A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
Test your integrity or faithfulness. Can you keep a secret? Will you hide it from those not needing to know? Tattlers or gossips have no integrity – they do not have a faithful spirit. If they know damaging information about another, they must tell it, quickly and widely.
What God called talebearing here used to be called tattling or gossiping. Now it is called social media, investigative reporting, or entertainment. Newspapers, television, tabloids, and Internet sites feed on it. People read it with glee; they tingle with curiosity hearing it; they beg for more details, especially sexual ones; they cannot wait to repeat it to others.
If the least rumor or unsavory fact is found about a president’s personal life or family, it is spread far and wide and discussed to death. The same is true for business leaders, sports figures, and celebrities. The more negative the facts, that much more exciting to spread. This fascination with secrets is a sin and proves the perversity of a generation.
Family members, neighbors, office workers, and even church members love to spread news of negative events in the lives of others. They say, “Did you know they are divorced? Have you heard the latest about him? Can you believe she did that?” And off go wicked lips and ears to discuss the private details of others that should be concealed.
This sin is an abomination to God, and He hates it. His holy nature knows that spreading damaging news about others is to rape their reputations. The Bible does not know the word gossip; it uses talebearer, tattlers, whisperer, and backbiter. Solomon taught here that good men with faithful spirits will not repeat private news they learn about others.
Talebearing is telling private matters to gratify malice or idle curiosity. Tattling is talebearing. Whispering is quiet or secret talebearing. Backbiting includes talebearing behind a person’s back. God condemns these sins (Lev 19:16; Rom 1:29-30; I Tim 5:13). Your character and wisdom are shown by how you handle negative news about others.
These four Bible terms all involve telling true facts about others that need not be told. That the information is true only means it is not slander, which is spreading lies about others. Talebearers will quickly justify themselves by saying they are only telling facts – but that is the very definition of talebearing, tattling, whispering, and backbiting. Slander is two sins – lying and spreading the lie; talebearing is one sin – spreading hurtful facts.
That the secrets are true does not mitigate the sin at all. The Lord knows there are only two reasons you are telling the secret – malicious hatred or idle curiosity. You damage another person’s reputation when you do so, and there is no godly reason for you to do it. Only by reporting facts for authorities to fulfill their office can you justify telling secrets.
Physical rape is a horrible crime, and it should be punished severely. Talebearing can be similarly harmful. Instead of violating a person’s body and creating painful and fearful memories, it can leave permanent scars or questions on a person’s reputation with others and the pain and trouble of defending ancient faults or sins by the person. Consider it.
The heart of man is desperately wicked and will do anything it can to defame or injure others (Jer 17:9; Rom 3:13-18). By nature all men are hateful and hating one another (Titus 3:3). One of the easiest ways to hurt another’s reputation is to spread private information that does not need to be told. It is this sin that the proverb condemns.
Faithful men will hide private information they happen to learn. They will conceal such things; they will not repeat them to anyone. They will do all they can to protect the reputations of others, no matter what their personal feelings about the person might be. Such integrity and faithfulness makes a man great in the sight of God and men.
This sin used to be widely condemned. Older readers can remember rules and punishment for tattling at home or school. But now it is a forgotten sin in this current profane generation. Instead of punishment, rewards are given for those who obtain the most salacious reports or revealing photographs or videos of persons at all levels of society.
Guard your tongue, reader. Do not let it spread secrets that should be concealed. It does not matter at all whether the information is true or not. If the matter is not needed for the proper exercise of authority, then bury it. If the matter could hurt a person’s reputation, then bury it. If the matter is not uplifting or commending or helpful, then bury it.
Guard your ears, reader. If someone else backbites in your presence, condemn him with an angry face or rebuke (Pr 25:23; I Thess 5:14). If it were not for willing hearers, talebearers would be out of business (Pr 17:4). If you allow a tattler to sin by putting sinful thoughts in your head about another person, you are an accomplice in his sin.
How important is it to avoid this sin? The proverb here teaches that faithful men will not do it. A mark or evidence of eternal life is not doing it (Ps 15:3). Since God hates it and mentions it often in Scripture, all fathers must include it in their training (Eph 6:4). Great men and women, those that are faithful and having integrity, will work to protect others.
Jesus Christ is Faithful and True (Rev 19:11). He forgets the sins of His people forever (Heb 8:12). He would never reveal them, for it is His glory to cover offences (Pr 25:2; Ps 103:10-12). It should be your pleasure to love others with the same compassion and commitment to protect them from damaging reports (Pr 10:12; 17:9; I Pet 4:8).