“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips” (Proverbs 20:19).
Erma Bombeck once said, “Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It's gossip”. Unfortunately, I have to agree with her because this is a sin which is very prevalent. Gossip is a temptation that begins early in life as teenagers engage in a lot of “drama” regarding their relationships with each other at school. It continues as we are tempted to talk about others with whom we are at odds whether at our workplace or even in the church. As the opening verses above indicate, we are warned not to associate those who want to partake in gossiping about others.
For some gossip is appealing: “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body” (Proverbs 26:20-22). The words of a “talebearer” can be “tasty” (i.e. they can pique our interest). However, gossip is not a harmless activity. It is evil. In fact, note that the wise man describes a “talebearer” as being “perverse” and “ungodly”: “An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire. A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:27-28).
Many problems arise from gossip. It creates strife among people and it separates friends: “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Proverbs 17:9; cf. Proverbs 16:28). Gossip also prevents peace from being able to occur between two who at odds with each other because continuing to spread gossip causes the contention between them to grow: “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts” (Proverbs 17:14).
Although we may know that gossip is not an activity in which we should engage, how should we react when we see it occurring all around us at the workplace, school or even at church? First, avoid the temptation by not associating with those who are prone to gossip (Proverbs 20:19). Second, resist from meddling in a quarrel that is not your own: “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears” (Proverbs 26:17). Third, be wise enough to not believe just one side of the story of a person’s grudge against another: “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Finally, instead of letting hate fill your heart and gossiping about the hurt someone has done to you, follow the example of Jesus and seek to cover up the transgression committed against you with love: “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12).
Gossip is a terrible evil that too many, even among Christians, want to overlook as just a “small” sin. It is not. It is ungodly and is an activity in which only those who are perverse in mind and spirit engage. What was true in Solomon’s day is still true today: “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter” (Proverbs 11:13). Today, I will strive to avoid the sin of gossiping by avoiding known gossips, by resisting the temptation to listen to the “tasty trifles” about others, by having wisdom to hear both sides of a matter before reaching a conclusion, and by striving to follow the example of my Savior Jesus Christ to cover up the hurts done to my with love.
“It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).