Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God in His justice delivers those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the eleventh of these fruits: whisperers. Paul writes that rebellious peoples “are whisperers.”

Most modern translations opt for the word gossipers to convey the sense of the Greek. The word captures the way in which sins of the tongue – gossip or slander – are frequently conveyed from one person to another. The gossiper pulls someone aside and whispers to them. “Have you heard about…?” Groups of people under judgment – whether churches or cities or nations – become full of this type of whispering. With their tongues, they bite and devour one another.

The Scriptures are full of instruction regarding such abuses of the tongue. Psalm 15, for instance, declares that the type of person who shall be able to dwell in peace with God is, “He who… speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend.” Righteous men take sins of the tongue seriously. They speak truth to one another and defend the reputation of their friends.

Righteous men guard their tongues because God highly values truthfulness and discretion; He despises gossip. The Lord declares, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord” (Lev 19:16). Note that the Lord links the telling of tales, links gossip, with premeditated murder. Gossip destroys relationships as sure as murder destroys lives. It descends into the heart and causes suspicion to grow. “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body” (Prov 18:8). Gossip is like poison. Though we may make light of the tale brought to our ears, it starts poisoning our thoughts, “Suppose it should be true. Perhaps, though it may be exaggerated, there is some truth in what was said.” And this thought breeds suspicion, distrust, coldness and often ends in the separation of the most intimate companions.

What then is the solution? Solomon tells us quite plainly in Proverbs 11:13, “A talebearer reveals secrets,” – that’s what he does. He or she goes about looking for tasty morsels to consume and takes delight in sharing them with his neighbor. Yum. But what’s the alternative? “But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” That’s the alternative. “He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Prov 17:9). Don’t go blabbing about your friends’ faults; don’t advertise what your brother said rashly in frustration; conceal, as much as possible, the faults of your spouse. The one who loves covers a transgression; a faithful spirit conceals a matter. So what of you?

Reminded that we are often tempted to whisper and gossip and undermine the reputation of others, let us kneel and let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.