Nehemiah 6:5-9 - Avoiding and Overcoming Gossip

Dr. Steve Viars September 7, 1996 Nehemiah 6:5-9

- We have been studying the book of Nehemiah together.
- Last week we began looking at Chapter 6.

- INPUT - What is the relationship between chapter 4, 5, and 6?
1) Chapter 4 - Opposition from without (the ridicule of the work and the threats)
2) Chapter 5 - Opposition from within (Where the people were charging their poorer brethren unreasonable rates of interest)
3) Chapter 6 - More opposition from without.

- We saw last week that the first 14 verses of chapter 6 break down into a neat three-fold division.

1) Opposition by intrigue (6:1-4)
- the invitation to come meet in the plain of Ono

2) Opposition by innuendo (6:5-9)
- the open letter about Nehemiah's supposed insurrection

3) Opposition by intimidation (6:10-14)
- the supposed plot according to Shemaiah

- last time we concentrated on the first four verses, and talked about the important distinction between knowing when a job is done, and when a job is almost done...
- and living the kind of priority oriented life that keeps us from flitting all over the place with a bunch of unfinished projects --- and instead knowing when to say "no" so that jobs can be completed and the most important priorities can be addressed.

- now, today, we want to study verses 5-9, and talk about "Avoiding and Overcoming Gossip"
- Let's read the passage to remind ourselves of the "story line"

- READ Nehemiah 6:1-5

- there's a couple of important things to note there:

1) This is the fifth time this kind of opposition has come.
- we might want to take the position -- If I respond to opposition well once, then I won't have to deal with it ever again.
- this passage shows that that’s not the case.

2) The difference in verse 5 is that the message that is now being carried is an "open letter."

- James Montgomery Boice explains the significance of this:

"An open letter would have been a read letter. It would have been read scores of times during its progress from Samaria to Jerusalem, and the message would already have been repeated widely by the time Nehemiah received the accusation. In other words, as in the case of all gossip, the damage was already done."

- READ Nehemiah 6:6-7 (note - Gashmu - Arabic for Gesham)

Input - In these verses, three basic charges are made. What are they?

1) You and the Jews are planning to rebel. ("thats why you're building the wall).

2) You are to be their king. ("according to the reports").

3) You have appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, a king is in Judah.

- as we mentioned last week, is any of this true? (no)
- is there even a shred of evidence to back any of this up? (no)
- we'll talk more about the significance of those answers in a little bit.

- INPUT - What was Sanballet threatening to do with these charges, and what did he want Nehemiah to agree to do?

(Sanballet was threatening to tell King Artaxerxes about this, and he wanted this threat to entice Nehemiah to come down and meet with them).

- Verse 8 tells us what Nehemiah said to these men - READ 8

- so his answer was two-fold:
1) None of this is true
2) You're just making it all up in your head.

- Verse 9 explains why he responded the way he did - Read 9

- in the time we have left, we're going to draw out three main points from these verses this morning:
I. What You Need To Know About Gossip
II. What You Need To Know About People Who Gossip
III. What You Need To Know About Overcoming Gossip

I. What You Need To Know About Gossip

(Adapted from Chuck Swindoll)

A. The source is seldom declared.

- verse 6 contains the classic "it is reported among the nations."
- INPUT - Contemporary counterparts to that phrase?
- "certain people are saying"
- "I've been hearing"
- "they say"

- INPUT - Why isn't the source of gossip often revealed?

1) In some cases, there is no source.

2) In other cases, the "they" turns out to be one individual.

3) Revealing the source would often reveal an ungodly person and the rumor would be instantly discredited because of the known wickedness of the person who started it.

B. Gossip is noted for its exaggeration and inaccuracy.

Warren Wiersbe wrote:
"Statements like "it's been reported" and "they say" have caused trouble in many local churches and other ministries. In every organization, there are gossip-mongers, hovering like vultures, just waiting for tidbits of slander they can chew, swallow, and then regurgitate. An anonymous wit has defined gossip as news you have to hurry and tell somebody else before finding out it isn't true."

- It's amazing that Sanballet and his cohorts had invented a story that was completely untrue.
- There was not even a nugget of truth here, or a shred of evidence that could back up their claims.
- But that didn't stop them from spreading it everywhere.

- an obvious, but very important principle that emerges from this is, "just because somebody says something doesn't make it true."
- One sign of maturity in a believers life is living a life that is consistent with this point.
- you have to learn who to believe, what to believe, and when to believe.

- it's a very childish thing to believe everything you're told. (Develop -- kids will believe anything)

- One commentator writing on this subject said, "People are often quick to believe the worst about others."
- INPUT - Do you agree with what this man said, and why is the tendency he is speaking of so wrong?

C. Designed to hurt.

- The intent of these words was to hurt someone.
- In this case, they wanted to hurt Nehemiah, and put him in a position where they could hurt him some more.
- they also wanted to hurt the Jews by stopping the project.
- Proverbs 18:21 - Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

- let's push this one step further by making observations from these verses about:

II. What You Need To Know About People Who Gossip

A. They use words for selfish purposes.

- cf. verse 9 - READ

Input - What should we do with our words? What are some right goals of communication?
(speak truth, edify others, solve problems, glorify God)
- The kinds of words we're studying this morning accomplish none of these.

- Let me ask you while we're studying this subject -- Do you use your words for selfish purposes?
- Would you say something, even though it may not be entirely true, or it may not be spoken to the appropriate person, if it accomplished some selfish goal for you?

B. Involve people who are not part of the problem or solution.

- This open letter concept was wicked for a number of reasons but one of the reasons was that it would have been read to all sorts of people who were not part of the problem or solution.

- Whenever that happens, you can almost bet that you're dealing with gossip.
- If a person isn't careful about whether they're talking to the appropriate people, you can mark it down that they're also probably not careful about whether what they're saying is true. (don't care about the AUDIENCE/ don't care about the CONTENT)

- Chuck Swindoll wrote:
"I am personally convinced that the number one enemy of Christian unity is the tongue. It's not drink, not drugs, not poor homes, not inflation, not TV, not even a bad church program--its the tongue.
People who spread rumors invariably display a lack of wisdom. Wisdom forces a person to ask such searching questions as, Is it necessary to say this? Is this confidential information? Do I have any right to pass this on? Wisdom prompts the reply, Don't open your mouth because God hates those who sow discord among His family (Proverbs 6)."

- cf. church where the pastor had to be dismissed, given 6 months severance pay as long as family agreed not to be divisive in the church. Waited six months, then started writing open letters to the congregation!

- This point leads to another question we all have to ask ourselves---Are you committed to only speak to a person about a matter who is part of the problem or part of the solution?

- INPUT - Why is this so difficult?
C. Have little or no regard for the truth.

- as we saw earlier, this rumor was absolutely unfounded.
- yet that didn't stop these persons from spreading them.


- Jesus Christ loves the truth (because His life and ministry and ministry was the embodiment of the truth)
- Do you and I value truth the way He valued truth? (or are we loosy-goosy with the truth?)

III. What You Need To Know About Overcoming Gossip

A. Be loving enough to break the chain.

- cf. occasional calls where someone wants to speak to a pastor and discredit one of our members (will not hear that without them being present)

- Do you treat your brothers and sisters in Christ that way?

B. Be courageous enough to stand up for the truth.

- If someone is gossiping about you, do you "fold up" or do what Nehemiah did?
- Because his heart and hands were pure, he was able to stand up against the lies.

C. Be godly enough to stay close to the Lord.

- While Nehemiah stood up to Sanballet, he didn't start running all over the countryside trying to clear his name.
- Nor did he spend the next five years worrying about "who knew what" and "what people were saying about him."

- As he has many times before in this book, he prayed to the Lord, and went on with the work God had called him to do.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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