Betty, the town gossip and self-appointed supervisor of the town’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several local residents were unappreciative of her activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
However, she made a mistake when she accused Ted, a local man, of being an alcoholic, after she saw his pickup truck parked outside the town’s only bar one afternoon. Ted, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just walked away without saying a word. Later that evening, he parked his pickup truck in front of her house and left it there all night.
That’s a funny story–and I hope it’s true!–but usually when you deal with gossip and innuendo, there’s little humorous about it. Talking about others, instead of talking tothem–is one of the most dangerous and destructive things that can happen in relationships, especially in the life of the church. And the Bible says a lot about how we as Christians are to avoid bearing false witness, and even “true witness” when it comes to gossiping about other people.
There’s an old story about a young man during the Middle Ages who went to a monk, saying, “I’ve sinned by telling slanderous statements about someone. What should I do now?” The monk replied, “Ask for forgiveness, to the Lord, and to the person you have offended.” The young man agreed to do so. “But wait,” said the monk. “There’s one more thing you should do.”
He gave him a bag of feathers and told him to go to the center of town and empty the bag into the wind and then come back to see him the next day. The young man did as he was asked, and came back to the monk the next morning, wondering about the purpose of the mysterious ritual of the feathers. The monk then told the man to do one more thing. “Go back to the center of town and pick up the feathers you released,” he said.
“But that’s impossible!” the man replied. “By now the wind has blown the feathers all over town.” “That’s right,” said the monk, “and just like there is no way to find all those feathers, there is no way to take back your careless and slanderous words.”
How true that is. Yet from supposedly innocent conversations, to church “prayer requests,” to email rumors we naively forward or repost on social media, to downright deceitful accusations we discuss with third parties, there is something quite seductive about the world of gossip. But we as Christians, of all people, should be careful what we say.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29)
I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.