What Does the Bible Say About Talking Too Much (and Gossip)

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The power of the tongue is not to be minimized; our words have the power to speak life or death!

If I asked you to name the biggest gossip you know, my guess is that his or her name would be at the forefront of your mind before I even finished the question!

We all know individuals who love to spread the personal information of others. Some with malicious intent, others just like to be “in the know”. 

Regardless of motive, the Bible is not silent when it comes to idle talk and gossip.  

Before you get too caught up naming the people you know who you’d describe as a gossip, let’s be willing to look at our tendencies and examine our own heart regarding our tendencies to engage in corrupting talk or sharing a careless word. 

If you’re like me, you may be surprised to learn what the Bible says about talking too much!

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Much of this post is taken directly from a lesson from the Bible study I wrote, Wholly Devoted.

Download a free Bible study lesson on your words, along with 4 other in-depth studies to help you grow in your relationship with God by completing the form below:

The power of the tongue, according to the Word of God

God’s Word is clear that while the tongue may be a small member among our body parts it provides direction for our course.

Ever ride a horse? If so, you know the tiny bit in the mouths of horses serves as the steering wheel as you pull on the reigns. James makes the comparison of the bit in their mouth to our tongue. (See James 3:3) 

Have you ever sailed on a ship? If so, you know the waves can be enormous and powerful, and the same is true regarding the winds at sea. 

As strong as those external forces can be, they do not determine the direction of the ship – the rudder does. 

“Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” (James 3:4)

The rudder is small, but it determines the direction based on the pilot’s instruction.

James compares our tongue to the rudder of a ship:

“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.” (James 3:5)

Small but powerful, the tongue is a tool to provide direction.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, continues in his analogies by comparing the effects of the tongue:

“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)

The tongue can be used to build up or tear down. 

To encourage or discourage. 

To edify or tear down.

Promote healing, or infect as a deadly poison.

To sin or honor God. 

picture of open Bible and cup of coffee

Our words are indicative of what’s in our heart

I absolutely love the words of Jesus Christ in Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. 

You see, the things that come out of our mouths are more of a heart issue, not a word issue. 

The things that reside in our hearts will flow from our lips. 

“You may be successful in keeping certain words, expressions, or opinions to yourself in certain circumstances, but the things that rain in your heart will season your unguarded speech.

The heart operates as a control center of the mouth, so wisdom of heart must be emphasized more than the words that leave our mouths.

In other words, the root issue is not cleaning up our words, but addressing the heart from which they flow.

Proverbs 16:23 says,” A wise man’s heart guides his mouth.”

Our ultimate goal is not clean speech – it’s a clean heart.

Merely changing our speech does not necessarily mean a change of heart, as silence on the outside is not an accurate barometer of what’s going on in the inside. For example, an abused child may have silent lips, but rest assured, there’s a storm raging inside his or her heart.

Or consider words that speak something directly opposing what the heart holds true, like smiling at your boss while smoking angry on the inside.” (Jennifer Brooks, Wholly Devoted, pg. 74-75)

A wise man keeps his tongue in check

The Bible says when many words are present, be careful – many words lead to sin. 

I love the NLT translation of Proverbs 10:19, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”

How’s that for direct?! 

What God God’s Word say about gossip?

I used to think gossip could be defined as merely talking in a negative light about another person.

My definition needed to be broadened. 

Dictionary.com defines gossip as, “Idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others”

Idle talk. 

Words that don’t need to be repeated. 

Words that serve no benefit in repeating. 

Gossip encompasses so much more than merely talking negatively about a person, slander, spreading rumors, or attacking a person’s character.

“Idle talk does not include only words that are blatantly negative or directly opposing another person; there are many things we may know about someone that are not necessary or beneficial to repeat.” (Jennifer Brooks, Wholly Devoted p. 77)

“Gossip is destructive and hurtful. Unless we are intentional and diligent to abstain from gossip, we will likely engage in it.

Proverbs 18:8 tells us, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.”

I was intrigued to learn the Hebrew meaning of “choice morsels”, because the first thing that came to my mind when I read this term was chocolate chips!

A legitimate correlation can be made between the two, however.

Choice morsels in this text literally mean, “things greedily devoured”.

Just as chocolate chips are devoured and digested — so is gossip.

Words are devoured and then go down to a person’s inmost parts, where the information is processed and retained.

Gossip is very appealing to our sinful nature.

I don’t know about you, but before indulging in dessert, I eagerly anticipate the first bite. 

Similarly, when someone prefaces something similar to the following examples do you feel your ears perk up? Maybe you lean forward a little, sensing something juicy is to follow? 

Consider some of these examples:

  • “I really shouldn’t tell you this about Mary, but…”
  • “I’m really concerned about the Jones family, and you just won’t believe this…”
  • “Boy, do we need to pray for Simon. Do you know…”

As the listener, we may have an opportunity and responsibility to stop the person speaking before they proceed.

Gossip is linked to betraying confidence with another person.

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13)

Just because someone does not specifically say, “Do not repeat this information”, Does not mean they would like to have it repeated.

Remember, gossip includes idle talk about the personal affairs of others. If you want others to treat you as a safe person to be vulnerable with, then you must prove yourself trustworthy.

Do not betray your friend with gossip.” (Wholly Devoted, Jennifer Brooks p. 77).

“Have you ever been in a situation when you wanted to share something that would be classified as gossip but felt the Holy Spirit holding you back from doing so?

You may really have wanted to share those choice morals and just knew that they would be greedily devoured by your listener. I know I’ve been in this situation many times, and I recognize two ways I’ve responded to them.

The first is successfully biting my tongue and not saying what I wanted to say. In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to button your lip, but after walking away from that particular situation, I was so thankful and relieved that I didn’t open my mouth.

There have also been times, however, when I was not successful in keeping my lip buttoned, and in fact the button flew right off!

Conviction and guilt describe how I felt after those encounters.” (Wholly Devoted, Jennifer Brooks, p.77)

We’ve established that godless chatter can encompass much more than gossip.

Brace yourself as you read what 2 Timothy 2:16 says about godless chatter:

“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”

Talk about a convicting verse. 

First look at the exhortation part of the verse, “Avoid Godless chatter.”

In other words, avoid idle talk, things that don’t need to be discussed.

Words of inconsequential, irrelevant, Irreverent babble.

The NASB translates this as, “Avoid worldly and empty chatter.”

We’re told to avoid engaging in this type of talk.

Now listen to the latter portion of the text that is given as a cause-and-effect relationship:

“Those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”

Did you note the verb indulge in this context?

Going back to our example of choice morsels, there is a degree of pleasure associated with engaging in gossip.

Like all pleasures of sin, however, it is fleeing and results in consequences.” (Wholly Devoted, Jennifer Brooks p. 78-79).

We need to use wisdom and discernment regarding our words. 

“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” (Proverbs 17:17)

The NKJV adds an additional insight in its rendering of Proverbs 17:17 and it says, “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

The Holy Spirit enables us to speak words to God’s glory

James goes on to describe a very dismal picture of a tongue not operating exempt from the power of the Holy Spirit.

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the entire course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6)

The wise of heart have their eyes on Christ Jesus and follow the Father’s instruction to walk in step with the Holy Spirit, yielding to His authority and direction with the words they speak (and don’t speak)! 

Download a 10 page free Bible study lesson that further studies our words from the perspective that, “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Concluding Thoughts regarding talking too much

We also need to consider our use of words while: 

  • Engaging on social media. I’ve seen sensitive information about others broadcasted on these public platforms in ways that wound people deeply. 
  • Texting on our cell phones.

Remember, the information you spread need not be negative in nature to be a breach of confidence or seen by the other person as hurtful.

A dear friend and mentor of mine, Wilda Koerth, used to say the wrong thing at the right time frequently! (By her own admission)

The following is a paraphrase of a common conversation we’d have regarding her desire to have a gentle tongue, an apt reply, and a soft answer to others:

“Now Jennifer, the Lord knows all things. He knew I was going to say ____________, why couldn’t He just stop me from saying it?”

Me: “It’s called free will, Wilda!”

Wilda, “Well, the Lord could help me from giving full vent to my words sometimes. Why can’t He be the door of my lips and slam it shut for me when He knows my talk of the lips won’t be right? Why did He let me say that?!”

While God won’t forcibly slam the door of our lips shut as Wilda suggested, He most certainly can and does give us discernment with our words, and helps us to discern the things we should – and should not say. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, and then be obedient to shut our lips as we follow His conviction.

There’s a song written by Toby Mac called “Speak Life”, and its lyrics are pertinent to the power of our words. 

A portion of the refrain says, “Look into the eyes of the broken hearted, watch ‘em come alive as soon as you speak hope you speak love, you speak you speak life.”

You have the potential to speak life into people who are hurting and suffering. 

The tongue of the wise seizes these opportunities as the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to see them and then empowers them to walk forward in them.

Oh that we would be characterized as having a tongue of the wise that brings healing, encouragement, comfort, and peace.

Watch this 60 second YouTube short on the topic of, Speak Life, where I extend a challenge regarding encouraging others with our words!

There are people who are craving encouragement like a wandering nomad who thirsts for water in the desert. 

Consider the following Bible verses from Proverbs regarding our words:

” The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)

“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly” (Proverbs 15:2).

Let’s determine not to have a fool’s voice.

Choose your words wisely, and speak life.

text overlay reading Free Bible Study lesson on Gossip

A helpful prayer regarding the words we speak 

Lord God, we come before you confessing our tendencies to use rash words or engage in idle chatter with our own words. May gossip not appeal to us as delicious morsels, but enable us to regard them as a snare – give us the strength and grace to turn away from this temptation.  Allow us to use our words to speak life, edify others, and bring glory to you, O Lord. May the fruit of the Spirit be evident in the words we speak as we yield to your authority. In Jesus Name, Amen.

God’s Word provides insight and instruction regarding talking too much and gossip!

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  1. A great lesson to learn! Thank you for the reminder. A favorite verse I use to remind me is: Proverbs 21:23. Whoso keepeth his mouth and tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles.

  2. Such a wonderful reminder of how we need to allow The Holy Spirit to guide us and keep us from hurting others!! Wonderful article!

    1. We all need this reminder at times… I know I do! I’m so glad you enjoyed this article and found it helpful! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

    1. Wholly Devoted: An In-Depth Bible Study of King Solomon has a special place in my heart; that Bible study transformed my life and relationship with Jesus big time! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! 🙂

  3. Thank you for this teaching. it reminds me of the so many ways that we can and are enticed to sin, i.e. Satan as a roaring lion seeki g whom he can destroy. I see my hypocrisy from reading this blog. I thank God for showing me that I may be better and sin-less with my tongue. May God our father bless you richly Jen!

    1. We all need to be reminded regarding the words we speak… I know I do! You’re exactly right – the enemy entices us to sin with the words we speak. I’m so glad you found this post helpful. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

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