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Idle gossip

By Gerry Mellors, Jubilee Church Wirral

Have you ever heard of the phrase “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all!”?

Of course you have. We will all have had that said to us at one time or another, almost undoubtedly when we were children. 

But just because we were told it as youngsters, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to us as adults. In fact, it’s Biblical wisdom; this is what Paul had to say about it:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:2.

And in Ephesians 5:4: Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

It’s so easy to get sucked into gossip. I was talking to an old colleague recently and they were telling me about a conversation they’d had with someone we both used to work with. This former colleague of ours had expressed opinions about our ex-workplace which were completely at odds with mine. I found myself questioning my own thoughts, wondering if I had been blind and our mutual friend could see things I couldn’t.

And then I realised that I was being drawn into the gossip of others, taking interest in their idle talk, being unsettled by it and, worst of all, beginning to question my own positive perceptions.

God tells us in Matthew 12:36-37: And I tell you this, that you must give account on Judgement Day for every idle word you speak. Your words now reflect your fate then: either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned.”

We so easily slip into negative talk. I know I’m guilty of it. We must not forget that our tongues have a great deal of power.

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence–and is set on fire by hell”.

Scary verses! What I say can pollute my body? My tongue can set my course on fire? Two very good reasons to be really mindful of what’s coming out of my mouth!

Our thoughts very much affect our feelings, and the more we rehearse negative thoughts, the more we are likely to find ourselves feeling low and depressed. God’s word reminds us we need to do the opposite: it tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) It tells us that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). 

It tells us:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”  (Philippians 4:8).

Next time you find yourself thinking negatively – that God has let you down, that He  isn’t there for you, that your life compares unfavourably with others’ – try instead to praise God for the good He’s done, the good you see, the good things you’ve received. 

Next time you hear yourself complaining, try to catch yourself and speak instead of God’s goodness and faithfulness. When you hear others gossiping and complaining, don’t be drawn in.

I haven’t “got there” with this yet. I sometimes manage to catch myself thinking negatively and remember to turn my thoughts to praising God, but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I get stuck with self-pity and despair. 

God talks about us renewing our minds: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)

It’s a gradual process, and He’s gracious and patient with us. But let’s try and spur each other on to do this and encourage each other to be more like our loving God.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thess 5:11).

Gerry Mellors and Arlo Mellors of Jubilee Church Wirral

Gerry Mellors of Jubilee Church Wirral with her husband Arlo

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