Of course, when we speak of Mr. Know-it all, Master Cynic or Mrs. Gossip we know that these characteristics are not gender-specific; there are many women who are sarcastic and know it all, just as there are many men who are gossips. But we are identifying a family in our assessment of foolish behaviour. And we have all seen the Mrs., or Mr., Gossip at work. They are free with their tongues, unprincipled in what they say and to whom they say it, and are quite unconcerned about the results of what they say. Proverbs 18 and verse 8 describes such a person as ‘a talebearer’. The same word is translated as ‘a whisperer’ in chapter 16 and verse 28. Mrs. Gossip is someone who enjoys sharing news about other people, especially if it is bad news. She often begins her conversation with, ‘Did you know?’ or ‘Have you heard about so-and-so?’ She will not, of course, spread her news in front of the person about whom she is speaking. Her work is usually done behind someone’s back, with a ‘nudge nudge’, and a low, whispering tone. She is not always malicious in what she says. It is just a thrill for her to be the first to tell people something. ‘A talebearer revealeth secrets’, Prov.11. 13, and she is so well known for this that some will say, ‘Don’t tell so and so or else everyone will know’.
The trouble is we all like to hear gossip. The danger of hearing gossip is as bad as the danger of spreading it. We are twice warned about this in the book of Proverbs, once in chapter 18 and verse 8 and then again in chapter 26 and verse 22. ‘The words of at ale bearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost part of the belly’. The word ‘wounds’ here means ‘dainty morsels’. It comes from the verb to ‘devour’ or ‘gobble up’. Listening to gossip, and passing it on, is as pleasurable as eating the most appetizing pudding.
We need to be aware that gossip divides the best of friends, Prov. 16. 28. It is destructive. It causes strife, Prov. 26. 20. Gossip influences our thoughts and opinions of other people without us knowing it, and very few of us will go up to the person about whom people are gossiping to confirm the truth of what is being said. Gossip, therefore, often grows, and, like Chinese whispers, ends up completely different to the truth. If it is said kindly (and some of it is well-intentioned) it can still be inaccurate and harmful. If it is said maliciously, it can destroy a person’s reputation, character, testimony and influence.
God hates gossip and gossips. ‘Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people’, says God, Lev. 19. 16. He hates ‘he that soweth discord among brethren’, Prov. 6. 19. Don’t be a gossip, and don’t listen to gossip. Turn away from it. If news has nothing to do with you, don’t pass it on. Talk to the Lord about what you hear about others, and not to anyone else. ‘Speak not evil, one of another’. Gossips are fools. Don’t be one.