The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Perhaps you have heard the expression, “Those are so good that you can’t eat just one.” I have said that occasionally after wrapping my teeth around a good potato chip or other delicacy. Before long, you have eaten the entire bag of chips because they are so good. In some sense, they are habit-forming. Of course, eating enough of that type of food will not be suitable for your health. Gossip is much the same way. Because of our sinful nature, something is pleasing about listening to the tale-bearer who has nothing good to say about another person. Of course, it often ends in ruin for the one gossiping and the object of their slander. The danger of a sinful tongue is repeated over and over throughout the book of Proverbs. It has the potential to destroy lives and ruin churches. It often leads to destroyed reputations (I know, you don’t care what others think about you – a lie you tell yourself). Yet, it doesn’t have to happen. The fact is that those given to gossip have a much bigger problem: a lack of self-control. You see, gossip is merely a symptom of a gaping hole in the life of the talebearer. The real problem, at the very least, is an inability to exercise self-control. Gossip requires at least two people to sustain its dangerous course: the one offering the slander and the one listening to it. It is the latter that Solomon describes in this verse. It is the one who, for whatever reason, relishes the idea of listening to a bad report about another person. Admit it, they enjoy it, or they would not allow it to happen. I doubt I would continue to eat a potato chip I didn’t like. I would eat one and realize it is disgusting and throw them away. A few comments:
First, if you are prone to listening to gossip, you must admit that you enjoy it. The words of a talebearer are delicious to you, and they sink down into the pit of your belly, satisfying the deeds of the flesh. Second, if you are prone to listening to gossip, you need to realize that it is a vile sin before the God of heaven. The damage often done by listening to another’s evil tongue is incalculable. Who knows where that evil message has gone? If a person is a talebearer, they have likely told more people than you. Once they start, they don’t know how to stop. So, they spread it beyond your ears. Worse, they probably gossip about you as well. A slanderer is not a person of integrity. They are described as an abomination in Proverbs 6. Sure, it is easy to justify things. You can tell yourself that you are not the one who spread the lies. Yet, you gave room to it when you listened. Instead, it would be best if you had stopped it in its tracks and cut off the head of the snake. Third, there is a solution: Do not listen to it! Warn the person that what they are doing is a sin and call them to repent. Advise them of the heinous nature of gossip and then warn them that if it persists, you will follow the process of rectifying it by using the words of Matt. 18:15-17. You see, the danger of gossip is too great to ignore. It doesn’t go away on its own. A gossip will gossip. That’s what they do. Unless the Lord does a great work in them, they will continue spreading their “delicious morsels” around until someone eats of them and, as a result, destroys others. As a Christian, you have a duty to call people out for this sin. You do not have the right to eat their delicious morsels. They will sink down into the inner parts of your being and ruin you and others.
The Westminster Larger Catechism has something to say about this subject.
Q. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence; suborning false witnesses; wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause; out-facing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence; calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery; concealing the truth; undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale-bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vain-glorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumours, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defence; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavouring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt; fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report; and practicing or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.
The one listening to a talebearer has a duty to protect the good name of the one being slandered. He has a duty to call out the iniquity of the one spreading tales and slander. He has the responsibility to resist listening to an evil report about another person. Why is it that people rarely call out their neighbor, friend, or family member for this sin? Because they enjoy listening to it as much as the talebearer enjoys spreading it. It will only stop once someone stops it. You are not responsible for the words of another, but you are responsible for what you hear, and if it is evil, a slanderous comment, a lie, or talebearing, then you must call that person to account for their actions. You are not responsible for what they do with your rebuke, but you are responsible to do it.
Of all the sins people in the church commit, this is the number one reason for church splits and disunity within the body of Christ. My friends, gossip, and slander; talebearing should never mark a Christian. Yet, we should not be foolish to think it doesn’t happen. It does happen, which is why the Word of God warns us about it. Each of us must evaluate the use of our tongue and ears and mortify the deeds of the flesh.