I’ve done it several times before, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. I’ll be sitting in a small circle at a church service, going around the circle talking, and my mind will instantly gravitate to the deep spiritual needs of others. Only, when my mind gravitates in this direction my heart is not really concerned with that person’s well being.
This “concern” often masks itself as a prayer request.
Maybe you don’t get what I’m saying, so let me illustrate.
“We should pray for Mike because he has really been struggling with his pornography addiction lately. While we’re at it let’s pray for his daughter who was recently found at school smoking pot.”
Just 24 hours before Mike told you these things in the confines of your living room, pouring out his broken heart to you and asking for your help, trusting — even if he never told you that this was private– that what he shared was spoken in confidence.
Most of the time when you hear this type of thing it isn’t “concern” that you are hearing or a “prayer request.” Let’s call it as it is:
And we need to stop.
When we think of gossip we typically picture old women darting about like bees sharing the secrets of others, but more often I think it happens within the confines of our churches in the form of “prayer requests” as we interact with others. The first looks nasty. The second kind looks a lot more spiritual. But really, it’s the exact same sin.
Christ didn’t save you or me so that we would go about strewing the sins of others out for all to see for whatever reason. Christ saved us to bear one another’s burdens for the good of the other person. And so, if someone has entrusted to you information about their life, respect that transparency and the opportunity you have to show the safety of grace that the Gospel provides to that person. When you and I are given information from others, it is an opportunity for us to model Christ!
So, whether you have been a front-door traditional gossip or one of the more sinister back door “spiritual” gossips I speak of here, please consider checking your tongue. You’ve read James. The tongue can cause great damage. Ask yourself these questions before sharing sensitive information:
- Did this person ask me to share this with others?
- Did this person share this information with me privately?
- If this was going on in my life would I want the entire public to know or just those closest to me in the church?
- Will doing this work for the benefit of that person?
Can I provide a brief caveat? I’m not discouraging transparency. Transparency is a must and it’s healthy. But circles of transparency differ from situation to situation and it is not our job to determine how transparent someone else should be.
When it comes to prayer request time at church think twice before you share information about others. Make sure that what you’re doing is not gossip masking itself as spiritual concern. Ask yourself if what you are sharing will promote the safety of grace that the Gospel provides, the ethos of transparency that the Gospel creates.
So, I ask again, are you a “spiritual” gossip?
And if you’d excuse me now, I need to go pray for my buddy who recently has been battling… never mind.
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.