Town gossip! We have developed other names for it. It is called the grapevine or the rumour mill. A lot of news and information is circulated in this unofficial manner.
Wherever people gather there will be talk. It may be in the coffee shop, on the street or at a social.
I know it is tempting to absorb a juicy story about a mutual acquaintance, especially if it has to do with a moral failure. Everyone strains to hear every word and can hardly wait to tell someone else.
The book of the Proverbs is accurate in its assessment of this aspect of human nature. In chapter 18 verse 8 it says: “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.”
Town gossip – it spreads like wildfire, but is it poison or medicine?
All too often it is harmful and destructive. An online poll published in a recent issue of The Reminder indicated that 63 per cent of those who responded believe malicious rumours are a problem in the Flin Flon area.
Stories that get passed around may be half true, exaggerated, distorted, without foundation and may be a total fabrication. There is always the possibility that they include the malice and antagonism of the talebearer. Thus they can be very dangerous.
Would it not be fair to go to the person whose character is being assassinated and tell him or her in a forthright manner the things that are being circulated, in order to get the facts straight? It is far better to be up front and honest than to harbour secret rumours about someone.
It is bad enough that gossip can cause a heap of trouble for the person who is the subject of it. What makes it even worse is that it is offensive to God, especially if it is a fabrication. God makes it clear in Exodus chapter 20 verse 16:” You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.” When we violate a standard of the Moral Law (the 10 commandments) we are offending God.
Here are a few more Scriptures that indicate what God thinks of gossip. “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people.” “The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbour.”(That is, it ruins his reputation) “All who hate me whisper together against me.“ (David in Psalm 41 verse 7)
In Romans chapter one verse 29 and 2nd Corinthians chapter 12 verse 20, gossip is called “whispering,” and in each instance it is included in a list of other sinful and hurtful activities.
An old wise man wanted to teach his son the effects of gossip. He presented him with a bag of goose feathers and, standing on a high hill in a breeze, shook out the feathers. The result showed in a dramatic manner how that once gossip gets started it is virtually impossible to reverse.
Is gossip always bad? Maybe not. An event in the early church illustrates that it can be beneficial. The Christians in Jerusalem found themselves persecuted by a sort of tyrant by the name of Saul of Tarsus. He pursued his activity with such vigour that many Christians escaped the city and went to outlying regions. But the Scriptures say: “Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” They were not ordained preachers; they were ordinary people who had a message of good news about Jesus and His saving grace for everyone who would believe in Him. They were “gossiping” the gospel wherever they went. That kind of gossip is good medicine for the soul.
Lorne Moorhead is a retired pastor living in Flin Flon.