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A back fence moment

Who doesn't love a juicy piece of gossip? The water cooler used to be the place of 'gossip-gatherers' in the work place, the back fence the ones housewives would gather at after hanging the laundry out to dry, and school playground for those a little younger. Has much changed? We may not have 'water coolers', back fences, and spend very little time on the playground anymore, but we have other ways to share those 'juicy tidbits', don't we? I think God may have placed so many warnings in scripture about speaking against another person, gossip, and the like, simply because of the tiny spark of gossip that it takes to ignite a huge fire that can damage a reputation! Truth be told, we all need to deal with the words we speak about others.

You must not testify falsely against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16)

"No lies about your neighbor." Seems like a simple 'rule' to live by, but just try living it out when you are caught up in the fray amongst other 'gossip-hungry' individuals. I think this rule is best understood by another simple observation - no neighbor, acquaintance, or 'friend' is THAT interesting so as to always be the object of our conversation without some form of exaggeration, speculation, or downright gossip entering into the conversation! The truth of the matter is no one knows all the facts about another's life. God's warning to us is to use the information we have in a wise manner. We don't always give the right "testimonial" about our neighbor when we only have the "facts" we garner from our limited view of the life they let us see. The words we speak may indeed set a house on fire - maybe theirs, or maybe ours!

Leviticus 19 elaborates on this "rule" a little bit further for us: "Don't spread gossip and rumors. Don't just stand by when your neighbor's life is in danger. I am God. Don't secretly hate your neighbor. If you have something against him, get it out into the open; otherwise you are an accomplice in his guilt. Don't seek revenge or carry a grudge against any of your people. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am God." (16-18) Easier said than done - right? To the idea of not speaking falsely against our neighbor, God adds the concept of gossip and rumors. We have shared about this in the past, but it bears repeating. Gossip is just any form of idle talk. This comes back to my statement about no one being THAT interesting so as to always have something TRUTHFUL to say about them. The idea of not secretly hating our neighbor is also part of this equation. This comes back to the teaching of my mother of all those years ago: "If you cannot say anything nice about a person, don't say anything at all." I know there are others of you who have been told these very same words.

A rumor is the circulation of any portion of a report without actual confirmation of this report. In other words, it is a little observation mixed in with a little speculation. I like to think of this as us assuming the motivation of others and adding our impression of their motives to the mix of the story being told. This is a very dangerous place to be - no one really can judge the motives of another man's heart. Only God has the inside view! To this idea of not gossiping God adds the idea of not holding grudges. Can you see how one adds to the other? When we begin to speculate as to the motives of another, almost "creating" a story in our head, we come to a place of internalizing an impression of the other person that "fits" our image (but not always the reality of what that individual is or has done). Don't get me wrong - there are genuinely some miserable people in our world who create misery for many others. We are just not supposed to hold onto their misery and make it our own! 

Sometimes I think we talk about others so freely because it keeps the spotlight off of us. At other times, it is simply just idle talk - we lacked anything better to talk about at the moment. Either way, we are encouraged to consider our words carefully, speak only what is beneficial to be spoken, then remain silent on the rest. I know - - easier said than done, but oh so worth it! Just sayin!

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