“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16
Q: What is the ninth commandment?
A: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
What does this mean?
Because we worship and love God, we shouldn’t deceive, betray, or speak badly about other people, but instead, we should defend them, speak well of them, and build them up.
“Did you hear what she did?” “Did you hear about him?” “Do you know where they were last night?!?!”
Have you ever been in a conversation that started like this? Did it pique your interest?
Usually, when someone starts a conversation like this, they are about to engage in what is called gossip. Gossip is telling a story about someone that may or may not be true. Usually, people gossip because they feel bad about themselves, and if they can draw your attention to someone else, then they won’t have to fear you finding out things about them that they wouldn’t want shared.
Gossip usually contains lies or partial truths that are harmful to the person being talked about. In addition, it tears communities apart. When you gossip about someone, the person listening to you gossip has a new perspective on that person. For example, if I were talking with you about another person at school that you had never met and I said, “Hey! Did you know that so and so comes from a poor family, and I heard that they used to live on the street! Isn’t that crazy!? I wonder if they are kind of smelly?” As a result of this conversation, you would have a perspective about that person before you even had the chance to meet. You might think things that were not true because you don’t know him. If you were the person being gossiped about, would you like to be treated that way?
Of course not. This is why gossip hurts people and grieves the heart of God. It’s a form of bearing false witness.
Consider Proverbs 18:8,
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.
- Why do you think the author of the proverb says that gossip tastes so good?
- What do you think you could do if someone approaches you with a story that is simply gossip?
- Why does gossip hurt people?
Our Father, help us to use our words to love and serve people and not to spread lies about them. May our communities that bear Your name resemble You in the way that we speak. Bring life to our conversations so that they may be a blessing to all those who hear. In Jesus’ name, Amen.