13 A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter. 14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:13–14, NKJV)
The word of God makes a clear distinction between spreading rumors about others (gossip) and seeking counsel from faithful souls who respectfully and scripturally advise (without sinfully violating confidences). Gossip and tale bearing are the sins of meddlers who spread information that is not theirs to spread (2 Thess. 3:11-12; 1 Pet. 4:15). Tale bearing exposes impure motives from a heart that is often bitter, resentful, vindictive, and even hateful. On the other hand, there is certainly value in wise counsel, and we are taught to seek it out and follow it (Prov. 1:5; 9:9; 12:15; 15:22; 19:20; 20:18; 24:6; 27:9). Asking advice from another personal is not automatically gossip or spreading rumors. Seeking out wise counsel on how to handle a matter in a godly way may indeed necessitate sharing certain information about the parties involved. Requesting such assistance must come from a heart set on doing God’s will without being clouded and driven by sinful motives. Seek out counselors who are trustworthy (“a faithful spirit”), who give sound counsel, and who do not make matters worse by revealing things (tale bearing) that ought to be concealed (Prov. 17:9).
15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:15–16, NKJV)
Both the Law of Moses and the gospel of Christ warn against the sin of talebearing. We are more accustomed to the word “gossip” (1 Tim. 5:13). It has been normalized, as millions flock to rumormongering as part of their usual, information-gathering process. (Witness TV shows like Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, and Page 6, and publications like People Magazine and National Enquirer, whose website tag is, “Hottest Celebrity Gossip & Entertainment News.”) Society is saturated with talebearing – juicy gossip that tingles the ears with baseless assumptions, groundless speculations, and false accusations against others. Israel was told not to be talebearers precisely because it is unrighteous judgment against others. You see, talebearing is about having power over others. It draws people into its snare, leading them to abandon reason and fairness, causing some to even “stand against the life” of the innocent on nothing more than hearsay. The talebearer is an untrustworthy liar. Wisdom teaches us not to associate with such folks, because talebearing causes wounds and strife (Prov. 11:13; 18:8; 20:19; 26:20-22). The best way to put out the fire of talebearing is not to receive it. (And, don’t be the one who starts that flame, either!)
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21, NKJV)
The tongue is very powerful. With it we can bless God and curse men – almost at the same time (although it ought not be so, Jas. 3:9-10). Solomon assures us we will reap what we sow concerning the words we speak. Since this is true of the spoken word, it is also true of the words we speak online. Posting on websites and social media gives us no license to be rude, crude, unkind, profane and hurtful to others. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms are too frequently launching pads for hateful assaults, bitter criticisms, and malicious attacks. Words can cut deeper than a knife, often maiming or killing a person’s good reputation, a friendship, a marriage, or even a life. So, be careful what you post on social media. Our words reveals our hearts, and God is the great heart-knower to whom we all are accountable (Matt. 12:34-35; Acts 1:24; Heb. 4:13). Monitor your words online – what you post will be there for a very long time. Will your words bear the fruit of death or life?
A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28, NKJV)
Gossip destroys trust. Openness is ruined by spreading harmful information about others. Trusting relationships are left in shambles when we talk to the wrong people about other people. Gossip, by definition, hurts and destroys instead of building up a person (Colossians 4:6). Gossip never addresses the party of which it speaks; it thrives in anonymity (“don’t tell anyone I said this”) and deniability (“I only said what was true”). This proverb says such a person is “perverse” (deceitful, fraudulent). It may be said of the whisperer that “perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord” (Proverbs 2:14). Gossip is not a victimless sin. It leaves strife, suspicion, and separation in its wake. Gossip puts others down. It elevates the whisperer at the expense of others, without considering how his words disturb and distress the lives of others. Let us check our words before we speak, to be sure they impart grace for edification, not disdain and destruction (Ephesians 4:29).
20 Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. 21 As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body. (Proverbs 26:20–22, NKJV)
An entire industry exists to peddle gossip. From People magazine, to TMZ website, to E! News (whose byline is, “Your source for entertainment news, celebrities, celeb news, and celebrity gossip”) – millions and millions of dollars are spent on “tasty trifles” about the “rich and famous” (or, infamous). Gossip is a sin that causes division and strife (1 Peter 4:15). It spreads rumors that harm reputations and destroys relationships. It expresses a cowardly heart, backbiting, but rarely actually facing the person being smeared. The way to stop gossip is not to give it fuel; do not listen to the gossiper. Remember, the person who gossips to you about someone, is also more than likely gossiping about you to someone else. Gossip is an evil that will only stop when the heart is purified of its malice, and kindness is put in its place (Ephesians 4:31-32). That requires godly sorrow, producing repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).
He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends. (Proverbs 17:9, NKJV)
The tongue is powerful. It can comfort the grieving with kindness and concern, and it can destroy a person’s credibility and good reputation through malicious gossip. It can build up brethren and it can destroy churches. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5). Let us learn to restrain the tongue by controlling the heart. Jesus said what comes out of the mouth defiles the person, because it comes from the heart (Matthew 15:11, 18). Gossip is one such defilement. It tears down others to justify self. It is ugly and void of kindness. Gossip is prevented by keeping the meditations and issues of the heart pure (Philippians 4:8). Today’s proverb reminds us that love promotes forgiveness, not the separation caused by talebearing and gossip.
11 But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, 12 having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. 13 And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. (1 Timothy 5:11–13, NKJV)
In refusing to register young widows for ongoing benevolent care from the local church, the apostle explained that to do so would provide a means for them to “learn to be idle.” When someone is given everything, there is little incentive to work to provide for oneself and for others under your charge (1 Tim. 5:8). Parents do their children no favors by not placing work expectations upon them as they are growing up. When a person learns to be idle, he or she is exposed to the sins of idleness, like gossip and meddling in the affairs of others. “Wandering about from house to house” has become easier these days, with telephones, email, texting, Facebook, etc. – but, the sins of idleness are the same. Let us be busy doing the work of the Lord, taking care of our own business and families. “Aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands,” instead of learning to be idle (1 Thess. 4:11).
The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17, NKJV)
The one who defends himself is not always right. Indeed, all the facts must be heard to make a righteous judgment. But, without thought of objectivity, fairness and kindness, the gossiping talebearer notoriously takes one side of an issue and spreads it around as if it were the whole truth. Frequently biased in heart, this person hears one side of a story, soaks it in “as gospel truth” and then spews it out. Many are harmed by such recklessness. How very unwise it is to decide an issue without hearing all sides of the matter (see Prov. 18:13). So, be willing to be examined by others to be sure you are right. Additionally, be careful to thoroughly examine a situation before reaching a conclusion. By doing so you will save yourself and others much trouble.
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Galatians 5:13–15)
Liberty in Christ is not freedom to sin without eternal consequences. The apostle had just warned Christians against falling from grace (Gal. 5:4). Now, imagine if it were impossible to fall from grace as many believe and teach. Christians could then “bite and devour one another” and claim liberty in Christ as their exemption from eternal punishment. Even though such conduct is the sinful fulfilling of the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). What a harmful and deceptive view of sin! Backbiting, gossip and maligning others consumes brotherly relations while destroying the loving service that adorns our relationship in the family of God. Such works of the flesh condemn the soul (Gal. 5:16-21). Love your neighbor as yourself. Your liberty in Christ frees you to serve others in love, not to be a bondservant of sin.