My boys were listening to an old Who song and thought the first lyrics were, “Happy Jack was attacked and he didn’t care.” Back in the earlier part of their career before they got too edgy for me to listen to them, John Boy and Billy, two Charlotte, NC, classic rock DJs whose morning show became syndicated throughout the southeast, regularly made me laugh until I hurt. One shtick they had was a supposed CD collection of John Boy mis-singing lyrics of different songs, like Boston’s “All I want is to have a piece of pie” (actually, “All I want is to have my peace of mind”). We get tickled at this kind of faux pas.
How about in church services? As a little kid, did you think they were singing, “Bringing In The Sheep” or “Bringing In The Cheese”? How about, “Are you sowing the seed of the King, dumb brother?” One of my late uncles, whether in ignorance or mischief, would sing, “At the fence, at the fence, where I tore my Sunday pants, and the quarter in my pocket rolled away.”
Most, if not all, of these are instances of the miscomprehension that followed mishearing something. It seems to me that gossip often works this way. So often, we practice propagation without investigation or adequate information. It is how Sister Sue’s broken toe is soon body traction or Brother Bob’s cold quickly becomes a coma. It is less humorous when our tongues are a weapon that perpetrates reputation wounding or character assassination. Remember, the tongue is unruly and hard to tame (James 3:1ff). A gossip separates friends (Prov. 16:28), betrays a confidence (Prov. 20:19), fans the flames of quarrels (cf. Prov. 26:20), and practices malicious behavior (cf. 3 John 10). Even if they get their info right but their motives and intentions are wrong, they do harm and should be avoided. We are talking about something more risky than the childhood, playful game of “telephone.” The good name of a person is on the line. Let us not only get it right, but strive to simply be right. That includes taming our tongues.