For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. (Proverbs 26:20 ESV
In other translations, the word whisperer is translated as gossip.
Proverbs is full of comparisons which give us vivid illustrations of the points the author is making. Here in verse 26:20, the picture of a fire fed with wood, helps us to understand the relationship between gossip and quarreling.
Without wood—or something to burn—a fire will eventually go out. Without continued discussion of what this person said or did to another, the issue loses its momentum and dies down.
The proverb is not telling us gossip resolves conflict. But most of us know from experience, a quarrel between two people grows dramatically when discussed with people who aren’t directly involved in the situation.
Regarding how to deal with offenses, the Bible says:
- Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:13-14 ESV)
- Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18 ESV)
- Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)
Here’s the rub. I am guilty of gossip, and I’ve been hurt deeply by the slander of others. Jesus tells me—and I’m in full agreement—I am to confess and forgive in these situations. But, like most sin, the offenses are spread when more people are involved and it’s difficult to reconcile with the growing number.
This is where the wisdom of Proverbs 26:20 comes into play—without whispering, quarreling ceases. I prefer the word whispering because it helps me to see my sinful temptation more clearly.
If I am tempted to whisper, it usually means I don’t want someone else to hear what I say. And, unless I’m planning a surprise party, whatever I’m about to say probably falls into the category of gossip. The Bible lists gossip as wicked behavior, along with murder and deceit. (Romans 1:29 ESV)
This is a signal for me to hold my tongue!
If I’m tempted to whisper—I’m tempted to gossip—which leads to spreading an offense.
…where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases!