Can there be such a thing as good gossip or is that an oxymoron?
I suppose it depends on how you define the word. One of the definitions Wordnik gives of gossip is, “Rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature.” Let’s start with the idea that a rumor is not inherently good or bad—it’s just something we hear and we’re not sure if is true or not. What is good or bad, is what we choose to do with what we’ve heard.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Much of the information we initially receive comes in the form of rumors—someone tells us where the next roundabout it going to be, what store is coming to our area, or when the new pickle ball courts will be completed. Until substantiated, this all qualifies as gossip, but it’s hardly the kind the Scripture speaks against—it’s just people talking. And if it’s okay to talk about the weather if you’re not a meteorologist, it’s okay to talk about things we are something less than one hundred percent certain about—as long as no one is going to be hurt by it. And I’d like to suggest that sometimes, talking about things can be a factor in generating positive outcomes.
Consider what is going on in the book of Ruth. It starts in 1:7, where we’re told that Naomi “had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited His people and given them food” (ESV). Years before, a famine in Bethlehem had driven Naomi, her husband Elimelek, and their two sons to Moab. Sometime later, the deaths of Elimelek and her two sons forced her to work in the fields. Now, in those same fields, she hears the good news that the famine is over. We’re not specifically told who was saying this or where and how they got this information. Like a most gossip, it’s hard to pin down. It’s something less than a word from the Lord, but Naomi accepts it and acts upon it. And without this decision, there would be no book of Ruth.
We come across another occurrence of people talking when Boaz meets Ruth and tells her, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before” (2:11). Again, no source is cited, but whoever it was, Boaz thought them credible enough to compliment Ruth. This in turn puts her at ease (v. 13) and begins what will become a very special relationship between the two of them. And it started with people talking!
We have one more instance of people talking in 3:2-4. There Naomi informs Ruth about what Boaz will be doing that evening. Since Naomi has been out of the country for several years, this must be new information she has obtained somewhere. She believes it to be reliable, passes it on to Ruth and the rest is history.
God used people talking to get Naomi and Ruth to Bethlehem, impress Boaz about Ruth, and provide Ruth with an opportunity to “propose” to Boaz. This doesn’t make all gossip good, but it does remind us that information that hasn’t been fully vetted has its place in life. Love “believes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV) not in the sense that it is naïve or gullible. Rather, it is discerning—to the point of understanding how God can use people talking to bring about good and accomplish His will.