Every industry, every business wants to improve productivity. In short that means they want the most output per dollar. Let me put it in simple terms: which worker is the better bargain – the one who gets paid $10 per hour and produces 10 units of work or the worker who gets paid $20 per hour and produces 25 units of work? Since I don’t know a lot about business or metrics, that’s probably the extent of my understanding of productivity. When looking up ways to be productive, though, I found a list that has one item I really like. That item reminds you to sleep at work, noting that a short nap can increase productivity. That list also teaches you to remove distractions. The top five distractions to productivity, according to that list are 1) cell phones/texting, 2) Internet, 3) Gossip, 4) Social Media, 5) Email.
I have no doubt that if such lists had been made down through the ages, the items would change. Four of those items are technological issues that didn’t exist 30 or 40 years ago. One, though, seems to be an ageless distraction. Gossip has been keeping people from getting things done since Adam and Eve. There are busybodies among us who seek to sow discord and dissension by talking about other people. The phrase people use today is that these gossips are “getting all up in my business.” Fortunately, the church is immune from that type of activity, or at least you might think it would be. Paul dealt with those kinds of people in Thessalonica. “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
There were apparently people in Thessalonica who were idle. They didn’t work. They lived off the food that Christians shared to make sure that all the brothers and sisters had something to eat, since the government didn’t provide help like that back then, and they spent their copious free time disrupting things in the church. They gossiped about the leaders, they let everyone know how other Christians were doing wrong. You know that kind of person who, not doing anything themselves, is an expert in the life choices and the work decisions that everyone else should make. Rather than supporting themselves, they depended on others to take care of them so they could use their time to make the world a better place, or at least they would claim that plan. In reality, their activities provided no useful help and did nothing but disrupt the fellowship of the church and put the people of the church in disrepute as those outside the church saw the busybodies and wondered why all Christians were like that.
We still have people like that today. They may be productive at their jobs, even. When it comes to life in general and the church in specific, though, they are disruptive by their nature. Often, we in the church cloak our gossip because we make our concerns prayer requests. Detailed prayer requests. We list the sins of the people we want to pray for because we want God to take care of them and He can’t do that unless everyone knows what that sin is so they can pray about this just right. Paul understood that people like this are disruptive and they aren’t living according to the teaching of the gospel. Listen carefully in the next few days does that spiritual person asking you to pray make a detailed list of their sins, or indirect references to them, or do they simply ask you to pray? If your first reaction to a prayer request is shock at the behavior that initiated the prayer request, maybe, just maybe, the person who made the request is gossiping, trying to sow disruption or elevate themselves in the eyes of others. The truth is that we need to say “Gossip? Ain’t nobody got time for that” and build each other up.
Lord, examine me. Am I a disruptive force in the church? Help me be a unifying force in Your Kingdom.