Did you hear what so and so did? Thus begins the phrase of the talebearer. The sin of gossip is alive and well in our world - at least that's what I heard from a friend of mine who has it on good authority that people are gossipping about others. But for anyone who has ever been hurt by those who spread falsehoods about them, gossip is a very harmful thing.
The "tabebearer" is the one who gossips. The word means to spread falsehoods about someone. This particular word has the distinction of never being used in a positive way. Gossip was expressly forbidden in the Mosaic Law in Leviticus 19:16, and the book of Proverbs is not terribly high on it either. When the Jeremiah and Ezekiel were declaring the prophesies that gave them - the Lord said some strong words against it as well.
The main condemnation here though is how a gossip "reveals secrets." Confidentiality is at the root of this issue. Information about others - especially that which is shared in confidence - is to remain a secret to all but the two who have shared it together. That confidence is shattered when someone takes the information and makes it public. The gossip goes even further and adds to the damaging information to make it worse.
A pastor who was the brunt of a woman's gossip in a city had his reputation severely damaged by what this woman said. She later came to him and apologized for saying the things she said. The story is told that he asked her to come with him to the bell tower in the church. As they stood overlooking the town, he took a feather pillow and tore it open. He then let the wind take the feathers and spread them into the sky where they immediately went a hundred different directions. The woman, puzzled by his actions, asked why he did this. He said to her, "I can forgive you for what you've said - but the damage falsely done to my reputation is as far spread as the feathers we just released. To undo that damage you would have to do out and track down every feather." This illustration hopefully will help us see the ultimate damage done by gossip. Everyone who heard our juicy tidbit may tell another - and that one another - until the ability to track down everyone who has passed the gossip on becomes utterly impossible.
The second half of this proverb reminds us that the faithful one is the one who is trustworthy. This one conceals the matter. The idea conveyed by the word "trustworthy" is one who supports, nurtures, and establishes another person. It is used as the term for the comfort and support a baby receives from the arms of its parent. Whether we initially realize it or not, when someone shares painful intimate details of their lives with us - we can either cradle them in our arms, providing love and support, or we can crush them and cause great pain. People share these painful things because they need the nurture and encouragment of someone who will love and conceal these things. They don't conceal them to be an accessory to their sin. They conceal them from others only because they are taking the confidence shared with them seriously. This information was shared so that we might help bring God's healing to their hearts. The information was shared so that we might counsel and encourage them - seeing the pain soothed rather than exacerbated.
If you want to know why God would allow you to know anything harmful about your brothers or sisters in Christ, it is so that you might be a part of God's healing in their lives. The primary thing God wants you to do with this information is to PRAY! You were given these embarassing details so that you might intercede for the person - and be an instument of grace and mercy in their lives. God wants to use you to aid this person in recovery. Don't take such information lightly. You are being given a precious trust. You've just been handed the very heart of that person. Handle with prayer and with loving biblical care. Conceal the matter to all except God, Who knows already - and who has just brought you into the situation to be His instrument of love, concern, and godly counsel. This is the choice of the wise man or woman - and it is one that shows you are worthy of God's trust. Carry that heart as you would a newborn baby. To God it is just as precious and worthy of loving care.