The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him. - Proverbs 18:17 HCSB

Many years ago, an old saint was in the habit of going around asking people for money. He wouldn’t say what it was for – like a little kid he would simply ask for the change in people’s pockets. After a while, the people in his village grew tired of him asking for their money.

“He doesn’t even need it!” they would whisper to each other behind his back. “I mean, it’s not like he’s rich, but he’s not poor either. His house is simple but adequate. Why does he keep asking for money?”

One of the rumors was that he had squirreled away quite a fortune and was really quite wealthy. This belief caused a wicked man to break into the old saint’s house to rob him. During the course of the robbery, however, the elderly man walked in and was killed by the thief.

After his death, it was discovered that in fact the saint was poor because he had been giving the money to poor people and a nearby orphanage for decades.

Any story sounds true until someone sets the record straight. We have a nasty habit of assuming the worst of people. We have an even nastier habit of believing whatever little tidbit comes our way. Witness the popularity of the scandal-mongering gossip magazines! Rumors are like dainty morsels to our sinful nature.[1] Our old flesh loves finding dirt on someone else. It makes us feel we are better than they are.

But we need to remember that gossip’s smooth words are like a pretty glaze that covers a common clay pot.[2] The request “Let me share something with you so you can PRAY better” may sound spiritual but is covering a wicked heart. We need to also keep in mind that if someone will gossip to us about someone else, odds are they will gossip about us to someone else.[3]

The Word teaches that the one who gives an answer before he listens is a disgraceful fool.[4]We all like to think we’ve got it together, but we don’t.[5] We need to remember that and carefully investigate any bit of information that comes our way.

If we think we see our neighbor doing something wrong, that doesn’t mean we should hurry to act on it. We might go down in shameful embarrassment if we get the facts wrong. So we should discuss the matter with them privately. If possible, we mustn’t tell anyone else, lest others accuse us of gossip and we never regain our good reputation.[6]

Our Master taught us to deal with matters privately when at all possible.[7] Interpersonal discipline should begin between two individuals. The circle of those who “need to know” should only widen as needed to correct the problem.[8]

The Ransomed must be quick to listen, slow to speak and even slower to act.[9] The Ransomed are fact checkers.

[1] Proverbs 18:8; 26:22

[2] Proverbs 26:23

[3] Proverbs 11:13; 20:19

[4] Proverbs 18:13

[5] Proverbs 14:12; 16:2,25; 21:2

[6] Proverbs 25:7-10

[7] Matthew 18:15-17

[8] Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19

[9] James 1:19