Christians in our day. Meaning, these are sins that are often viewed as minor sins, sins that are not serious enough to be confronted and dealt with in the same way as more serious sins. Respectable sins are sins we typically don’t really address within the walls of the church. Knowingly or unknowingly, we just let them slide.

As Bridges describes, there are big sins that of course we as Christians deal with quickly and unapologetically. The problem is, in the eyes of God, in light of His holiness, these “respectable sins” are just as evil. Yet for some reason we’re comfortable with these. We aren’t bothered by them. Why is this?

One of the primary reasons is because most of us are guilty of them. We are living with these sins, and we don’t have a problem with them. Not really. We have become desensitized to them. Perhaps, we have come to justify them.

Two of these “respectable sins” are slander and gossip. Because these sins are so prominent in our culture, and so prominent in our churches, we are oblivious to their seriousness. We are oblivious to the ways in which they are an offense to God Himself.


Proverbs 18:7 says, “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”


Ruin. Snare. These words are weighty. They should put some fear into us. To think that our hearts could become desensitized to the seriousness of slander and gossip? That slander and gossip could become so acceptable to us and to those around us that we are virtually numb to them? This is a scary thought. How dangerous to our souls!

Consider what Proverbs 6:12-14 says about slander and gossip. This passage tells us that an ungodly person “goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord.” It’s a pretty accurate picture. It’s pretty harsh. Continually sowing discord, division, confusion through crooked speech, this is a perfect recipe for bringing  dissension to the body of Christ.

Satan loves this.

Some people love it too.

And sometimes, sadly, those people are you and me.

So, the practical question then is, how do we fight against gossip and slander? Or put another way, how do we apply Spirit-empowered wisdom and self-control to this area where many of us struggle? Let me offer three biblical strategies that will hopefully be of help. They come in the form of three specific questions we must be prepared to ask when the temptation to gossip or slander arises.


Question #1. Does this information involve me or affect me directly?

If not, let the chain of gossip end with you. If so, discuss the matter only with the people directly involved. That’s just biblical. In Matthew 18, Jesus is very clear that we should go to our Christian brother or sister individually and address this. If it’s a situation in which the person refuses to cooperate, then perhaps bringing another Christian with you is appropriate. The bottom line is this: don’t be the fire starter that gets—or keeps—this thing going. Because it can spread fast.


Question #2. What is the motive of the person who passed this information on to me?

Be wise! This might be somebody you love deeply, but you know they struggle with sharing things they shouldn’t. If this is the case, remember that as much as you care about this individual, you are accountable for yourself and how you respond to these situations. So, how should you respond?

First, if the motive is clearly not marked by genuine, Christ-like care and concern, you should either lovingly bring correction to the person, or remove yourself from the conversation entirely. On the other hand, if the motive is misguided love (you know they mean well, but this probably isn’t the best way to handle things), offer to facilitate a constructive conversation between the person gossiping and the other individual. You might say, “Let’s go talk to that person instead of going to anyone else. We don’t need to bring others into this. Let’s deal with this directly. That is the most loving thing to do.”

This kind of response takes a courageous leader, and you need to be that leader in these situations. Sure, it’s easier not to step up, which is why most people don’t. It is a bit awkward—especially if you’re concerned this person is going to think you’re trying to be “holier than thou” and feel judged by you. We don’t want anyone to feel this way. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t ultimately matter how they “feel.” If you are trying to do the right thing, the biblical thing, with kindness and humility, that is what matters most. This is true love in action.


Question #3. What is going on in my heart?

Gossip and slander is a heart issue at the root. This means that if we are tempted ourselves to pass on true or false information about another person, we must be prepared to honestly ask, “Lord, what is going on in my heart right now? Why am I tempted to gossip about and/or slander this person? What is the root issue here? My pride? My ego? My desire to get revenge? My hunger for other people’s approval? Lord, what is going on in my heart?”

As Christians who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we must exercise humility before the Lord in these moments. We must be ready and willing to say with the Psalmist in Psalm 139:23-24,

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. 


So, these are three practical questions that can help us in the battle against gossip and slander. As is the case with our battle against other sins, we must be proactive rather than reactive in how we address slander and gossip in our lives. We need to stay alert. We need to be prepared, thinking ahead.


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