Have you ever played the children's game "gossip"? People sit in a circle and whisper a secret saying to the person on their right. By the time the saying goes all the way around the circle, it has often changed completely. The game is fun—when it is just a game. But it is based on the principle that we are imperfect people with imperfect hearing and imperfect memories. When gossip is more than a game, it can become quite cruel. Our imperfections can deeply hurt other human beings.

It is because of this that the scriptures warn us not to be a whisperer who bears a tale. "The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body" (Prov. 18:8; 26:22). "For lack of wood the fire goes out; and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases" (Prov. 26:20). We must be especially careful not to repeat things that may cause trouble among brothers and sisters in Christ. "A perverse man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends" (Prov. 16:28). "He who forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter alienates a friend" (Prov. 17:9).

Now I realize that often a person who repeats a story has no cruel intent. What happens is that people tend to talk without giving a context for what they are saying. Instead of showing our ignorance and saying, "What are you talking about?" we keep quiet and invent a context that makes sense to us. It is that invented context that changes what the story is all about. That is why the scriptures warn us not to repeat a matter. It is hard to separate what we have heard from what we have imagined.

Instead of repeating stories, the Christian should speak in a good way that will bless others. "To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!" (Prov. 15:23). "Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body" (Prov. 16:24). "Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing" (I Pet. 3:9). "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one" (Col. 4:6). We must carefully consider if what we are going to say is going to help people or hurt them. "The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things" (Prov. 15:28).

Unfortunately, gossip is not just a children's game. But if we will do what God's word says—to build up and bless others with our words, rather than repeating some story we have heard—we can be a blessing to people when we open our mouths. Let us always consider before we speak: Is this what Jesus would want me to say?

—Bruce Terry

Copyright © 1993, Bruce Terry. All rights reserved. This article may be freely reprinted in bulletins and newsletters so long as no charge is made to the reader and this copyright notice is included.

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