“A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers.”
This proverb speaks with a tone of satire. Bribes are bad, but those who use bribes think they are like “a magic stone” because they allow the cheater to bypass what is fair and ethical. “In the eyes of” is a phrase that denotes a fool’s state of self-delusion and reliance upon his own opinion.
The proverb doesn’t say that a bribe guarantees prosperity; rather, it says the cheater foolishly thinks that bribery will always bring him success. But at some point it will catch up with them. In the long run, cheaters never prosper.
“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”
Love covers many transgressions. Friendship thinks the best of others and overlooks offenses. On the other hand, a person who focuses on problems and spreads gossip will create division and broken relationships, even among close friends.
Proverbs 11 also warns against gossip: “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” (Proverbs 11.12-13)
Wise people don’t gossip. A wise person might hear or know something about someone, but they don’t share it with others. They keep it to themselves.
Gossip divides relationships and destroys trust. The pain associated with gossip is felt long after the words are spoken. The book of James makes a very straightforward declaration against gossip: "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers." (James 4.11-2)
To "speak evil" against another person is a very serious thing. Slander refers to critical derogatory speech directed against others. James calls it "speaking evil" because it originates with the enemy. Speaking evil is what Satan does. In fact, the Greek word for devil is diabolos, and it means "slanderer." When we slander and gossip, we are doing the work of the devil.
There is a subtle difference between gossip and slander. Gossip is telling stories (sometimes true stories) about people behind their back. Slander is derogatory speech that is maliciously intended to influence others against the person being spoken of. It is deliberately calling attention to the faults of others while minimizing their virtues.
When we gossip about people, we are taking a story where it should not go. When we slander, we create a false story and spread it. Both are included in James' warning here because both cause great harm. Slander has devastating effects: it denigrates dignity, defames character, and destroys reputations.
There is a lot of gossip in our world today. Don’t be part of it. Here are four steps for avoiding slander, gossip, and disparaging comments about others.
- Talk to people, not about people. Talking about people who are not present to represent themselves is not only unhealthy, it is cowardly.
- Before you say something about another person, Press Pause and use this three-fold test: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? If it doesn't pass the threefold test, don't say it.
- Redirect gossip and disparaging talk into prayer. When you feel the urge to say something disparaging about someone, shift your focus into prayer on behalf of the person.
- Stay humble and remember that you also have flaws. As Jesus said, first take the log out of your own eye, and then with a spirit of humility you will be able to see clearly to help the other person take the speck out of their eye.