And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; (Rom 1:28)
Reprobate? What do you think that refers to? Today we have this connotation of something really bad. But what does Paul mean by "reprobate?" It's a word, adokimos, meaning "failed to meet the test." At the time of Paul, it was used of coinage to mean the coin does not meet the standard. In this day and age of debased coinage people don't often realize how important it was in the past for coins to be honest. If the coin was "clipped," underweight, or a mixture of precious metal (gold and silver) with base metal (lead), the person receiving the coin was cheated in the transaction. In Paul's usage, it means the person fails to measure up to the standard of righteousness set by God. It doesn't necessarily mean the mind is completely evil. A reprobate mind is one that is contaminated, a mixture of evil thoughts with the good. It applies to all of us, in other words, not just to those who are completely evil.
I'm sure you have heard preachers rant and rave over the some of the sins of listed in the first chapter of Romans. You know, homosexuality, fornication, etc., etc., etc. It really gets the people worked up. It makes great sermonizing. Sex, nasty sex, is their motto. They obsess over "fornication" so much I begin to get the idea that maybe the dudes doing the preaching have some kind of sexual problem. (All too often that turns out to be the case and some rather famous preachers have been "exposed" in the past for their little peccadilloes.) Unless you have some serious obsession with sex, all that ranting and raving over sexual lusts gets boring after a while. What I don't hear too many preachers talk about is the rest of the chapter, verses 28-32. Honestly, I think the problems listed in those verses are much more serious and far more common. So, I shall take it on myself to rant and at the rest of us reprobates.
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Rom 1:29-32)
That's quite a list. But, hang on now, is Paul really putting "pride" "deceit" "envy" in the same category as "murder" and "fornication." Yep, ‘fraid so. So - the thing is that all of us are guilty of the list of activities in verses 29-32. We like to categorize sins and brow-beat those who are guilty of the things WE don't do, while we persist in doing the others. Everyone likes to think that there are "little sins" and "big sins" and we can be proud of ourselves because we didn't do the really bad stuff. Bad idea.
The word "whisperers" is a good place to start, and sums up the whole list of reprobate actions. In modern English, the appropriate word is "gossips." You know, people who have nothing better to do in life than sit around and point out all the failings of others. It may not seem all that bad, but it is one of the worst things in the list because it sums up the starting point for all the other sins listed. Gossip is a way to sow discord (debate), malign others, stab them in the back, etc. The gossip doesn't even have to be false. If it leaves out important information so that the hearer misunderstands the situation, it is just as bad as an outright lie. Simply put, gossip is a form of "spell" against a person. A spell is not just some mumbo-jumbo cursing of another person. The English word "spell" comes from a root meaning of "to speak." To speak in a derogatory manner of someone else, is to put a "spell" on them. The goal is to get the listener to act against the target of the gossip. A little lie in the form of idle gossip plants a "reprobate" thought in the mind and can eventually play out as an actual attack on the person. If I can get you to believe that another person is out to get you, you may take action against the person, even getting that person killed. At the very least, it isolates, demeans and diminishes the target of the gossip.
The worst gossip of all time was Satan in the garden of Eden. Think about it. He didn't force Adam and Eve to go against God. He simply maligned God's character, planted a reprobate idea into their minds, and encouraged them to action.
Get the point?
Gossip is usually the result of envy, jealousy, pride and boasting. It is the need of one person to belittle and demean another to preserve his own self-image or gain an advantage by removing a competitor. It is a self-righteous, judgmental attitude that becomes the excuse for destroying another. It is not some harmless little thing. It is a form of "witchcraft" especially when done in groups against one individual. Those prone to gossip, slander, and malicious verbal attacks are the epitome of a reprobate mind. Those who listen to it and agree to it are just as bad.