Scripture says we are to be as "salt." Salt is something that lends seasoning, tang, or piquancy (pleasantly sharp, stimulating, provocative or biting); salt is a preservative, and if salt has lost its savor, what good is it?
Let's consider a few Scriptures and see if we might find some salt:
1 Timothy 5:13: "And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not."
Exodus 20:16: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
When I read Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law in 1978, I learned the far-reaching orthopraxic implications of God's Ten Commandments. Since then, anytime I find an issue that is related to these few commands, it is a "Ten Commandment Issue" for me. In other words, it's one of the most basic matters in life that God put within His ten laws. Any activity that does not promote and preserve the truth and the good name of our neighbor (WLC Q&A 144-145) violates the ninth commandment add is thus a "Ten Commandments Issue."
One of the ways a person "bears false witness" against a neighbor is gossip, because gossip is most often "not a true witness." Gossip comes from a subjective perspective, and often, a perspective that has been passed on by another distorted, opinionated person. Therefore, basic to our obedience of the Ten Commandments, we should not gossip.
Of course, this is easier said than done! So let me pass on a few practical guidelines:
1) Establish with your friends that this is something you will not do, you will not engage in "gossip" about others. Put it out as a "covenant" - the working laws or terms - of your relationship. You both agree as friends that you will not gossip, gossip simply will not be tolerated in your friendship because you are committed to a strong, God-honoring friendship. Maintaining confidences strengthen friendships; gossip destroys relationships.
2) One thing I learned from observing one of my best friends, Darlene Rushdoony, is that if others in the room begin to gossip, she quietly and unobtrusively will simply slip out of the room. It is not enough to abstain from participation in a conversation containing gossip, take a proactive stance and remove your ears from the room!
3) If somebody starts gossiping and you're unable to move away, again, be proactive and change the subject!
4) Do not believe for a minute that somebody is only telling you this "secret information so that you can pray about it," what an abomination, what a contradiction! If the situation doesn't involve you personally, don't be a talebearer or a gossiper.
5) Go directly to the source. If you need to know something, ask the person directly. Or, wait to be told. Dorothy Rushdoony told me that she thinks some of the old "colloquialisms" were a form of keeping the culture godly. The phrase "I heard it from the horse's mouth" would mean it is not heresay or gossip, it comes directly from the person involved. Busybodies make it their business to know other people's business. 1 Timothy 5:13 directs us to be neither gossips nor busybodies.
The results? You will obey God in keeping His most basic laws for life in a matter which is grave enough to be of "Ten Commandment" importance. Your relationships with your friends will be stronger, because they honor Scripture. You will train your children to refrain from gossip. You'll have much more time to direct your energies into what God wants you to be doing!
Every now and then I read the book of Proverbs from beginning to end, whereupon I find I am much more welcome to correction in my life and will hardly dare open my mouth. If you want to find a Biblical precedent for not gossiping, read Proverbs, here are just a few guidelines regarding gossip and communication in general: "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: . . . a lying tongue, . . . A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren" (Pr. 6:16-17, 19). "A prating (foolish of lips) fool shall fall" (Pr. 10:8). "The mouth of the foolish is near destruction" (Pr. 10:14). "He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin; but he that refraineth his lips is wise" (Pr. 10:18-19). "The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward (not easily controlled, stubbornly willful; contrary) tongue shall be cut out. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable; but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness" (Pr. 10:31-32). "An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour" (Pr. 11:9). "A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter" (Pr. 11:13). "A froward man soweth strife, and a whisperer separateth chief friends" (Pr. 16:28). "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends" (Pr. 17:9). "The words of a talebearer are as wounds; and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly" (Pr. 18:8). "He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips" (Pr. 20:19). "Discover not a secret to another" (Pr. 25:9). "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly" (Pr. 26:20, 22).
Enough about how a godly woman should not speak. Finally, how should a virtuous woman speak: "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness" (Pr. 31:26). And, after reviewing these many verses in Proverbs, once again, I'm too scared to add another word.
- Colonel V. Doner