Gossip: Burning The ‘Scandal’ At Both Ends

Grace For The Journey

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21Apr  Title pun intended!  That phrase is not original with me.  But I think it captures the intent of what God wants us to understand about this treacherous subject.  And note carefully: BOTH ends.  In other words, gossip requires not just one person, but two.  Someone has said, “Scandal is what one half of the world takes pleasure in telling and the other half takes pleasure in believing.”  

Gossip requires one person to tell the scandalous words and gossip requires another person to receive the scandalous words.  It requires a teller and a receiver or, if you like, a teller and a taker.  My objective in today’s blog is to extinguish the fire that burns at both ends of gossip.

Note what the Bible says in Proverbs 11:13, “A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”

While “gossip” is the word translated by most English translations, I really like the Old English word “talebearer.”  It is a picturesque word.  To be a talebearer is to be a person who goes around bearing, or carrying a tale; carrying a story, carrying it from here to there, carrying it for others to hear.

This person thinks he or she is “bearing good news,” but he or she is bearing a “tale” or, as Merriam-Webster dictionary puts it: “personal or sensational facts about others; a rumor or report of intimate nature.”  So … how to we do our part to extinguish gossip at both ends?

Don’t Be A Teller Of Gossip

During a worship revival service a troubled woman went to the altar.  She was a gossiper and everyone knew her.  She was a talebearer, a “teller” of gossip.  She went forward and met the evangelist who was inviting folks to come forward for prayer.  Approaching the altar, she cried: “Oh, preacher!  I just want to come forward and lay my tongue upon the altar.”  The evangelist, who also knew her replied, “Well, our altar is only twelve feet long, but do the best you can!” 

There are some people who are known as talebearers, as people who love to reveal secrets, people who delight in telling things that really shouldn’t be told.

Proverbs 10:18-21, tells us, “Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool.  In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; The heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom.”

Solomon writes “whoever spreads slander is a fool.”  Such behavior is contrary to the Christian ethic.

The preacher Gordon MacDonald tells of a time he was in Japan on a speaking tour with a close personal friend.  Gordon recalls: “He was a number of years older than I was.  As we walked down the street in Yokohama, Japan, the name of a common friend came up, and I said something unkind about that person.  It was sarcastic.  It was cynical.  It was a put-down.  My older friend stopped, turned, and faced me until his face was right in front of mine.  With deep, slow words he said, ‘Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not say a thing like that about a friend.’”

Gordon added: “He could have put a knife into my ribs, and the pain would not have been any less.  He did what a prophet does. But you know something?  There have been ten thousand times in the last twenty years that I have been saved from making a fool of myself.  When I’ve been tempted to say something unkind about a brother or sister, I hear my friend’s voice say, Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not speak in such a way about a friend.”

Gossip can destroy our Christian witness

While it is destroying the soul of another.

Someone said, “A tongue three inches long can kill a person six feet tall.”  Gossip can really hurt people.

A few posts ago we looked at the “six things God hates.”  The immediate context of that passage is Proverbs 6:12-15, which says, “A worthless person, a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth; he winks with his eyes, he shuffles his feet, he points with his fingers; perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord.  Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.”

Solomon describes a guy who is up to no good.  There is perversity in his heart and he loves to “sow discord among the brethren.”  Put another way, he “stirs up dissension” among others.  He “burns the ‘scandal’ at both ends.”  

In the book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala writes about the importance of Christians holding each other accountable as they grow together in Christ: “About 20 years ago, I said something impromptu to the new members standing in a row across the front of the church.  As we received them, the Holy Spirit prompted me to add, ‘And now, I charge you that if you ever hear another member speak an unkind word of criticism or slander against anyone – myself, an usher, a choir member, or anyone else – that you stop that person in mid-sentence and say, ‘Excuse me – who hurt you?  Who ignored you? Who slighted you? Was it Pastor Cymbala?  Let’s go to his office right now. He’ll apologize to you, and then we’ll pray together so God can restore peace to this body.  But we won’t let you talk critically about people who aren’t present to defend themselves.’  He adds, ‘I’m serious about this.  I want you to help resolve this kind of thing immediately.  And know this: If you are ever the one doing the loose talking, we’ll confront you.”  

Cymbala added, “To this day, every time we receive new members, I say much the same thing.  That’s because I know what most easily destroys churches.  It’s not crack cocaine, government oppression, or even lack of funds.  Rather, it’s gossip and slander that grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit.”

That leads us to the second thing we can do to extinguish gossip at both ends:

Don’t Be A Teller Of Gossip.

Never “lend an ear” to the talebearer.  Stay away from him or her.  Let him know you’re not interested in listening to gossip.

There’s an old joke about three ministers who were out fishing one afternoon.  They started talking about what they believed were their biggest sins.  The first minister said, “Well, I really struggle with drinking.  That’s my biggest sin.”  The second minister said, “Well, nobody knows it, but I slip out to the horse track every once in awhile and place a bet on a horse.”  They both turned to the third minister and asked, “Brother, what is your biggest sin?”  The third minister smiled and said, “My biggest sin is gossiping about others!”  

Of course it’s the irony that makes the joke funny.  But Solomon warns that listening to gossip is as bad as spreading it:

Proverbs 17:4 says, “An evildoer gives heed to false lips; a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.”

Don’t listen for even a moment.  That’s what the “evildoer” does.  And the liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.  Don’t associate with the gossip.  Don’t be a “taker” of the “teller.”  Stay away.

A final exposition from Proverbs 26, verses 20 and following sums up the Bible’s teaching on gossip very well:

Verses 20-21 say, “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.”  

So again . . .

Don’t be a taker of gossip.

Let any gossip

About any person

End with you.

Tell the person who is talking behind the back of another that they should really go and talk to that person if they have a problem with him.  Don’t fuel the fire of gossip.  Don’t be a taker of gossip no matter how “juicy” the information.  Solomon knows our penchant for participating in talk about others.

Verse 22 says, “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.”

Solomon warns that sin tastes good.  This verse is similar to Proverbs 20:17, which says, “Food gained by deceit tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel.”

The words of a talebearer are like tasty and they go down smoothly, but you’ll regret having taken-in any of the gossip.

Verse 23 says, “Fervent lips with a wicked heart Are like earthenware covered with silver dross.”

You can cover up a clay pot with a shiny silvery finish and you can cover up a wicked heart with smooth words.

Verses 24-26 say, “He who hates, disguises it with his lips, And lays up deceit within himself;  when he speaks kindly, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart;  though his hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.” 

If you associate with the talebearer, with the gossip, you will get hurt!

Verses 27-28 conclude by saying, “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.  A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”  

What is the end of the whole matter?

Don’t be a teller of gossip

And

Don’t be a taker of gossip.

Don’t burn the scandal at either end.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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