Good thoughts from Jeff S. Smith:
There is a reason that the National Enquirer is among America’s most popular newspapers, even as many legitimate dailies fall by the wayside.
The popularity of websites like the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report, along with television programs like the web-sired TMZ and sweeps month pandering from the major networks and their local affiliates testifies to the eternal prominence of gossip and talebearing.
More succinctly, “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body” (Proverbs 18:8).
Everyone, however, enjoys condemning gossip. It’s just that nobody believes he is guilty of it. Gossip is always something that somebody else does. And that’s the problem—gossip is often difficult to distinguish from legitimate news and the rare sincere desire to console or assist someone who has fallen prey to his own appetites or those of another.
Is a rich and famous golfer’s traffic accident news? When does its discussion become nothing more than salacious gossip, designed to have fun at his expense?
A football player has an appetite for booze and young women. It’s doubtful he’s the first, but he seems to attract the litigious and loose-lipped. Is it news or just gossip? Where is the line crossed and how close can we get without falling into sin?
Perhaps Christ’s golden rule might chase the fog away. Imagine you are the rich and famous golfer or the indestructible quarterback with a glass image. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you ran your car into a fire hydrant or got mixed up in some very regrettable situation.
The wisdom behind Proverbs 18 is not even so much about the telling of gossip as it is about its hearing. Gossip is like a tasty trifle—it’s a little Hershey’s Kiss that 98 per cent of Americans are practically incapable of refusing—and that little trifle is both filling and demanding at the same time. It goes down into the innermost part of the body and gives partial satisfaction, but all it really does is stoke the appetite for more.
Talebearing is a dangerous business. The same context warns, “A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul” (Proverbs 18:6-7).
The Old Law condemned gossip for the damage it would do to society: “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people” (Leviticus 19:16) because “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter” (Proverbs 11:13). “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases” (Proverbs 26:20).
Gossip tastes sweet going down, but soon enough, you will become its object and it will lose its appeal. Remember, anyone who will gossip with you will gossip about you.