The Bible soundly condemns the vicious act of talebearing: “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD” (Lev 19: 16).
Talebearers are meddlers who go about spreading scandalous news and the secrets of their neighbours. They delight in slandering, accusing, criticising and disparaging others. Their gossips often finds ears that are ready to hear some new thing or the faults of others, and pass the juicy stories around.
In Part I of our article (22 March) before the “circuit breaker”, we highlighted the grievousness of this sin. Sadly, even Christians are not spared from this malicious habit of talebearing. It is therefore imperative that we look seriously into this issue of gossip. How do people become habitual gossipers? How can we, as Christians, deal with this sinful tendency?
o Meddlesome nature
It is in our depraved nature to meddle in things which do not concern us. We often find pleasure in probing into the private lives of our neighbours. Access to such “privileged secrets” makes us feel important and we often cannot wait to disclose them to others.
The apostle Peter warned against meddling in the lives of others: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (I Pet 4: 15). Interestingly, the Greek word for “busybody” (“allotriepiskopos”), appears only here in the New Testament. It literally means “one who busies himself with what does not concern him; that is, one who pries into the affairs of another; who attempts to control or direct them as if they were his own” (Albert Barnes).
A similar note of warning against idle gossipers was sounded by the apostle Paul: “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (I Tim 5: 13). The word, “tattlers” describes those who engage in gossip.
It is significant that Paul highlighted the idleness of these meddlers. People who are idle tend to occupy themselves by prying into the affairs of their neighbours. Albert Barnes aptly commented: “No persons are commonly more dangerous to the peace of a neighbourhood, than those who have nothing to do.”
Brethren, let us take heed to our ways. Let us spend our time profitably on things that honour the Lord. Do not waste our days on idle talk or malicious gossip that hurts our neighbours and mars our Christian testimony.
Some people resort to gossip because they feel insecure. Their need for attention and acceptance causes them to pass around sensational or discrediting news of others.
In his article, Who is the Gossip among us, Dr Peter Masters reiterated: “Gossips have discovered that many people (due to their fallen human heart) are powerfully attracted to their stories. The irony is that these proud, self-appointed judges of others are really social inadequate who resort to gossip in order to get the acceptance they crave” (Sword & Trowel 1995 No. 2).
Let us check our conduct. Do we seek attention or acceptance by disparaging others through our gossip? If so, let us repent and resolve to right our lives before God and man.
By tearing down others, talebearers exalt themselves. One Biblical example is that of the proud Pharisee who went “into the temple to pray” (Lk 18: 10). However, instead of praying to God, he was despising the poor publican who was standing nearby. His “prayer” manifested the marks of a gossip: “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Lk 18: 11-12).
Self-righteous people are often oblivious of their own nature, which is just as corrupt as that of the person they despise. Before we condemn others, let us look within our own hearts. Do not be like the proud Pharisee who disparaged others in order to promote himself. May the Lord help us to consider our ways and humble ourselves before Him. (… to be concluded)