Volume 8, Issue 1: Femina
The Sin of Having to Know
And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and
not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought
not" (1 Timothy 5:13).
This passage refers to the temptation younger widows encounter when they have
no husband at home to provide the ballast they need to be home-centered. But
certainly, other women in the Christian community are tempted to be busy-bodies
as well. It may sound harmless, but Scripture ranks this sin with some of the
big ones. "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer or
as a busybody in other people's matters" (1 Peter 4:15).
What is a busybody? In this passage, she is a woman who delights in other people's
business. Instead of being focussed on her own home, her own duties, her own
family, the busybody is interested in everyone else's business. A busybody is
"busy" gathering and passing on information. Of course, saying these things is
sinful, but knowing them may be equally sinful.
Let's back up and examine how a woman becomes a busybody. First she must learn
idleness, as our text says. But how does a woman learn idleness? The image
seems contradictory! I suggest that it is learned by studiously avoiding the
duties God has laid out for her. The budding busybody must shirk her domestic
duties for the more pleasant task of "visiting."
The woman Paul describes is wandering about the neighborhood. It is far easier
to leave unfinished duties behind than step over them. The women the busybody
visits can't see her laundry pile or the dirty kitchen floor. As the busybody
wanders from house to house, she is far from idle: she is busy gathering information
about everyone else's affairs.
Does the modern busybody wander from house to house? You bet. She goes here
for coffee and there for lunch. She's charging around town, dropping in and checking
up. The news gathered at stop one is repeated with relish at stop two. This also
provides her with lots of prayer requests for Bible study or prayer meeting.
Of course the modern busybody is not restrained if she doesn't have the means
to wander about town. She has a more convenient method -- the telephone. The
modern busybody can be very "busy" on the phone for hours a day. This sort of idleness
may produce weariness, but it doesn't produce the fruit God requires. A woman's
God-given duties must necessarily be neglected to carry on such extensive visiting.
How does the busybody conduct her visits? She asks many questions and is a keen
listener. She asks questions that are meddlesome and interfering. But she seldom
gives offense because she seems so genuinely interested. No detail is insignificant
for her. She delights in passing on "tasty morsels," and offers much information
(about others) without waiting to be asked.
Since her head is so full of "other people's matters," much of what is fact and
what is hearsay is easily blurred. Now she has become not only a busybody, passing
on the "news," but a gossip passing on rumors. Meanwhile, is the laundry done?
Is dinner planned? Can she really afford all this time?
A few cautions come immediately to mind. First, ask yourself if you are a busybody.
If you are working hard at home faithfully doing your God-given duties, then
you will have little time for such foolish behavior. Nevertheless, recall your
recent conversations. Have you been too involved in "other people's matters"? Do
you ask questions that are really not your business? Do you pass on information
about other people's affairs? Do you delight in being the first to know and the
first to tell?
Second, do you have a friend who is a busybody? Take care. You may be drawn
into her bad habits. Don't listen to her repeat all the news. Excuse yourself
from inappropriate conversations. Do you have a regular group you meet with to
"visit" and fellowship? Is the conversation often about other people? Perhaps
you should withdraw from such a group.
Finally, if you know someone to be a busybody, keep your distance. Be careful
what you tell her. Assume that everything you say will get around the community.
That should motivate you to exercise discretion. Be careful what you say about
your family, especially about your husband. Be sure your comments are always
respectful and kind and God-honoring.
That sort of news isn't nearly as much fun to pass on .