You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:16)
Every believer knows that we are not to participate in gossip, however, too many churches have endured great hardship because someone could not control their tongue. We are inclined to think that if the information is true then it’s not really gossip. However, the instruction given here doesn’t qualify “talebearing” as being just the tales that are made up and false. The instruction says “Don’t be a gossipmonger” – even if it’s true, don’t repeat things that will cause harm to others.
The Hebrew literally says, “Don’t go up and down as a peddler.” Think about that for a moment. The Bible portrays one who spreads gossip as a person who goes up and down the street with their “cart,” laden with juicy information, peddling scandalous and malicious hearsay. This person retails the secrets of people in order to destroy their reputation. We should really consider this the next time we are inclined to pass such information along to others. Furthermore, because this particular sin has been the cause of much bloodshed, it is linked to the prohibition of not standing by while your fellowman’s life is danger. In other words, the instruction to refrain from spreading gossip is connected to the notion that we are to be our brother’s keeper.
The point of that connection would be to stress the importance of not participating in something that is likely to destroy another. Rather than joining in on the attack against someone’s reputation, as God’s people, we should try and defend someone who is being assailed, whether physically or verbally. I can’t help but think of the woman who was brought to Yeshua after being caught in an adulterous act. While others were happy to expose her sin and join in on the public humiliation, Messiah was not drawn into it. Rather than railing another accusation at her, He extended mercy with the admonition to “Go and sin no more.”
We should follow His example. If we are going peddle something it should be mercy, compassion and forgiveness. As followers of Messiah, we should be inclined to help rather than hurt; to save rather than assault. So the next time someone comes to you with some juicy information that has the potential to destroy someone, don’t be drawn into their sin. Instead encourage righteous behavior by being an example in humility, compassion and forgiveness.
Blessings and Shalom,