“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.”
Unfortunately, it happens all the time. You’ve seen it. You’ve experienced it. You’ve done it. We all have. It happens in organizations and on teams and in churches. It even happens in marriages and families. It’s called many things: Gossip, backbiting, blaming, complaining, whining.
This verse in Proverbs calls it “whispering.” It’s the Hebrew word nirgan. Interpersonal conflict is often fueled by gossip and whispering. When we refrain from gossip and backbiting, we put out the fire and help conflict go away.
When we gossip about each other, we fuel the fires of conflict. We demonstrate a lack of obedience to God and a lack of love toward others. We exalt ourselves and sit in judgment over them. Jesus warned against this when he said, “Do not judge lest you be judged.”
Therefore, the message in scripture about gossip is very straightforward: Stop doing it.
“The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.” (Proverbs 25.23)
Backbiting and gossip are destructive, and wise people refuse to participate. This verse compares gossip to the north wind that brings rain. When people feel the north wind and see the rain and stormy weather coming, they are not happy.
The phrase, “a backbiting tongue” comes from the Hebrew word seter which means a covering or a secret hiding place. This is how gossipers work. They hide their comments from the people they gossip about. They talk about people behind their back. They don’t talk to people; they talk about people. Gossipers don’t seek to help people, they desire to hurt or destroy people.
The suggestion in this proverb is that just like a cold north wind brought clouds and rain, so also an angry countenance can bring a stop to gossip and backbiting. The word here in the Hebrew is zaam, and it means to be indignant and enraged.
The root word literally means to “foam at the mouth,” so this is no quick glance. It is a look that says, “Please stop.” It is a direct confrontation of gossipers, and it expresses your refusal to participate in their gossip. It is giving them a displeased look and saying, “I’m not interested in your backbiting.”
Wise people are peacemakers, not gossipers. They desire grace and healing, and they do not try to gather a group against someone with whom they have a disagreement or gripe. Wise people deal with issues and disagreements face to face, not in secret.
When this wisdom is ignored, relationships are destroyed, friendships are ended, and even churches are split. Which is why whenever you experience gossip, you should answer with a respectful, but firm mindset that says, “Please do not gossip. It is hurtful. Gossip isn’t kind, and it isn’t helpful.”
The Lord is calling.