A gadabout gossip can’t be trusted with a secret, but someone of integrity won’t violate a confidence. [Proverbs 11:13 (MSG)]
Three ministers, attending a spiritual retreat, decided to share their gravest ethical lapses with one another. Pastor Tom confessed to having an affair with his beautiful church secretary. Admitting to a gambling problem, Pastor Dick said he embezzled thousands of dollars from the church. Pastor Harry was reluctant to share his moral failings but the other two urged him on by asking what possibly could be worse than their transgressions. Harry finally replied, “I’m sorry to tell you fellows, I’m a compulsive gossip!”
I was at lunch when someone said, “You know her, she’s the one whose…” The information that followed was incredibly personal and had been shared in a small group setting. Most of us at the table, however, aren’t in that group and should never have been privy to such information. Unfortunately, the church is one of the most dangerous places for gossip. It’s at church that we share our deepest feelings, moral failings and prayer requests. When two or three are gathered together in Jesus name, He will hear their prayer. Then again, when two or three of those same people are gathered together, He could also hear a lot of gossip. When we’re asked to pray for someone, we often learn details about their lives that are intensely private. We gain knowledge of addicted children, attempted suicides, abusive spouses, abortions, adultery, medical conditions and more that is not ours to share with anyone but God. When given a person’s deepest secrets, we should treasure them, lock them in a safe place, and toss away the key.
As Christians, we’ve also found a gossip loophole. Instead of telling others about someone, we can ask them to pray for that person by name and then give the juicy details of their problems. We must remember that God knows all the particulars and, when asking for prayers, the specifics aren’t necessary.
Years ago, when we vacationed with friends on Grand Cayman, we agreed to keep any personal information that was shared “on the island.” We continue to use that phrase today, whether we’re on an island, our lanai, in Bible study or praying with or for someone. This morning, the smell of smoke in the air and the dark sky told me that southwest Florida’s wildfires continue to burn. Whether carelessly or deliberately spoken, the Apostle James likens our words to a spark that can cause another kind of fire. Once started, a wildfire started by words is difficult to contain and its smoke and ash can darken a life forever. Forgive me for mixing metaphors but it is only by “keeping it on the island” that we can prevent forest fires!