The Bible has a lot to say about gossip and the danger it poses to individuals and communities. At its core, gossip involves speaking negatively about someone who is not present. Scripture condemns gossip as sinful and destructive. Here is an overview of some of the key biblical passages about gossip and the problems it causes:
Gossip is condemned in Scripture
Several verses directly address gossip and make clear it is unacceptable behavior for followers of God. For example:
“A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)
“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” (Proverbs 20:19)
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
These verses show gossip is something the Lord explicitly despises and commands his people to avoid. The Bible writers warn gossip causes disunity, broken relationships, and stir up trouble.
Gossip reveals a sinful heart
The Bible teaches gossip reflects a heart condition that needs repentance and renewal. Jesus said:
“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)
The fact gossip is listed among sins like sexual immorality and greed shows it is a serious offense before God. Gossip undermines the command to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:31). It also breaks the command to build others up with our words rather than tear them down (Ephesians 4:29).
Gossiping reveals bitterness, jealousy, pride, anger and other heart issues needing confession and change. As James 3:9-10 warns, blessing and cursing should not come from the same mouth.
Gossip spreads destructively like a fire
Proverbs 16:27 describes gossip as spreading maliciously: “Scoundrels plot evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.” Gossip passes quickly and is difficult to stop or control once unleashed. As Proverbs 26:20 says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” Avoiding gossip in the first place is wise.
The Bible uses vivid imagery to capture how gossip and slander spread destructively. Proverbs 18:8 says: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” Gossip feeds our hunger for what is forbidden but ultimately leaves us feeling unsatisfied and guilty.
Proverbs 26:22 adds, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” And Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Once gossip is out, relationships can be damaged beyond repair. So it is best to avoid spreading rumors and stay silent unless we know something to be absolutely true.
Stay away from gossips to protect yourself
Not only should believers avoid becoming gossips themselves, Scripture also teaches we should limit time spent around those who gossip regularly. After all, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). And gossips can quickly lead others astray.
Proverbs 20:19 says, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” And 2 Timothy 3:1-5 warns, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
As Christians, we are called to separate ourselves from the sinful patterns of this world, which includes avoiding friendships and partnerships with those who regularly gossip and slander others. While we hope to be a godly influence on friends who are gossips, we also need wisdom in limiting influence over our own hearts.
We will be held accountable for gossip and slander
Given how clearly Scripture condemns gossip, it is no surprise that God promises he will hold people accountable for careless words and stirring up strife. Jesus said, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)
Knowing we will stand before the Lord for every careless word should make us think carefully before repeating rumors or talking negatively about others when they are not present to defend themselves. We see this accountability further described in Romans 1:28-32, which lists “slander” as one of many sins that deserve death. The stakes are high when it comes to how we use our words.
Love should guide our speech about others
Rather than participating in gossip, Scripture calls Christians to speak to one another with love and humility. Ephesians 4:29 says, “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.”
And Colossians 4:6 tells us, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Our words should aim to build up, not tear down. 1 Peter 4:8 adds, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Love should motivate us to gently confront, forgive and cover sins rather than broadcasting them.
Pray for God’s help overcoming gossip
Since gossip is so deeply rooted in the sinful human heart, we need God’s help to root it out of our lives. We should pray for both the desire and power to have self-control over our tongues, to stop listening to gossip, and to avoid environments where gossip thrives. As James 1:26 says, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can overcome habits of gossip and instead build one another up in love. Ephesians 4:31-32 provides this encouragement: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” By God’s grace, may we replace gossip and slander with purposeful and loving speech.