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Is gossiping a sin? Is this why Jesus told the disciples not to tell anyone about him in Matthew 16:13-20?
Thank you for your question about gossiping.
First, we should begin by understanding what we mean by the term gossip:
Gossip is conversation where a person indulges in sharing negative private information about someone who is not present to defend themselves. A good indicator of whether something is gossip is to ask if you would say it to the face of the person you are talking about. If you couldn't say it, then it would be fair to assume it is negative, hurtful and divisive.
The bible is very clear that gossip is something that we should not engage with:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).
A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28)
"You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbour: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:16).
The solution to gossip is to tell the truth and not engage with it! Walk away from gossipers, stand up to them with truth and defend those who are not there to defend themselves.
You specifically mention Matthew 16:13-20 and make a reference that this is gossip. This passage is a wonderful part of scripture where Peter acknowledges who Jesus is: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16). Far from this being gossip, this is neither negative and Jesus was in the conversation; it wasn't said behind his back.
Jesus charged the disciples to tell no one because God's timing is perfect and it was not yet Jesus' time for his death and resurrection. The people were looking for a military Messiah: someone to lead an army against the ruling Roman authorities.
We see this is why the chief priests told Pilate that Jesus "stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place." (Luke 23:5). Pilate didn't care about a theological dispute, but he would care about someone leading a rebellion. This is why he asked him "Are you the King of the Jews?" (John 18:33).
However, Jesus was not a military commander, rather he is the Saviour of the world. The people did not understand who Jesus was or his mission, sometimes even the disciples got it wrong! So Jesus often asked people not to tell people in order that his mission may take place.
The question that Jesus put to Peter is a question that is also put to you today: who do you say Jesus is? Do you think of him as John the Baptist, that is, a man? Do you think of him as a prophet, that is, a wise man? Or do you say the same of Jesus that Peter did: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God"? If you have never asked Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour, then I encourage you to do so today. The video on the main part of our site can help you know more about what Jesus has done for you: Watch the video
Today, Jesus does command us to tell others about him. Jesus told the disciples after his resurrection "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Clearly, to make disciples requires talking. Paul gives us a powerful challenge: how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? (Romans 10:14). People will know and believe in Jesus because they have heard about him.
Therefore, I encourage you to participate in 'Godly gossip'. Tell others about Jesus at every opportunity, whether about something small that has happened or something larger. Let people hear the good news of Jesus because you are willing to tell them!
In summary, gossip is talking negatively of a person who is not there. The bible is clear that we should not speak negatively of others but that we should always build each other up. Matthew 16:13-20 is not about gossip, but about Jesus protecting his reason for coming to earth: his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. The same question that Jesus put to Peter is the same question put to you today. Will you accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? If you are a Christian, tell others about Jesus!
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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