So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?"
"Don't call me Naomi, "she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (Ruth 1:19-22)
Notice how the whole town of Bethlehem (especially the women) responded to Naomi's return. Isn't it just like us "holier than thou's" to be stirred with chatter when the Naomi's of our day return from living in Moabite corruption? Don't we just love to murmur and gossip over the shameful details of another's life? Oh, how we love to point out how broken, messed up, ruined, unhappy each returning Naomi appears? And can't you hear the rumors flying about Bethlehem once their cliques caught a glimpse of Ruth accompanying backslidden Naomi? Can't you imagine the two-faced tattlers running to Naomi with arms extended - ready only to receive her in order to discover the latest scoop for circulation? I can almost hear as they sing their hypocritical welcome, "Can this be Naomi?"
How tempting it is to gossip and chatter over the scandalous behavior of others. We soooo enjoy watching others return with tale between their legs and reputation tarnished. Sure, ultimately we'll move past the gasp of today's scandal, for we are Christians after all. But first, let's relish in the chit chat, shall we? Let's stir up the pot a bit and enjoy the breaking news of someone's sinful choices. Let's expose and shame on the public's ever-so-hungry radar. Never mind that our breaking news can break the heart of someone even more. Never mind that we are living representatives of Jesus in all we say and do.
Ya know, Paul cautions against entertaining the habits of gossip and idle chatter. He warns against saying things we ought not to. (See 1 Timothy 5:12-13). Perhaps we too easily forget that scandal is not sport...? Perhaps.
“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man (or woman) who talks too much.” (Proverbs 20:19)
"You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue." (Psalm 52:4)
“A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:12-13)
"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)
"A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)
Clearly, those who engage in gossip and idle talk do nothing but stir up trouble and cause anger, bitterness, and pain among others. It is unfortunate that many "Christians" thrive on this behavior and look for opportunities to tear down, destroy, and judge rather than pray, build up and encourage others to live God's healthy way. I find that usually when such slanderers are confronted, they deny the allegations and answer with excuses and rationalizations. Ahhhh, rationalizations. Satan's favorite response. Rather than admit wrongdoing, we rationalize... we blame someone else or attempt to minimize the seriousness of our sin by justifying and making excuses. But are we righteous because we think so... or because God says so?
“A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.” (Proverbs 18:7-8)
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools... Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:21-22a; 28-32)
"Those who guard their tongues keep themselves from calamity." (Proverbs 21:23)
"The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly." (Proverbs 15:2)
Ladies, we must guard our hearts and hold our tongues - refraining from sinful gossip. I'm quite certain that when Naomi returned to Bethlehem, her old acquaintances were, yes, shocked to see her. And I'm sure there were many things different about her life to observe. (She left wealthy and returned poor. She left married and returned a widow.) However, notice that we see no details of the Israelites (God's people) offering to alleviate her pain or minister to her in any way. Instead, they chattered and wagged their tongues. They stirred the proverbial pot and hurt Naomi even more. "Call me Mara," she bitterly cries. "I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty." Don't you hear the hopeless tone in her voice? Don't you feel her despair? Yet all her community did was feed on the chatter. All they could focus on was the scandal. I'm sure her posture slumped as she heard the whispers behind her back. Perhaps she recalls how easy it was to leave this so-called Christian crowd and move to Moab before. Is this how God wants us to behave toward each other?
Oh ladies, what about love? What about lightening Naomi's load by helping, caring, ministering, listening? What about sharing Jesus in how we respond to each other's trials and stumbles? What about promoting His way rather than feeding our curious and corrupt egos?
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)
"LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman." (Psalm 15:1-3)
I encourage every DW to pray over this lesson for we all are guilty of gossip. We all relish in hearing, consuming and spreading scandalous news. Deep down, we enjoy watching others fail, lose, trip up. Why? Because with gossip, we feel justified to enjoy all the gritty details of another's sinfulness yet egotistically save face by maintaining a so-called form of justified "righteousness". But gossip in any form is sin, ladies. Let's each consider our involvement in this matter and pray for God to give us a humble heart - the heart of Christ.
Ask yourself... are you speaking, acting, loving in alignment with Jesus? Do you live as His faithful ambassador and nourish every person you encounter - even with your silence? Consider how you represent the King who never, ever shames... who ALWAYS builds up and restores.
"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." (2 Corinthians 5:20a)
"My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long." (Psalm 35:28)
"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue." (Proverbs 31:26)
I hope you are enjoying this study as much as I am. There are so many lessons... so many truths to absorb. Let's take our time and savor every section - allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us, convict us, and change us to live a life that honors Jesus every day.
A careless word may kindle strife.
A cruel word may wreck a life.
A bitter word may hate instill.
A brutal word may smite and kill.
A gracious word may smooth the way.
A joyous word may light the day.
A timely word may lessen stress.
A loving word may heal and bless.
I love you all. Have a wonderful day in Jesus Name! XOXOX! ~Victoria
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