Talebearing and the Teenager

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For you young people, this part of your life is a white water stretch of the river. And one of the most treacherous rapids that you will need to navigate is the challenge presented by the sins of others, and by the glaring sins of others. When do you keep silent, and when do you tell somebody? Not surprisingly, Scripture provides us with a guardrail on both sides of the road.

One the one hand, you must not be a finger-pointing accuser. “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Prov. 11:13). Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth” (Prov. 26:20). The talebearer, particularly among children, is known by that distinguishing mark of the self-righteous whine that sounds like a turbine off in the distance. And it doesn’t cease being talebearing just because you are talking to your parents about your sister, or to the principal about one of your classmates. So don’t do that.

But does this mean that Scripture requires you to be silent if your three-year-old little brother is up on the roof, or if you know that half the Latin class is cheating? No, not at all. Talebearing is made what it is by the attitude. When Paul’s nephew warned him of the plot on his life (Acts 23:16), he was not talebearing.

So what do you do? If it is nickel/dime stuff, you don’t do anything. Don’t come to the pastor with the news that one of your classmates was tipping in his chair last week, and “teacher told us not to!” Use the Golden Rule. What would you want to be told if you were responsible for the situation? If the person who needs to be busted is not close to you, and there is any doubt about it, then you should go to the one in authority and just ask. “If something like this were happening, would you want to know?” If they say yes, then tell them. Don’t quote the verses on talebearing to yourself when you are actually obeying the unwritten American laws about being a snitch.

If the person who needs to be busted is close to you, and is a friend, then you go to them. You tell them that you have no desire to turn them in, which is why you are giving them a day to do it themselves. After all, confessing your own sins is not talebearing.



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