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Thursday, December 17, 2009


    There were two characters that scared me as a little boy.  The first was a villain named the "Spellbinder" from the PBS show, "Electric Company."  Maybe it was because Joan Rivers was the narrator of "The Adventures Of Letterman," but I digress.  The other character was from Greek mythology, a female monster capable of turning anyone who looked at her into stone.  Being the snake lover that I am, the fact that a pit of vipers was swirling around where her hair should have been did not give opportunity for attraction.  I am over my Spellbinder-phobia, but Medusa still troubles me!  And, yes, it is the many-headed snake thing.
    There is another many-headed snake out there, more frightening than Medusa.  It is described and depicted in scripture.  "A gossip betrays a confidence" (Prov. 11:13a).  "A gossip separates close friends" (Prov. 16:28b).  "Without a gossip a quarrel dies down" (Prov. 26:20).  Describing those filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity, Paul includes that "they are gossips, slanderers" (Rom. 1:29,30).   Proverbs 25:23 decries the negative influence of "a backbiting tongue."  Paul feared that at Corinth he would find "slander and gossip" (2 Cor. 12:20).  David said that only one who "has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong, and casts no slur on his fellowman" can dwell in the Lord's sanctuary (Psa. 15:1,3).
    Gossip, backbiting, slander, or whatever other name we give this practice, is a difficult sin for the best of Christians to avoid.  It is, however, a true Medusa, a multi-headed snake.  That may sound harsh, but think about what we do when we engage in gossip.
    We are attacking the subject of our gossip.  Sometimes, the attack is overt.  We show open disdain or contempt for the one whose back we are biting.  At other times, we may be more sophisticated or subtle in our attack.  We might even launch it under the guise of a position of spiritual superiority or genuine concern.  A grenade by any other name still explodes and does damage.
    We are engaging in cowardice.  Few people who engage in gossip are brazen enough to say the same thing in the same way to the person that they say about the person.  If you would not sign your name to it and give it to them, do not say it about them.  Cowards are not admirable people.
    We are lowering others' estimation of ourselves, thus harming our influence.  That is an irony of gossip.  You cannot bring someone else down without taking the trip with them.  The weak-minded may hear slander or backbiting about another and completely swallow and follow the stated opinion, but most people see gossip as being much more telling a statement about the slanderer.  A further irony is that gossips threaten people's trust and intimacy with them.  A thinking person will be wary of a gossip, perhaps wondering, "If they say this about 'him' or 'her,' what are they saying about me to others?"  That's a great question.
    We are flagrantly disregarding the Golden Rule.  When we gossip, we are not treating the name, reputation, work, and character of the victim they way we would want ours treated.  Defamation of character, undermining, and whisperings do damage, damage we would not done to ourselves.
    Beware!  It is easy to become a Medusa.  If tempted to speak badly of another, stop!  You risk hurting others and yourself more than the mythic damage she did.  Let true, brotherly love prevail (cf. Heb. 13:1; Rom. 12:10).
--Neal Pollard
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