Monday, June 3, 2013

The Gossiping Tongue - Proverbs

rose thorns

A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech,
winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger,
with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord;    Proverbs 6:12-14

The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.  Proverbs 10:18

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.    Proverbs 20:19

A gossip goes around revealing a secret,
but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.  Proverbs 11:13

A contrary man spreads conflict,  and a gossip separates close friends.  Proverbs 16: 28

A gossips words are like choice food that goes down to ones innermost being.  Proverbs 16:8

Without wood, fire goes out;  without a gossip, conflict dies down.  Proverbs 26:20


The verses about gossip above are just a few of the many warnings about gossip in the Bible.   All of them do not contain the word tongue, but all of them uses speech to spread the bad news.  Gossip is so important in today's world.  There are people who make their living spreading gossip.  Newspapers, blogs, books, radio, TV, magazines –– every way of communication is used for gossip. While we may not have made national news, few of us have escaped the tongue of gossip. Unfortunately, few of us have not engaged in participating in the sport ourselves.   What is gossip?According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is:

  ■ noun
  1       casual conversation or unsubstantiated reports about other people.
  2       chiefly derogatory a person who likes talking about other people’s private lives.

 A gossip was originally a rather more serious and worthy person than they are now. In Old English the word was spelled godsibb and meant ‘godfather or godmother’, literally ‘a person related to one in God’; it came from sibb ‘a relative’, the source of sibling. In medieval times a gossip was ‘a close friend, a person with whom one gossips’, hence ‘a person who gossips’, later (early 19th century) ‘casual conversation about other people’.
Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Today we know gossip as a false or exaggerated report that is maliciously spread about another person.  Where can we find references to gossip in the Bible?  I have found more that 113 scriptures that refer to gossip.  (I stopped counting after that).  Slander is also found numerous times in the Bible.  Slander is quite similar to gossip.  Slander is  the action of making a false damaging statement about someone.  Surprisingly, many people actually are guilty of slander and not gossip. 
You must not spread a false report. Do not join  the wicked to be a malicious witness. Exodus 23:1 
You must not go about spreading slander  among your people; you must not jeopardize  your neighbor’s life; I am Yahweh.  Leviticus 19:16 
They are filled with all unrighteousness,  evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips,  slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful,  inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving,  and unmerciful.  Romans 1:29-31 
At the same time, they also learn to be idle, going from house to house; they are not only idle, but are also gossips  and busybodies, saying things they shouldn’t say.  1 Timothy 5:13 
In the same way, older women  are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. They are to teach what is good ... Titus 2:3

I am sure that everyone knows how dangerous gossip is.  We know we need to stop listening and repeating the words of gossip. We also know the pain of gossip.  It is an easy sin to slip into.  Because of the high priority of gossip in today's world we have falsely convinced ourselves that gossip is not so bad.  Gossip is human nature. Sin is human nature.  Gossip is sin.  I would guess that gossip is probably one of the most common sins today within the local church. When people get together they begin to talk.  A "juicy" story is a way to get a conversation going.  Perhaps it is easier to talk about other people than it is to face our own problems and shortcomings.   Let us not forget that the tongue is a powerful organ.  It is difficult to tame.  Using the tongue for gossip is an offense to God.

The difference between a gossip and a concerned friend is like the difference between a butcher and a surgeon. Both cut the meat, but for different reasons.

There is a lust in man no charm can tame,
Of loudly publishing his neighbor’s shame.
Hence, on eagles’ wings immortal scandals fly,
While virtuous actions are but born and die.
John Dryden, a seventeenth-century British dramatist and poet

The story is told of a young man during the Middle Ages who went to a monk, saying, “I’ve sinned by telling slanderous statements about someone. What should I do now?” The monk replied, “Put a feather on every doorstep in town.” The young man did it. He then returned to the monk, wondering if there was anything else that he should do. The monk said, “Go back and pick up all the feathers.” The young man replied, “That’s impossible! By now the wind will have blown them all over town.” Said the monk, “So has your slanderous word become impossible to retrieve.”

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