Proverbs 25:9

Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:

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Prove your character. Measure your nobility. Check your virtue. Here is a key rule of wisdom that most violate every day. Distinguish yourself before God and men. Are you discreet? Can you be trusted? The choice and discipline of great character is here. Noble men handle personal matters privately to protect reputations and minimize trouble.

Personal and private matters should stay personal and private. If you have an issue with a person, resolve it with them. No one else needs to know. Telling anyone else about it are the sins of backbiting, whispering, and talebearing. Not only should you keep this rule of wisdom yourself, you should diligently help others keep it as well (Pr 25:23).

Here is rich wisdom. Solomon condemned a common fault. Most people love themselves and hate others, so they share private controversies with others not involved, rather than settle them personally and quietly. Much of the dissension and fighting among men is caused by the frequent violation of this simple proverb (Pr 26:20-22; 16:28; 18:8).

Exposing private information about a person is to rape their reputation. It is a serious offence. It is summarized in the Ten Commandments by the sixth article, “Thou shalt not kill,” for any hateful activity toward another person breaks this law (Matt 5:21-22). Only foolish or wicked people have no regard for the character or reputations of others.

The quantity and severity of Bible warnings against this sin prove how much God hates it. The sin is addressed in both testaments several times (Lev 19:16; Ps 15:3; Rom 1:29-30). Solomon frequently condemned it in these Proverbs (Pr 11:13; 20:19; 26:22). If you love your neighbor, as in the second great commandment of God, you will deal privately.

It is easiest to violate this rule with spouse or family. Most will say things to a spouse they would not say to others; but the damage has been done – another’s reputation has been damaged, and they have soured their spouse’s view of that person. Families should only discuss faults or offences among themselves if absolutely necessary for godly ends.

Guard against influences toward this sin. Cell phones allow a quick call, email, text, or tweet. Ease of communication – anywhere at any time – allows quick venting of irritation against others. But once the hasty or passionate words are out, you are a fool. News media and celebrities do it daily, creating a false impression such conduct is acceptable. Reject them! Show the loving choice and noble discipline of character they lack!

There are two kinds of causes with your neighbor. Either they have offended you by an action of theirs, or you have offended them by an action of yours. In either case, the rule is the same: settle the matter directly with them. Do not spread any knowledge of the issue to anyone else. Both kindness and wisdom will keep the matter secret between you.

Jesus expanded this proverb beautifully. He clearly taught your course of action when someone has offended you. He said, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matt 18:15). Note His careful wording to keep the matter private.

He also applied it to when you offend someone. He said, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt 5:23-24). Again, the matter is limited to the person offended.

Most personal offences should be resolved by overlooking and forgetting them (Pr 19:11). Great men forgive and ignore such petty things (Matt 18:21-35; Eph 4:31-32; Col 3:12-15; I Cor 13:4-7). But if you cannot gloriously pass over the matter, at least show some integrity and righteousness by keeping it private between them and you (Pr 17:9).

The wisdom of this proverb and these noble practices should be taught to children, as they once were. Tattling or gossip must be strictly condemned and punished. Love of others and high regard for their reputations should be explained and enforced. Nip in the bud any tendencies toward carelessness or revenge in sharing information about others.

Christianity requires careful love for others the world does not know. Two commands govern all of life – love of God and love of others (Mark 12:28-31). Loving others ranks higher than being an apostle (I Cor 12:28-31; 13:1-3) and is defined very wonderfully (I Cor 13:4-7). Even loving enemies is expected as evidence of salvation (Matt 5:43-48). Protecting reputations of others is not only wise, it is love that shows you a child of God.