The old Hee-Haw television show had a segment where a group of gossipy women sang a song saying they really weren’t the “gossipy kind.” And since they didn’t like to repeat rumors, you had better listen closely the first time.
It was pretty funny, especially since rumors are so much a part of everyday life. You hear them on the job, at home, in political campaigns, newspaper articles, e-mail correspondences, at church and on television. They always have and always will be a part of everyday life.
Rumors feed our desire to know a secret. “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see” is great advice, but hard to heed.
Once it was reported that Mark Twain had died. Imagine his shock when he read his obituary in the newspapers, to which he made the famous reply, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” That’s one of the problems with rumors. They tend to get greatly exaggerated. That’s how urban legends are born.
Rumors about Jesus were rampant in his day. He once asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets” (Mark 8:27-28). Nothing but rumors, wrong information passed around as fact without a shred of proof.
Another time Jesus was discussing the kind of death Peter would experience in the future to glorify God. Granted, this wasn’t a real cheery subject. So Peter, realizing Jesus had a close relationship with John, asked in so many words, “Well, what about John?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Basically he was saying, “Don’t worry about it. Just follow me.” However, rumors spread that John would remain alive until Christ returned, even though that isn’t what Jesus said (see John 21:21-24).
The Bible has nothing positive to say about those who spread rumors. They are called “gossips” (Romans 1:29), “busybodies” (1 Timothy 5:13), and “a person who stirs up conflict” (Proverbs 6:19).
Regardless of this, since rumors will always be with us, we will always be tempted to listen to them and even pass them on to others. Unfortunately, words we pass on to others cannot be taken back. Spreading rumors is like scattering feathers in the wind. You never know where they will land and it is impossible to gather them together again.
Proverbs 26:20 tells us that without wood a fire goes out, and without a gossiper, discord will cease. I think that means I have to let the rumor stop with me. That’s not easy, but rumor has it that everyone will be a lot better off if I do.
Barbara Dahlgren, 2011