The following words of wisdom remind us of the admonition from James chapter 3 about the danger of an ungoverened tongue. We are also reminded of the direction from Jesus to talk directly with the person who may have offended you. This gives him the opportunity to repent or correct a misunderstanding.
Below, the teacher is warning us that a rumor we have heard may not be true. We must verify it with the source. Along with James, the teacher reminds us of the destructive nature of gossip, and our weakness in keeping secrets.
Christian leaders especially must be faithful in holding words shared with them in confidence. Priests are bound by their vows to keep confessions in absolute confidence.
Gossip is corrosive. We know this from personal experience as well, don't we? So, why do we participate in it? The teacher tells us, the one who hates gossip reduces evil!
4 One who trusts others too quickly is lightminded, and one who sins does wrong to himself. 5 One who rejoices in wickedness will be condemned, 6 and for one who hates gossip evil is lessened. 7 Never repeat a conversation, and you will lose nothing at all. 8 With friend or foe do not report it, and unless it would be a sin for you, do not disclose it; 9for some one has heard you and watched you, and when the time comes he will hate you. 10 Have you heard a word? Let it die with you. Be brave! It will not make you burst! 11With such a word a fool will suffer pangs like a woman in labor with a child. 12 Like an arrow stuck in the flesh of the thigh, so is a word inside a fool. 13 Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything, so that he may do it no more. 14 Question a neighbor, perhaps he did not say it; but if he said it, so that he may not say it again.15 Question a friend, for often it is slander; so do not believe everything you hear. 16 A person may make a slip without intending it. Who has never sinned with his tongue? 17Question your neighbor before you threaten him; and let the law of the Most High take its course. -- RSV