Proverbs 26:22

ESV The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.
NIV The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.
NASB The words of a gossiper are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
CSB A gossip's words are like choice food that goes down to one's innermost being.
NLT Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.
KJV The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

What does Proverbs 26:22 mean?

In modern English, bits of gossip are described as "juicy," suggesting they are especially tempting. Gossip is one of the sins to which almost all people are naturally tempted (Proverbs 11:13; 16:28). The idea of learning some secret, scandalous information about others is alluring. However, it's also spiritually deadly and a source of intense conflict. A person doesn't simply hear the words; engaging in gossip has a deeper effect. What has a sweet taste, at first, can lead to bitter consequences. This proverb is identical to the statement given in Proverbs 18:8.

Paul warned Timothy about the temptation for inappropriate talk, cautioning Timothy not to enroll young widows in the church's role of widows in part because "they learn to be idlers…[and] also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not" (1 Timothy 5:13). He recommended that applying oneself to productive tasks was an effective way to avoid being tempted by gossip (1 Timothy 5:14). Gossip can ruin a person's reputation—whether as the victim, the teller, or the willing hearer. Gossip and slander disrupt fellowship within a church.

However, gossip is not self-replicating. If others refuse to listen, let alone to repeat it, it will die like a fire starved for fuel (Proverbs 26:20). If a fellow Christian has done something inappropriate, instead of spreading shocking news, Paul writes: "You who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).
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