That Nosy Neighbor
(1 Peter 4:15)
by Susan E. Todd

The person we are going to study now could be a man or a woman. The reason that I am including this in our study on women of the Bible is because women are guiltier of this than men are. Although I have known some men who were just as bad, by and large this is a sin of women.

(1 Peter 4:15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.

There are four sins mentioned in this one verse:

  • Murder
    The act of unlawfully killing a human being with premeditated malice (disposition to injure others without cause, from mere personal gratification or from a spirit of revenge).
  • Theft
    The unlawful taking of another person's goods or belongings without their consent or knowledge with the intention of keeping them for yourself. To deprive the owner of his property against his will.
  • Evildoer
    One who commits sin, crime or any moral wrong.
  • Busybody
    A meddling person or one who officiously (excessively forward as in "pushy") concerns himself with the affairs of others.

Why would God associate murder and theft with a person who butts into another person's business? Isn't that going a little bit overboard? After all, murder is taking someone else's life. How does being nosy relate to these other obvious vile sins?

Let's try a little experiment and maybe you will understand why God classifies it as He does. Get a mirror (there is probably one in your purse) or go stand in front of a mirror and take a good long look at your face. Concentrate on your mouth and smile sweetly. Now stick out your tongue. You are looking at the deadliest murder weapon there is. Did you hear what I said? Let me repeat it. I don't want you to miss it. The tongue is a murder weapon. And you carry it with you all the time. That means it is available to you anytime you want to use it.

How can you murder someone with your tongue? Talk them to death? No, you can kill their reputation by gossiping about them, lying about them and spreading false rumors about that person. Oh, you never thought about it that way? Well it is time that you did. Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof." What you say about another person can be for good and for their edification or for evil and for their destruction.

Most people don't stop and think much about being nosy. They just do it. It seems natural to them. But God hates it. He says don't suffer as one who is a busy body. What does He mean by this? How could we possibly suffer?

When a murderer or thief is caught and they are found guilty they are punished and/or imprisoned. They are suffering the results of their actions. A person who does evil deeds suffers when he reaps what he sows. Sin never goes unpunished.

How does a busy body suffer? From a guilty conscience knowing that he is causing the destruction of another person. The Bible says in Acts 24:16 (And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.) that we should always, always, always have a clear conscience toward God and man. How can we have a clear conscience with God when we are doing something that God considers a sin? The answer is we can't. How can we have a clear conscience with man when we may be destroying a person's reputation or character? Again the answer is we can't.

Gossip is a sin. The Bible has much to say about it. None of it is good. But how does gossip start? What are its roots? It comes from being a busy body.

Let's take a look at some very important verses of Scripture. (Proverbs 6:16-19) These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue (gossip), and hands that shed innocent blood (murder), An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations (evildoer), feet that be swift in running to mischief (theft), A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (busy body).

The greatest weapon a busybody has is not her nose, even though we call a person like that "nosy", it is not her ears, it is her tongue. What I am about to say is extremely important. Don't miss it. A busy body will spread the information that you give her. She doesn't want the information for herself. She wants it so she can tell other people. A busy body is a sower of discord.

There are some people who genuinely care about you and what is happening in your life. These will be close and trusted friends and family members. These will be your prayer warriors. But these people don't usually want, or need, to know all the details about a situation in order to pray for you. These people are sincere and there is no question about their motives. They love you, they care about you, they want to help you. Thank God for them. They are rare. These are the people who will sense your hurt and ask if they can help, if they can pray for you, and they will. They won't be offended if you don't tell them what's wrong, they won't beg or force you to reveal what you want to keep secret.

Busybodies are people who are overly concerned about your affairs. They need to know every little detail no matter how intimate they are. As a matter of fact, the more personal and private the details the better they like it. But even the minutest details will not satisfy them because when they repeat your story to others they are going to put it in their own words with their own slant on it. In other words, your problems will be much worse that they really are. As a matter of fact, you may not even recognize your own situation if it was told back to you by another person because of all the little extras that have been added to it.

Busy bodies usually appear very sympathetic to your problems. They may even cry with you as you unburden your heart. They will always agree with you. After all, if they didn't you would not share your problems with them. They will encourage you to tell them everything. How can they help you if they don't know all the facts?

(1 Timothy 5:13) And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. We all know people like this. They are very harmful and destructive. What can we do about them? Don't give them any personal information about yourself. Tell them, "If you really want to help me, just pray for me." They will usually tell you that they need all the details so they can pray more effectively for you. Now that may sound good but God knows all the details, and the correct ones, so it isn't necessary that they do.

If they get too pushy turn the conversation around and focus on the Bible. Say something like: "Maybe you know of a good verse in the Bible that you think can encourage me at this time." Ask them to pray with you right then and there. One of two things will happen. They will either stop pumping you for information when they see that they aren't getting anywhere and hopefully get right with God or they will disappear from your life altogether. They will not want to be around you anymore if you aren't feeding their habit. I said habit, as in addiction, because that is what it is.

Are you a busy body? If you are then you have some repenting to do. Recognize that being a busy body and a gossip is sin in God's eyes. Deal with it as such. Sin needs to be repented of. Confess it and turn from it. Ask God to give you victory over it.

Let's go back to our mirror and take another look at our tongue. It's not a very attractive member of our face, is it? As a matter of fact, it's ugly. Keep that in mind the next time you want to take it out and wag it around. If you really want to be attractive, keep it inside your mouth as much as possible.

Medically, the tongue is said to be the strongest muscle in the body. The Bible confirms this. Turn to the book of James, chapter three and let's look at verses three through ten.

  • The tongue is small but it is hard to control (verse 5).
  • The tongue is full of sin (verse 6).
  • The tongue defiles the whole body (verse 6).
  • The tongue cannot be tamed by any man (verses 7-8).
  • The tongue is an unruly evil (verse 9).
  • The tongue is full of deadly poison (verses 9-10).
  • The tongue can curse and bless at the same time (verses 9-10).

The tongue is double-minded. The Bible says it can be used for evil or for good. Which will you chose?

Let's look at some examples where the tongue is used for evil.

Job 5:21a says, "Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue:" To scourge means to whip or punish severely; to lash; to torment; vindictive affliction.

David says in Psalm 140:1-3, "Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man; Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war. They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah." David compares the tongue to a serpent. Who is representative of a serpent in the Bible? The devil.

Turn to 2 Corinthians 12:20 and let's look at some direct and indirect results of being a busybody and some sins of the tongue. "For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:"

Direct Results

Debates: contention in words or arguments; controversy; strife in reasoning between persons of different opinions.

Envyings: uneasiness by the sight of another's superiority of success, accompanied with some degree of hatred.

Wraths: violent anger.

Strifes: contention in anger or enmity; opposition; agitation.

Indirect Results

Backbitings: the act of slandering the person who is absent.

Whisperings: the act of speaking with a low voice; the telling of tales (gossiping); the exciting of suspicions.

Swellings: Any morbid enlargement of the natural size. "Making a mountain out of a mole hill."

Tumults: violent commotion or agitation; usually accompanied with great noise, uproar and confusion.

Let's look at some examples where the tongue is used for good.

(Proverbs 10:20a) The tongue of the just is as choice silver: . It's valuable.

(Proverbs 12:18b) . but the tongue of the wise is health. It gives health.

(Proverbs 15:2a) The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: . It brings discernment.

(Proverbs 15:4a) A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: . It gives life.

Turn to Proverbs 31:26, our example, "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."

"She openeth her mouth." It doesn't say she speaks or just goes ahead and talks without thinking, it says she opens her mouth. She does it consciously. She thinks about what she is going to say.

"In her tongue." Not on her tongue like there is something that is going to fall off of it, but in her tongue. The tongue is not just something that occupies space in our mouth, it has life to it. Psalm 139:4 says, "For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether."

What is in her tongue? The law of kindness. Not just kindness but the law of kindness. To our Proverbs 31 women "good" was important. Not just doing good things but saying good things. For her it was a law that could not be broken. She is a wise woman.

(Exodus 4:10-12) And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

Moses was a stutterer and spoke very slowly. He was afraid to speak, especially to Pharaoh. God told him that He would speak for him. Our prayer should be that God would speak for us. That way we will stay out of a lot of trouble.

(2 Samuel 23:1-2) Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.

David at the end of his life gave credit to God for all that he said. David wrote many beautiful psalms of praise. God put those words in his mouth. May God put His words of praise in our tongue.

(Esther 7:4) For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king's damage.

Esther knew when to hold her tongue. She told the king that if the Jews were only going to be sold into slavery she would not have said anything but knowing that they were going to be murdered she had to speak up. Esther used discernment in what she said, when she said it and how she said it.

Some Parting Thoughts

Whoever gossips to you will be a gossip of you. Proverbs 11:13, "A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter."

Men are like fish. Neither would get into trouble if they kept their mouths shut. Proverbs 21:23, "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles."

Never pass up a chance to keep your mouth shut. Proverbs 17:28 says, "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."

President Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president of the United States, was a reserved man who spoke very little. A reporter attempted to interview him, and the conversation went as follows:

Reporter: Do you wish to say anything about the war threat in Europe?
Coolidge: No.
Reporter: About the strike in the clothing factories?
Coolidge: No.
Reporter: About the League of Nations?
Coolidge: No.
Reporter: About the farm production problem?
Coolidge: No.

As the reporter began to leave the room, Coolidge unexpectedly called him back and said, "Don't quote me."

Never let yourself feel pressured into saying something you don't want to say, or into saying something when you don't feel like talking. Silence is not a "lack'' of communication. It is a form of communication, and it can be a very effective one at that. (God's Little Devotional Book, Copyright 1995 by Honor Books, Inc., p. 203.)

David said in Psalm 141:3, "Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips." Here is a good mental picture for you. Think of your mouth as a door and inside is a wild untamed beast. Put a lock on the door and hide the key. Then if you find yourself about to say something that you shouldn't, mentally look for the key. While you are doing that it will give you time to think about what you are about to say and whether or not you should open that door and let that wild beast out.