392) On Gossips and Fault-finding

From chapters six and ten, Ploughman’s Talks: Plain Advice for Plain People, 1869, by Charles Spurgeon, English preacher and author (1834-1892)


     What a pity that there is not a tax upon words:  what an income the Queen would get from it.  But, alas, talking pays no toll.  And if lies paid double, the government could pay off the national debt.  

     Hear-say is half lies. A tale never loses in the telling.  As a snowball grows by rolling, so does a story.  They who talk much lie much.  If men only said what was true, what a peaceable world we should see.  Silence seldom makes mischief; but too much talking is a plague to the community.  Silence is wisdom, and by this rule, wise men and wise women are scarce.  An open mouth shows an empty head.  Talking comes by nature, but it needs a good deal of training to learn to be quiet.  Regard for truth should put a bit into every honest man’s mouth and a bridle upon every good woman’s tongue.

     If we must talk, at least let us be free from slander, and let us not blister our tongues with backbiting.  Slander may be sport to tale-bearers, but it is death to those whom they abuse.  We can commit murder with the tongue as well as with the hand.  The worst evil you can do a man is to injure his character.  The world, for the most part, believes that where there is smoke there is fire, and what everybody says must be true.  Let us then be careful that we do not hurt our neighbor in so tender a point as his character, for it is hard to get dirt off once it is thrown on; and when a man is once in people’s bad books, he is hardly ever quite out of them.  If we would be sure not to speak amiss, it might be as well to speak as little as possible.  If all men’s sins were divided into two bundles, half of them would be sins of the tongue.

     So I say to gossips of both genders, give up the shameful trade of tale bearing; don’t be the devil’s bellows any longer to blow up the fire of strife.  If you do not cut a bit off your tongues, at least season them with the salt of grace.  Praise God more, and blame neighbors less.  Any goose can cackle, any fly can find out a sore place, and any thorn can tear a man’s flesh.  The flies will not go down your throat if you keep your mouth shut, and no evil speaking will come out either.  Think much, but say little; be quick at work and slow at talk; and, above all, ask the great Lord to set a watch over your lips.



     If we would always recollect that we live among men who are imperfect, we should not be in such a fever when we find out our friends’ failings.  What’s rotten will rend, and cracked pots will leak.  Blessed is he who expects nothing of poor flesh and blood, for he shall never be disappointed.  In this wicked world the straightest timber has knots in it, and the cleanest field of wheat has its share of weeds.  The most careful driver one day upsets the cart; the cleverest cook spills a little broth; and the best plowman will sometimes make a crooked furrow.  It is foolish to turn off a tried friend because of a failing or two, for you may get rid of a one-eyed nag and buy a blind one.  Other men’s imperfections show us our imperfection, and if there’s an speck in my neighbor’s eye, there is no doubt one in mine.  We ought to use our neighbors as mirrors to see our own faults in, and mend in ourselves what we see in them.

     I have no patience with those who poke their noses into every man’s house to smell out his faults, and put on magnifying glasses to discover their neighbors’ flaws.  Such folks had better look at home; they might see the devil where they little expected.  What we wish to see, we shall see or think we see.  Faults are always thick where love is thin. It would be a far more pleasant business, at least for other people, if fault-finders would turn their dogs to hunt out the good points in other folks.  As for our own faults, it would take a large slate to hold the account of them; but, thank God, we know where to take them and how to get the better of them.  With all our faults, God loves us still if we are trusting in His Son.  Therefore, let us not be downhearted, but hope to live and learn and do some good service before we die.  Though the cart creaks, it will get home with its load, and the old horse, broken-kneed as he is, will do a bit of work yet.  There’s no use in lying down and doing nothing because we cannot do everything as we should like.  Faults or no faults, plowing must be done; imperfect people must do it, too, or there will be no harvest next year.

C. H. Spurgeon


Exodus 20:16 — You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Proverbs 10:19 — When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

Proverbs 12:18 — Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.


Dear Lord,…  grant us your rich grace that the people with us and we with them shall be friendly, kind and gentle to one another, forgive each other from the heart, and endure each others faults and shortcomings in Christian love.  Thus, we may live in peace and unity, as your commandments teach and require us to do.  Amen.

–Martin Luther