One of You Is a Gossip
A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends. –Proverbs 16:28
Jesus made a remarkable statement concerning Judas: “‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him” (John 6:70-71).
To what was Jesus referring when He identified Judas Iscariot as “a devil”? Was He speaking figuratively or factually? Is Jesus saying that a human being could not only have an evil spirit living in his soul, but that a person could actually become a demon?
Some teach that Judas had become so perfectly possessed by Satan that he actually lost his humanity. Before we accept this interpretation, let us remember that after this fallen apostle delivered Jesus up, he felt such remorse for betraying Christ that he committed suicide. Could a demon feel such remorse for sin? I do not think so.
What I believe Jesus is identifying in Judas Iscariot as a “devil” is something that, today, exists unchecked among many Christians: slander. In the New Testament the Greek word diabolos, which is translated “devil” in this text, is translated impersonally elsewhere as a “false accuser,” “slanderer” or “malicious gossip.” In fact, 1 Timothy 3:11 and 2 Timothy 3:3 both translate diabolos (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #1228) as “malicious gossip(s).”
In other words, Jesus is not saying “one of you is a devil” in an organic or theological sense, but that one of you is “a slanderer, a malicious gossip.” So while the disciples were almost bragging about their loyalty to Christ, Jesus corrected them, in effect saying, “Yes, I chose you, but even among you there is one who is a malicious gossip, whose words will eventually betray Me to My enemies.”
Gossip in the Last Days
This problem of gossip in the Church, Paul tells us, will continue right into the end of the age. Listen carefully to what Paul wrote to Timothy about the last days: “Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips” (2 Tim. 3:2-3), and the list goes on. In the midst of this list of great sins of the apostasy, the apostle includes “malicious gossips.” This is the exact same word translated “devil” in John 6:70.
Perhaps you know people who always have something negative to say about others, who always bring negative information about people into their conversations. I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us how “malicious gossip” is kin to the nature of Satan himself!
The Scriptures say that we will be justified or condemned by our words. Yes, our words—even those spoken in secret with a spouse or friend about others—are used by God to measure our obedience to His will. James writes, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man” (James 3:2).
Words have power. Scripture reveals that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). Our words, expressed as a confession of faith, bring us into salvation; but words without faith can lead us and others with us into destruction and heartache.
James 3:8 warns, “The tongue . . . is a restless evil . . . full of deadly poison.” “The tongue,” he says, “is a fire, the very world of iniquity” (v. 6). And James reveals a most profound thought: “The tongue . . . sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (v. 6).
Satan gains access to our world, to destroy all that is good and holy in it, through our tongues. The very course of our life, the direction and quality of our earthly existence, is “set on fire by hell” through the words we speak. If we talk negatively about someone or maliciously gossip, the destructive fire of hell itself is released through our words. Lord, help us to understand the power of our words!
I believe God wants to break the power of gossip and negative speaking from the Church. We may have a perfect analysis of what is wrong and why it is evil, yet if all we do is talk about it, we have yet to disavow our allegiance to hell. God calls us to be a house of prayer for all nations—a spiritual community that is mature, fully capable of seeing what is wrong, but positioning itself to release redemption into the world.
If Paul Visited Your Community
Imagine if the apostle Paul came into a typical American city. Do you know what he might say about our divisions? Probably what he told the Corinthians: “I am afraid that perhaps when I come . . . there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (2 Cor. 12:20).
Does that remind you of any churches anywhere? Strife? Jealousy? Slander and gossip? How can we approach God with these things existing in us? I believe God desires to give the Church a whole new approach. But we cannot lay hold of the future unless we first let go of the past.
Perhaps you are thinking, “So and so should hear this.” Yes, but we must start with ourselves. Pastors must stop talking negatively about people; they need to refrain from “leaking” problems with people into their sermons. Intercessors must stop negative gossip about the people for whom they should be praying. If we discuss what is wrong for ten minutes, let us pray for redemption for twenty.
How do you respond to life’s imperfections? Do you gossip? When you hear of someone’s failure, are you quick to spread the news? If Jesus was looking at the Christians with whom you fellowship, would He say to you what He spoke to His early apostles, that “one of you is a malicious gossip?”
Even if you are not a gossip or slanderer, you must be careful to avoid “fellowship” with gossips. Criticisms incubate. Paul warned that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). If we walk with the wise, we will become wise, but if we open our hearts to the cynical and critical, then we become like them. That is why Jesus said we were to “take heed” to what we hear. For whatever we intently focus upon, we absorb in abundance (see Mark 4:24).
Thus, we must not even listen to gossip. When God shows us what is wrong in life, it is so we can pray for redemption, not spread the bad news all over town. Prayer has a positive focus. People with Christ’s love have a spiritual vision that causes them to see beyond the imperfections and limitations of the present world into the potential awaiting in the future—and they pray until what they see comes to pass.
Remember: None of us stands perfectly upright. Every time we judge someone, we position ourselves to be judged as well. Indeed, we each continually lean in the direction of our weakness. Only by the grace of God are we kept from falling. The moment we begin to self-righteously judge or gossip about another for their failings, we lean a little closer toward our own fall.
Our actions and words should be motivated by mercy. If we must discuss the situation or individual, let us harbor no malice or ill will. Let redemption be our guide, not revenge. Let us keep ourselves from becoming those who betray the working of Christ on earth. Let us keep ourselves from the realm of the malicious gossip.
Lord, purify my lips with fire from Your holy altar. Father, forgive me for my words that have not always been redemptive. Lord, deliver the Church from the realm of spreading gossip to the work of spreading grace. Help us to be a house of prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
A service of Frangipane Ministries, Inc.
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Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations were taken from the NASB.