The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences (v.21).
Hazel Namandingo says that so many people have HIV and AIDS in her homeland of Malawi that singles often rely on gossip to figure out who is safe to date or marry. Accurate information can mean the difference between life and death—but as often happens when the stakes are so high, unfounded rumors start to fly. Hazel said that Malawians whisper about women who have smooth skin (thought to be a sign of the HIV virus) or who happen to be exceptionally beautiful. The men assume that these women have had many boyfriends, so it’s best to avoid them if you don’t want to catch AIDS.
This predicament—so understandable and yet so wrong—illustrates the devastation of gossip. Gossip robs people of their most cherished possession, for “a good name is more desirable than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1 NIV). Once a cloud of suspicion settles on a Malawian woman, there is little she can do to attract eligible suitors. She may be single for the rest of her life—for no other reason than that men find her attractive.Gossip is serious business, so before telling one person about another, stop and ask three questions:
• Is it true?
• Are you sure? God gets angry with people who bear false witness against their neighbor. He even included the sin in His Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:16).
• Is it necessary? Not everything that’s true is helpful to share, so it’s important to ask why you want to spill the beans. Is a life at stake? Will your information prevent someone from making a terrible mistake? Or do you merely like the idea of “being in the know”? Your juicy secret may win the admiration of a few friends, but at what cost?
Think of the person you’re destroying, then swallow your pride—and your words (Proverbs 18:21).
Meditate on Proverbs 18:8 and consider how deeply rumors affect us.
Why does gossip destroy our fellowship with God and others? Look for opportunities to share “good” gossip—to spread positive truths about people you love, and even those you don’t.