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!)
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.
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.