“A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Proverbs 11:13).
Are we talebearers, or do we have a faithful spirit? It is so easy to become specialists in the wrongdoing of others, and certainly, there is a time to speak up. The Scriptures say of elders/pastors, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” I Timothy 5:20.
We are told that “charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8). The driving force here is love. It is neither loving to pretend that wrong isn’t wrong, or that it doesn’t matter. This is not talking about exonerating those who should not be exonerated.
So then, what does it mean? We all have many faults, and many could and should be overlooked. Love does not rejoice in, or dwell on, the failings of others.
Here’s a simple test that should guide us well. If you are talking about the faults, the weaknesses, or the sins of others, why are you doing so?
Are you motivated by revenge, wanting to hurt her or get back at her for something she has done? Are you trying to exalt yourself, to make yourself look better because “I’m not as bad as he is”? Are you looking for sympathy because you have suffered at her hands? Are you showing off how righteous you are by condemning him? Or does it just make you feel better to let out how you are feeling about things?
What does any of that have to do with love?
It MIGHT be loving to talk about another’s faults if we are warning others of spiritual danger to themselves. It MIGHT be loving to seek godly counsel as to how we can best help someone or respond to their faults. It might even be loving to enlist another person to go with us to talk to someone about his faults.
But we should recognise that these “good reasons” to talk about someone else’s sin are often a cloak for those other sinful motivations.
If we really need to talk about someone else’s sin, in general, it should start and end with the person himself. Proverbs tells us that those with a “faithful spirit” are not tattle-tales.