Proverbs 11:13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
The Bible is replete with warnings to control our tongue so that we do not sin with our speech. We see this in the third commandment, that we are not to take the name of the Lord our God in vain, and in the ninth commandment, that we are not to bear false witness against our neighbor.
But swearing and lying are not the only sins we can commit with our tongues. The text cited above specifically warns us against tale bearing, and it is not the only passage that does so.
What is tale bearing? It is sharing negative information about others with those who do not have a need to know or a right to know that information. If someone is not part of the circle of offense or part of the circle of remedy – if they are not part of the problem or part of the solution – then they have no need to know and no right to know the negative information about another. The negative issue should be discussed and dealt with and resolved among those who are rightly involved in it, and no one else.
The only other category of person who may have a need to know or a right to know negative information about another is someone who has a high probability of being significantly harmed by that person in the immediate future if they do not know that information. For example: a woman who is thinking about dating an individual may have a need to know and a right to know about his past criminal history, depending on the circumstances.
The principle is this: Negative information about others should be concealed from all those who do not have a need to know or a right to know that information.
A talebearer does not respect these limitations on sharing information. He reveals secrets to those who have no need to know them, nor any right to know them. He speaks aloud of these things to whoever will give him an ear.
Tale bearing is sometimes done under the guise of “I just wanted to share a prayer request with you…” or some other specious rationale. Often it is done without any rational at all.
Proverbs 26: 22 says: “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Talebearers wound brethren, they do not heal them; they divide brethren, they do not unite them; they create strife, they do not bring peace to the parties involved.
The goal of speaking of the sins of another to those who have a need to know and a right to know about them is to bring about restoration of the offending party, it is not to harm their reputation or satisfy the tingling ears of those who love gossip, which is what the tale bearer is seeking to achieve.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I do not imagine you want your sins paraded before the whole world – so do not parade the sins of others before the world either. Conceal the matter, unless there is a biblical requirement to share it with others.
Rebuke talebearers. Proverbs 25:23 says: “The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” And if they do not respond to reproof, then have nothing to do with them. Proverbs 20:19 says: “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.”
Be one who heals, who unites, and who brings peace with your words. Proverbs 10:19 says: “In a multitude of words there wanteth not sin, but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Be wise. Refrain from tale bearing.Pastor Max Doner Sovereign Grace Bible Church Lebanon, Oregon