By Andy Alexander
Writing about Paul’s visit to Athens, Luke describes the Athenians and strangers who visited there as people who spent “their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). This first century malady is still seen today in many quarters.
The news media is constantly trying to be the first to report some new item. Television talk shows go to great lengths finding deviants or perverts who are not ashamed to talk about their perversions. This effort is fueled by the desire to show or tell something that no one has seen or heard before. This kind of news obviously sells or we would not see such a large volume of this trash produced each week. Telling and hearing some new thing certainly is not confined to Greece or the first century.
Telling and hearing some new thing can be good or it can be bad. Telling people the gospel is a good thing and though so many people have a Bible, they have not really been taught the truth. Therefore, it is a very good thing for someone to properly guide them in a study of God’s word.
Relaying joyful news to others is a good thing. News such as the birth of one into Christ or the birth of a new baby into the world is happy news that is good to relate to others. Even sad news can be a good thing to pass along to others. This will help brethren to be aware of a potential need physically or spiritually. While one will not enjoy passing along sad news, it is sometimes necessary because some news is news that needs to be known.
However, there is news that does not need general issemination, news that is personal in nature and news that all the brethren need not be made aware of. Yet, at times it seems that some brethren feel it their responsibility to let others know everything that they know. And, they like the Athenians of old enjoy “hearing and telling some new thing.”
This that we are referring to is commonly called gossip. The Scriptures list gossip as a sin which will cause one to experience the second death (Rom. 1:29-32). Among the sins Paul was afraid he would find when he visited Corinth was the sin of gossip (2 Cor. 12:20). Gossip is defined as `”idle talk, notalways true about people and their affairs.” It is possible that gossip stems from the desire to hear and tell some new thing. We just like to be the first with news that nobody else knows.
Listed with the sin of gossip in Paul’s second letter to Corinth was the sins of strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, arrogance, and disturbances (2 Cor. 12:20). It is interesting because these sins seem to all go together. They feed off each other. If we, as Christians, would keep this in mind, it might help us curb our desire to tell and hear some new thing and at the same time help maintain peace in the congregation. Striving to maintain peace and harmony is required of each Christian (Phil. 2:1-2; Eph. 4:1-3). It is not always possible to maintain, but we are responsible for trying.
It is easy to participate in the sin of gossip. We some-times justify our actions with the reason that we are trying to help, and we may be, but telling people who are not involved and who likely will not do anything to help a situation can only lead to trouble. We are talking about “idle talk, not always true about people and their affairs.” We must always ask ourselves the purpose for relating such news. Will it build up the body of Christ? Will it promote peace and harmony in the church? Is it really necessary to tell? Will it help the person being told and the person that it is about? Are we sure that it is the truth?
Jesus says “that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37). The reason this is so is explained in the context. The words we speak are indications of our true character (Matt. 12:34-35).
If our words are words of gossip, murmuring, and slander, then our heart is not pure and clean as it ought to be. If, on the other hand, our words are uplifting, helpful, and true, then our heart is in the right condition.
James warns Christians of the dangers of the tongue. His book is filled with excellent teaching that will help each child of God to grow spiritually in Christ. Following the teaching of James regarding the tongue will eliminate gossip, slander, backbiting, and all other sins of the tongue. It is one thing to know what to do and another to put into practice the things that are known (Jas. 1:22-25).
Think Think Think before speaking! If what we are about to reveal is true, is it something that others who are not involved need to know? It may involve a family situation that the family would rather keep quiet. It could involve the gain or loss of a notable amount of income and general knowledge may create jealousy in-stead of rejoicing among some of the brethren. It could embrace sins of the past that have been forgiven and do not need to be and should not be brought up and passed around. Whatever the case may be, bridling the tongue is a requirement, not a request (Jas. 1:26).
Telling or hearing something new in the first century in Athens, Greece usually involved a vain philosophy that would damn one’s soul. The urge to let our tongues run wild and open our ears to any new thing is a real and ever-present danger that can cause us to lose our souls just as the false philosophies of men would in the city of Athens. This urge has not died away with time and as Christians, we should keep in memory the admonitions of our Lord to guard what enters our mind and exits our lips (Prov. 4:23-24; Matt. 12:33-37).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 17, p. 22-23
September 2, 1993