” Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases” (Prov. 26:20).
“The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body” (Prov. 18:8).
A talebearer is a vehicle for gossip, chatter, idle talk, hearsay, and rumors. I picture a parade float with the very self-important queen seated on a throne tossing candy to the crowd as they slowly go by. In much the same way, a talebearer is tossing all kinds of tasty little morsels to one and all. “Did you hear….?” Another name for a talebearer is a blabbermouth. Not a nice description.
Gossip usually has some truth in it, but it is usually mixed with a large helping of untruth. Then it is passed around from one blabbermouth to another. Tattling is another word for gossiping. A tattler is tossing out secrets, usually trying to get people in trouble by “telling on them.” But it is usually only half the story that they tell.
When our children were in a squabble, my husband would speak to them one at a time: “Tell me what you did.” More often than not the child would respond, “He…” or “She…” That’s the half of the story we all are eager to tell.
As we raise our children, we want them to stay away from gossip, idle chatter, rumor, and hearsay, but they might have to live alone on a desert island to avoid it all together. That’s not likely, so we ought to be teaching them what to do about gossip when they hear it. We don’t want them to pass it on.
The first thing we must recognize is that we all have an appetite for such things. Proverbs says gossip is like “tasty trifles” or chocolate chips (my translation). A little handful from time to time can’t do much harm, or so we think. But this verse says they go down “into the inmost body.” And they can’t do any good there. In fact, it’s like eating poison. The gossip hurts her own soul.
Talebearers also kindle strife. They keep the hostilities fresh even after no one can remember what started the feud in the first place. Tale-bearing brings judgment. God holds us accountable for every idle word. How much more for those words calculated to stir up trouble?
In Paul’s letter to Timothy he addressed the trouble caused by idle women who are “wandering about house to house” drinking coffee and wasting time “saying things which they ought not” (1 Tim. 5:13). These things on the “ought not” list no doubt include gossip and tale-bearing. They should not be talking that way about their husbands, children, friends, pastors, church, school, or neighbors. They are passing around tasty little morsels that will give everyone an eventual stomach ache.
Whenever Scripture gives us a “no” to obey, it is always wise to consider the “yes” we have instead. We are to be always giving thanks, for example. Instead of passing around gossip, pass around a little gratitude and thanksgiving. Don’t be drawn in. Change the subject.