“Without wood a fire goes out;
without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Prov. 26:20).
“Only you can prevent forest fires” (Smokey the Bear).
With gossip being so prevalent in our culture (Facebook, TV, newspapers, chat forums, etc), it can be hard to resist listening to and sharing stories about other people’s business. But how far does gossip actually go? And what does God say about gossip? Can we follow it? Are we just drowning too deep in the culture of gossip? There are some things that are clearly identified as sinful in the Bible that we conveniently avoid. We don’t consider them as significant as immorality, yet they sins still entangle us and hinder our relationship with God and others.
In Resisting Gossip author Matthew Mitchell says that he wished to find a one-size-fits-all solution to gossip. But gossip is messier than that. However, God’s wisdom is greater than the challenge. Gossip is a broad, tricky, and a pernicious problem that needs to be dealt with quickly when it crops up. Christian Living books should not provide a single fix-all for every problem. There is no one way to handle gossip. But most importantly in this book Mitchell goes for the heart of the problem. And the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.
The author gives practical, positive, spiritual advice on not only avoiding gossiping, but what to do if you become a victim of gossip. Mitchell carefully defines gossip and it’s many prevalent forms (no one is exempt here, not even you).
The Chocolate Milk
The author presents his material in a clear and accessible way. He is honest about his own failures and successes, and humbly opens himself to the reader. And this vulnerability helps the readers do the same, especially as Matt consistently applies the Gospel to all of us throughout the book. He uses Scripture to back up his points and avoids easy/moralistic/legalistic solutions.
He uses a lot of references from Proverbs. It’s one thing to read through Proverbs and read all the verses on gossip; it’s another to see them all throughout this book as the main book to be referenced. Let me tell you, there are any verses on gossip in Proverbs.
There are five to six discussion questions at the end of each chapter for either group discussion or personal reflection. While I didn’t go through every question and answer them myself, they seem to be good at making you think on how gossip is wrong, what you would do if you were on either side of the equation, how the gospel and the love of Christ are better than gossip, etc. They make you think, and that forces you to think about your actions and their consequences the next time you want to open your mouth and speak.
The book supports not just the negative prohibition of the tongue, but the positive use of it too. It would have been easy to stay just on the negative, but the true solutions are all related to the development of the positive use of the tongue (and the heart). It’s like Jesus’ command to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Other leaders (religious or otherwise) in the world have given the same pronouncement in the negative “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others” (Isocrates). Knowing the negative is great, but having to follow the positive takes great effort.
The book is well-organized making it easy to follow along and read. It’s encouraging to know where the book is heading, and to be able to follow along, especially with an important subject like this.
The Spoiled Milk
This book was good for the topic it’s on. Really good. It was revealing, convicting, and all around encouraging to have some wisdom on this topic, to see more of the ins and outs of gossip, and to know what not to do and how to help instead. To speak good of others over bad (even if it’s true!) because you love them (even if you don’t feel like you do). So for this book, there isn’t much wrong to say.
I don’t consider myself particularly prone to gossip. Well, I didn’t. By biblically widening the definition of gossip Mitchell showed me that I may be more of a gossip than I care to admit. In the “Gallery of Gossips” Mitchell lays out 5 different kinds of gossipers. Those who speak, those who listen, and all from a filthy heart. I could think of people for each type. But after reading I realized that I don’t have to go looking for people to fit those positions. I myself have been those things!
Using Romans 1:29 (They are gossips) on page 44 hits hard. Why? Because just 11 verses before that Paul tells us that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18), and then gives a description of what those ungodly people are like.
Gossip has no easy solution. It took the death and resurrection of Jesus to forgive it, and it takes continually returning to the death and resurrection of Jesus to overcome it.
Hopefully this book will change the way you talk to, with, and about people.
- Paperback: 137 pages
- Publisher: CLC Publishing (November 30, 2013)
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[A big thanks to CLC Publications for allowing me to review this book [PDF] for free. I was not obligated to give a positive review in return for reviewing my copy.]