Opinion: Gossip is a deadly, poisonous thing

By Judy Brandon
Religion columnist

Several years ago my sister Susie and I stopped at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas, as we were on our way back from Dallas. We had to go through Sweetwater anyway, so we decided to take some time and experience something we had always heard about.

We parked our car and headed down to the world’s largest rattlesnake event at the Nolan County Coliseum in Sweetwater.

I still can’t believe we did it considering our ultimate fear is being close to any kind of snake. But I suppose Susie and I are getting braver in our “elderly” years!

Once in, we first stopped at the “milking pit” where a man was picking up rattlesnakes and “milking” them for the venom. There was a soft buzz that really sounded like locusts but the sound was coming from the rattlesnake pit where the man was walking among about 30 rattlesnakes. Some were loose in the pen and some were in a yellow barrel. The handler would pick one up out of the barrel, hold it by the head over a glass vile and then squeeze it to make the venom come out.

We watched as the handlers selected rattlesnakes, milked, bagged, and then piled them on top of one another. We watched as the rattlesnakes slithered on the cement floor in the containment pens. We watched as they coiled, hissed and struck. We watched in awe, fear and trepidation.

That year, the snake hunters in the hills around Sweetwater collected 1,700 pounds of diamondback rattlesnakes. One handler said, “Everybody has a fear of snakes, even us,” he said while holding a rattlesnake. The key he said was to never look away, and always pay attention. A rattlesnake bite gone untreated can result in certain death.

Have you ever wondered why the Bible likens the tongue to poisonous snakes? James wrote: “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7-8)

Strong’s Concordance, which is a cross-reference of every word in the King James Version of the Bible, traces each word of the Bible back to the original text and its meaning. Strong says that a viper is: … “a poisonous snake; (figuratively) incisive words that deliver deadly venom, with the use of blasphemy. This switches the bitter for the sweet, light for darkness. Viper then suggests the venomous desire to reverse what is true for what is false.” (Strong, 2010)

So can people be “vipers” who gossip and slander others? People with slanderous tongues plot evil in their hearts, are unscrupulous, unrelenting, and care for nothing but carrying rumors and malice from person to person. To make matters worse, they are crafty and invent ways to carry speak this evil, seizing every chance. Their tongues are like poison, like the poison of the viper.

If a poisonous snakebite goes untreated, a sure and swift death is the result. Add a parallel to that: a slanderer can inflict much pain and sufferings on the person who is the subject of their gossip. Their words when “injected” into the first hearer are really more poisonous than snakes because then that word of gossip, that tale of malice, that antidote of juicy information spreads from person to person and suddenly a whole crowd is filled with the poison of gossip. No wonder a sharp and wicked tongue, the poison tongue of any individual, can be likened to a poisonous snake.

Murder is horrendous, and robbery is an bad but many so called “good” people engage in gossip daily. They are the happiest when carrying tales about another. Each time they repeat their “tale,” a little more poison to the very life of the person they are talking about.

But God knows … outside their religious façade and doublespeak, a gossip is known by God and that is all that matters.

Judy Brandon writes about faith for the Clovis News Journal. Contact her at: