Written by Mary Kassian
“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels…” Prov. 26:22
I once saw an advertisement that enticed people to buy cell phones so they could engage in more “gab, blab, and gossip.” Are you a talker? Do you enjoy gabbing, blabbing, and gossiping? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying good conversation, but the Bible warns that excess speech is often accompanied by sin. “Where words are many, sin is not absent…” (Prov. 10:19, NIV)
The sin that those with the gift of gab need to guard against is the sin of tale-bearing. In the book of Leviticus – which was an extensive guide for the people of God on how to practically live out the Ten Commandments – Moses seemed to indicate that the command against bearing false witness encompassed more verbal sins than just lying. He gave the people strict instructions against tale-bearing
“You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people!”(Lev. 19:16, NKJV). Tale-bearing is a term that includes lying, gossiping, slandering, whispering, speaking ill, and in some cases, even seemingly innocent blabbing.
The Greek words associated with tale-bearing are “diabolos” (accusing), “blasphemeo” (defaming), and “katalalia” (speaking against). According to the Bible, tale-bearing speech is any speech that accuses or defames a person or casts them in a negative light. All tale-bearing is condemned, whether the tales are false (Mt. 5:11), true (Prov. 17:9), malicious (Ps. 31:13), or merely foolish (Prov. 10:18). Women, in particular, are warned to avoid bearing and listening to tales (Tit. 2:3; 1 Tim. 3:11).
Have you ever been the object of a tale-bearer’s slander? I have. And chances are you have too. Most of us have felt the sting that comes when we find out that others are talking behind our backs.
The trouble with tale-bearing
Tale-bearing can have absolutely devastating results. According to Proverbs, it injures like a club, sword, or sharp arrow (Prov. 25:18). It stirs up dissention (Prov. 10:12) and kindles strife (Prov. 26:21). It tarnishes reputations (Prov. 25:10). Worst of all, it separates close friends and fractures relationships (Prov. 17:9). That’s probably why, of all our failures in speech, tale-bearing is amongst the most appalling in God’s eyes (Prov. 6:19).
King David recognized the dangers of tale-bearing. So much so, that he didn’t want anyone with these types of tendencies working in his palace (Psa. 101:7). He knew that if people didn’t hesitate to bear tales about friends and family behind their backs, they certainly wouldn’t hesitate to be bear tales about David behind his back. That’s why he wouldn’t hire anyone who had a problem with his or her mouth. David refused to listen to gossipy, slanderous speech. He absolutely would not tolerate it. He said, “Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence…him will I not endure” (Psa. 101:5). And he had this warning for those who slandered others: “You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son…But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face!” (Psa. 50:20-21).
David knew that listening to tale-bearing words was just as foolish as speaking them. But if we’re honest, I think most of us would admit that we enjoy hearing the latest juicy story or “prayer request” about an acquaintance or friend.
The Bible says that the words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels, and that listening to tales is like savoring a rare delicacy (Prov 18:8). To “savor” means to pause, enjoy and take delight in. The problem with listening to tale-bearing is that we take it in. It does not simply pass by. Instead, we spend time considering it. And whether we like it or not, it taints our thoughts and attitudes. Perhaps suspicion and caution arise where previously there were none. Perhaps we begin to see the person spoken of in a slightly different light. Or perhaps we begin to see faults that we never saw before. As the ancient philosopher Horace said, “Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled.” Once spoken, words fly irrevocably.
The story is told of a young man during the Middle Ages who went to a monk to ask what he should do to repent of his sin of slander. The monk instructed the young man to put a feather on every doorstep in town. When the young man returned, the monk instructed him to go back and pick up all the feathers. “But that’s impossible,” cried the man, “By now the wind will have blown them all over town!”
“So has your slanderous word become impossible to retrieve,” replied the monk, “though you are forgiven, you can never retrieve the damage you have done.”
The Lord wants us to avoid the sin of tale-bearing. His Word says, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Prov 13:3) That’s why we need to watch out for gab, blab and gossip.
Bringing the Word to life
Are you a tale-bearer? Take a look at the following list of tale-bearing behaviors. Circle any behaviors that you struggle with. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you guard your speech.
- Slander (Eph. 4:31)
- Gossip (Rom. 1:29)
- Whispering (Ps. 41:7)
- Babbling/Chattering (Eccl. 10:11; Prov. 10:8)
- Tattling (1 Tim. 5:13)
- Defaming (Jer. 20:10; 1 Cor. 4:13)
- Repeating matters (Prov 17:9)
- Meddling (1 Tim. 5:13; Prov. 26:17)
Tale-bearing may not be a sin you struggle with. But when a talebearer comes to you with a morsel of gossip, how do you respond? Do you savor the information? Offer a few choice morsels of your own? Pass the information on to someone else? Or, like David, do you refuse to listen and gently rebuke your friend for their sin? Those who are wise will avoid even listening to gab, blab and gossip.
Written by Mary Kassian