"You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people..." (Lev. 19:16).
A talebearer is a person who circulates rumors that are either distortions of truth or outright lies which are designed to do mischief. God hates the one "who sows discord among brethren" (Prov. 6:16-19).
A gossip has been variously defined as: (1) a newscaster without a sponsor. (2) A person who will never tell a lie if the truth will do as much damage. (3) One who turns an earful into a mouthful. (4) What no one claims to like but what everyone seems to enjoy.
In reality, gossip is telling and/or listening to something uncomplimentary about another with the wrong intent or purpose.
Understand, though, every time information is exchanged about others is not necessarily gossip. False teachers, trouble-makers, etc., must be exposed and others must be warned concerning them (1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Tim. 4:14-15).
When we tell and/or listen to something uncomplimentary about someone with the attitude of entertainment. We are not telling or listening because we are sympathetic and want to help. We want to be entertained at someone else's expense. We want a good laugh over someone's weaknesses.
When we tell and/or listen in order to build up our own ego. Some people are perverted enough to make themselves feel big by trying to make others look small. "Look how bad or how stupid Joe is for doing so and so" really means "Look how good or how smart I am because I did not do such a stupid thing." The more gossips talk about another's mistakes and sins, the more they inflate their own egos.
When we tell and/or listen in order to get revenge. When we have been wronged, the Scriptures teach us to go to the offender and get things right (Matt. 18:15-17). The one who gossips would rather "get something on" the other person and spread it all around in order to have revenge. We need to remember that God will have the "last word" (Rom. 12:19). And His last word to gossips will not be pleasant for them to hear.
When we tell and/or listen for spite. We do not like some person so we like to tell or hear about their failures or problems. Do we want to help them? Never! Would we rather spite them? Every chance we get! How many good names have been tarnished because of such malice?
When we tell and/or listen to something uncomplimentary about others just to "have something to say." I once heard a preacher say, "Some think that they are being 'newsy' when they are actually being 'nosy' about other people's problems. They think they are 'passing the time' when actually they are only wasting time -- theirs and others."
It perpetuates lies that ought to have died. The overwhelming majority of hurtful rumors are false (cf. Acts 21:21). Did you ever play the game "Gossip" at a party. It's the one where someone whispers something to a person at the head of a line who, in turn, whispers it to the one next in line, etc.? If you have, you know that anything that is repeated several times is often inaccurately remembered and conveyed and does not resemble what was first said. Our memories are not infallible thus we perpetuate things which are not true. We should allow hurtful rumor to die (Prov. 26:20).
It assassinates character and makes innocent people suffer. Innocent people are not only labeled but also libeled without just cause. When we have participated in ruining someone's good name, we have rendered them a grave injustice (Prov. 22:1).
Gossip can destroy the local church or make its work very difficult. One man on a bulldozer in one short hour can pull down a sizable building that took many people much time to build. In like manner, one gossip can destroy in a very short time the years of labor good, honest have invested in building up the body of Christ.
It is usually one-sided, biased and extremely prejudicial (Prov. 18:17). Wrong conclusions are often reached when one hears only one side of a story. A gossip will tell you only what he wants you to hear.
It reveals a lack of love. How can one say that he loves his brother or sister in Christ and then proceed to tell and/or listen to all of the dirt about him that can be dug up? Can one "smear" a brother and love him at the same time?
It destroys friendship (Prov. 16:28; 17:9). Irreparable harm is often inflicted upon long-lasting relationships. The old hymn "Angry Words" states, "Love is much too pure and holy, Friendship is too sacred far, For a moment's reckless folly, Thus to desolate and mar."
Gossiping is an ugly, ungodly, deceitful and soul-destroying habit that, if you have it, must be broken, repented of and replaced with words that edify (Eph. 4:29-32).