Summary: Psithuristis is the Greek word for gossip. It has a hissing,snake-like,venomous sound to it. What does God’ Word say about gossip and how can we keep the eighth commandment?
Three pastors from a small community began getting together to form a kind of support group. After several weeks of building trust in one another, they began to share some of their darkest secrets. The Roman Catholic priest confessed to his problem with gambling and how he would sometimes lose his concentration in a sermon when he looked down at the offering plates. The Baptist pastor admitted to his vice of Bourbon and smoking Cigars and noted his fears of being found out by his congregation. The Lutheran pastor quickly confessed, "I’m an uncontrollable gossip, and I can’t wait to get out of here!"
Now we laugh at that – but maybe because we understand how close that is to our own life at times. In a "Dennis the Menace" comic strip, Dennis is whispering in the ear of Mr. Wilson next door. "Now listen good. I can tell this only once ’cause my Dad told me not to repeat it." One Christian author said that after a lifetime as a pastor, every imaginable sin had been confessed to him but one. People had confessed theft, adultery, even murder, but no one had ever confessed the sin of gossip! It’s a sin others commit. We never do!
Oh, the power of the tongue! It’s only a little part of our body, but it has such potential to destroy. The tongue – like the mouse on a computer or a joy stick on a helicopter, the little thing controls the whole hardware. The tongue – with it we bless God, and with it we curse people whom God has made. Look again at the way the apostle James worded it: "If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check....All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be."
If only we could just check our tongue a bit! If we could just control it as well as one person does a huge ship with just a tiny rudder! But we don’t. And one slip of the tongue works like a little spark that ignites a great forest fire. We can say things that can cause people to hurt for a long time. Some people never recover. It’s a deadly thing, this tongue. That’s why among His commandments God gave us the eighth one which is meant to protect the treasure of our honor. "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." Luther, in the Small Catechism asks: What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies against our neighbor, betray him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.
Very few of us will easily tolerate damaging lies spoken about us. We want to set the record straight as soon as possible. We want the world to know that what’s been said about us isn’t true – that we’re better than that. Why? Because we know that each untruth is a seed sown that will produce more of its kind – a garden full of untruths that can assassinate our character. There are two words in the Bible for this type of sin of the tongue. The first is katalaleo, which means slander. The second is psithuristis – which also sounds like the hissing of a snake – and it means gossip. Now, what’s the difference between slander and gossip? The only difference is one of degrees. Please excuse this illustration, but I think it best makes the point. Suppose you wanted to kill someone. There’s more than one way to do it. You can take a shotgun, walk right up to them point it in their face and pull the trigger. That’s slander. Or you can take a rifle with a scope. Attach a silencer to it, hide yourself a safe distance away, and pull the trigger from long distance. They never know what hit them! That’s gossip!
The tragedy of gossip comes in three primary forms. The first is False Witness or lies, which is literally telling or repeating what you know is untrue about someone else, specifically in a legal sense. God’s Word says in Proverbs 12, "The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful." When we deliberately lie and make that a pattern for our life, then Jesus says that we’re following in the footsteps of Satan! He says: "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire....not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."