When I was six years old, my parents had a telephone installed in our home for the first time. We resided in a very rural area, so a telephone was a luxury that we had never experienced before. Because private telephone lines were expensive, my parents opted for an option that kept us on the same cable as four other families.
The option was called a “party line,” and it was anything but a party! In order to make a phone call, the line had to be clear of other callers, and there was only one way that we knew of to check; pick up the receiver and listen in. If we heard talking, we simply hung up, waited a few minutes, and checked again.
It was the common practice of many people in those days to listen in on the telephone conversations of other neighbors, and thus learn more about their lives. It started many rumors in our area, and on more than one occasion I can recall a neighbor sharing a juicy tidbit that they had heard on the “party-line” while listening in, and whoever chose to listen, got an “ear full!”
Watch Your Tongue
Party lines are a thing of the past, but sadly, the issue of gossip is not. We have choices to make when it comes to sharing and receiving tales about other’s lives, and the scriptures call us to choose wisely.
“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies” (Psalm 34:13, NIV).
“The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble, the conversation of good people keeps them out of it” (Proverbs 12:13, Message/Remix).
God calls us to choose to speak only good words about others, and when we encounter someone who is trashing another person’s character, motives, or qualities, we have the same option of doing what we did when we were on the party line; “disconnecting” and choosing not to listen. With God’s help, we can maintain a “private line.”