Proverbs 20:19

Advice Concerning Gossips


He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets

A. He That Goeth About as a Talebearer

1. Solomon introduces this proverb by letting us know (as if we didn’t already know!) that there are some people who have loose lips.

2. Some people “go about” as talebearers.

3. Talebearer:

a. Slanderer; informer.

b. Harmful information about another person, spoken in an open, public setting.

c. One who spreads rumors about another person in a negative sense.

4. Walketh about:

a. Speaks of motion or movement.

b. It is used primarily of walking.

c. Also used of wind blowing… of snakes slithering… of rivers flowing or meandering…

d. Here it seems to be used in the sense of “walking” (as we know the term in the New Testament).

e. It is a figure of speech to describe a person’s whole manner of life.

f. Talebearing is what they DO… wherever they are… wherever they go… it is their habit of life… their daily practice…

g. It is not only what they do, it is what they ARE.

h. He is describing a particular type of person to be aware of: the talebearer.

i. The talebearer’s motto is: “If you can’t say anything good about a person, let’s hear it.”

B. Revealeth Secrets

1. Reveal : To uncover; disclose; lay bare; make known.

2. Secrets: Intimate conversations; counsel; plans; confidential info.

3. Here Solomon tells us WHY we should beware of the talebearer: because he reveals secrets.

a. They make known private conversations you had with them.

b. When you open up your heart to them, they lay bare that information in public.

c. When you tell them something in private, they don’t keep it private.

d. They have big mouths and have no control over their tongues.

e. When you give private counsel to them, they let everyone know what you said.

f. The one who flatters you to your face often tells another story behind your back.

4. Prov. 11:13 – The talebearer is an UNFAITHFUL friend.

a. A faithful friend would conceal the matter.

b. One who is a talebearer is not faithful. You cannot count on him to keep private that which was said in private.

c. Not all conversations were meant for everyone to hear.

d. You should be able to trust a friend to keep their lips closed if you told confidential information.

5. Talebearers who reveal “secrets” don’t always repeat the information accurately.

a. Sometimes they leave out key details which could put a very bad spin on what you said to them.

b. Sometimes they only repeat half of what was said—and half-truths can be damaging… and misleading…

Therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips

A. Him That Flattereth with his Lips

1. Flatter:

a. This word appears 28 times in the Old Testament.

b. It is only translated “flatter” twice.

c. Most often it is translated as “deceive, allure, or entice.”
• Prov. 1:10 – “if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.”
• Prov. 24:28 – “Be not a witness against thy neighbor without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.”

d. The term (like many words) has several meanings. The context has to determine which meaning.

e. I think it best to understand the Hebrew term to mean (according to its general meaning) something like “to deceive” in this passage.

f. However, flattery is often very deceptive. People are often deceived by means of flattery.

g. The word “flattery” here, it should be understood as a particular kind of flattery: the kind that is designed to deceive!

2. Thus, Solomon warns about the kind of person who uses deceptive means to draw information out of you.

a. This person might begin with flattery… buttering you up… so that you will feel confident about their friendship and will be willing to open up and share some personal information.

b. Perhaps they might deceive you with their lips by giving you some misinformation. (Tom asked me to ask you about a particular situation… when Tom never said such a thing!)

B. Meddle Not

1. Meddle: The term has a broad range of meaning in various contexts.

a. We usually use this English word to mean “interfere”… or to stick your nose in someone else’s business. That is not exactly the meaning here.

b. The term means, “a pledge or exchange; to make a bargain with; to make a deal with; to share; to pledge the heart with; fellowship.”

c. It seems to be used here in the sense of a pledge of the heart—becoming engaged in a deep, intimate fellowship, on an emotion level with another person… to exchange personal information that is close to the heart.

2. Solomon’s advice here is that you NOT share the deep things of your heart with a talebearer.

a. Don’t disclose deep, personal information with such a person.

b. You cannot trust that person to handle that personal information with care.

c. In other words, when you lay bare your heart to a talebearer… he is likely to lay it bare before the general public!

d. Solomon is trying to spare his readers from heart ache.

e. This was probably a lesson Solomon learned the hard way.
• As a king he certainly would have had many private meetings with other kings, with wealthy land owners, with businessmen, and the nobility in the land.
• It is likely that some of the things he discussed at such meetings, he expected to go no further than those meetings… and discovered to his dismay, that a talebearer made the content of that meeting public.
• The fact that he wanted the information kept private does not mean that there was anything illegal, immoral, or nefarious about it.
• But some information is easily misunderstood… easily misinterpreted… misconstrued.
• It can be misleading and paint an innocent party in a very bad light…
• So if you don’t want to be painted in a bad light (or worse, paint someone else in a bad light)… Solomon’s advice is “Don’t meddle” with a talebearer.
• Don’t exchange that kind of information with a person who has a reputation for loose lips… someone who is unfaithful… unreliable…
• Don’t disclose the secrets of your heart to a man who will REVEAL those secrets to others.
• Solomon was probably burned on this issue several times, and wrote this proverb as a help to others to learn from his mistakes.
• We’ve probably ALL experienced this to one degree or another… on one occasion or another… where someone we trusted betrayed our confidence.

3. The warning in this proverb is about a certain kind of person: the talebearer or slanderer.

a. This person loves to reveal secrets.

b. He may come to you and reveals secrets of others…

c. He may do so with much flattery: “Since you are SUCH a good friend of mine, I feel I can share this juicy tidbit with you.”

d. And with further flattery, convinces you to loosen up your lip so that you tell him your secrets.

e. From there, he goes on to the next victim… and reveals your secrets to him.

f. This is a way of life for some people.

g. They can be extremely damaging in a local church…

h. They can turn friend against friend… brother against brother…

i. Therefore, meddle not with him. Do not give him any fuel for his passion of gossip.

j. Don’t associate with him… and certainly don’t open up your heart to him.

k. Prov. 23:25 – Not only should we not meddle (associate) with him. We should DRIVE him away like the north wind… an angry countenance will send him all the message he needs: his slander is not welcome here!

4. Solomon warns us because this kind of personal betrayal can be extremely hurtful.

a. Prov. 26:20, 22 – They are like wounds that are deep in the belly.
• The way to remove the hurt and dangerous flames is to remove the talebearer…
• Or as he said in 20:19, “don’t meddle with such a person!” Stay away for your own good.

b. Prov. 29:5 – Flattery can be a trap in many different ways.
• In Prov. 20:19, the trap seems to be that the talebearer butters you up, to loosen up your lip… so that they hear personal information from you.
• The trap is that they repeat it in public!
• That can make YOU look like a fool… or like a big mouth—since others will be able trace the SOURCE of that information right back to you!
• If someone comes to you with juicy stories about an acquaintance… and with flattering words, buttering you up, and seems to have an insatiable appetite to know all the details and stories about everything that is going on in your life… BEWARE!

c. We would do well to take heed to Solomon’s advice.
• Especially when it comes to email!
• If you share something private with an unreliable person via email, the whole world could know!

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