September 4: “On Gossip and Eavesdropping”

9 Minute Read

Be Still

To the best of your ability, get rid of all distractions. Take a couple of minutes to breathe deeply, to quiet yourself in the Lord’s presence. Then, prayerfully ask the Lord to speak to you in this time and let Him know that you will be listening and will make whatever adjustments He will reveal to you.

Today’s Bible Reading:

Ecclesiastes 7:1–9:18
2 Corinthians 7:8-16
Psalm 48:1-14
Proverbs 22:17-19

Listen to the Lord

Slowly and reflectively read the following verses and listen to what God will say to you through them. Then, consider writing down any insights He reveals to you.

Ecclesiastes 7:21–22 (NLT): “Don’t eavesdrop on others – you may hear your servant curse you. But you know how often you yourself as cursed others.”

Reflections from Scripture:

Let’s cut right to the chase. What Solomon said in our Verse for Today wouldn’t even be necessary if gossip didn’t exist. If people never gossiped about each other, there would be no need for these two verses.

The fact of the matter is that people do gossip. They do talk badly about others behind their back. They do speak nasty things to others that they would never say (with compassionate courage) to the person they are talking about.

So, these verses become necessary.

Ecclesiastes 7:21–22 (NLT): “Don’t eavesdrop on others – you may hear your servant curse you. But you know how often you yourself as cursed others.”

Essentially, we are instructed not to eavesdrop on private conversations. We shouldn’t strain to listen to the conversation happening down the hall. We are forbidden to listen in on other people’s phone calls. We are forbidden to browse through a co-worker’s emails when they accidentally left their account open on a public computer. 

Why?

Because, among other reasons, we live in a sinful world, and you just might realize that others are talking badly about you.

(A side note worth pondering – others don’t talk about us nearly as much as we think they do.)

If you look closely at Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, you’ll see something very positive. It’s humility that comes from being brutally honest with ourselves. The writer says that we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn others when we hear them talking about us behind our backs. Why? Because we have probably done the same thing. We are not innocent, either. 

So what is the answer? How do we apply Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 to our lives?

When you are talking about someone:

  • When talking about others, try to be positive and give them the benefit of the doubt in your thoughts and words.
  • If you are addressing a legitimate problem with someone else, speak only to other people who need to know or could help solve the problem. Keep the circle of those you talk to small, and they need to be people who keep their mouths shut.
  • Try to say only those things you wouldn’t be ashamed to say if the person you’re talking about were present.
  • Sincerely apologize to the offended person if they come to realize that you have gossiped about them and assure them it will never, ever happen again. Then, plead with the Lord for His forgiveness for committing the sin of gossip.

When others are talking about you or someone else:

  • If it is a small thing, let it go. Forget it. Some fires are so small that they quickly burn themselves out. Addressing some small problems only makes them bigger.
  • If gossip is an ongoing problem, then hold that person accountable for their words. Tell them that what they are doing is wrong, and they must stop. Confront them in love and be quick to acknowledge your own failures, but hold them accountable for what they have said or are saying.
  • Sometimes, the best way to stop gossip is to immediately invite the gossiper into a meeting with the one they are talking about. Offer to be the neutral party in the room. Almost certainly, the gossip will stop. People are often very courageous when hiding in the shadows but are cowards when held responsible for their words.
  • If the gossip continues, especially within the Christian community, and you are the target, then pursue the steps found in Matthew 18:15–17.

Gossip is not a small thing and directly undermines the unity that Jesus desires for His church (John 17:20–23). Therefore, do not tolerate it in yourself or in others.

Spend Time in Prayer

Lord Jesus, I admit that I sometimes say things about others that I know are wrong. Honestly, it’s sinful. Please forgive me. I want to be a good example of what a Jesus-follower looks like. Help me to be positive and encouraging when I speak about others. And when I must address problems or problem people, help me do so in a constructive way that honors You. I pray this in Your Name, Amen.


Matt Ellis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida (fbcpolkcity.com). His latest book is God’s Grace in the Real World. Connect with him on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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