To Tell or Not to Tell – Pastor Stacey Shiflett

Watch this chapel message here:

To Tell or Not to Tell

Genesis 37:2

Intro: Shakespeare wrote a famous line – To be or not to be – that is the question.

The message today is this – to tell or not to tell – that is the question.

The message today is going to deal with the struggle that many people have when it comes to knowing whether or not to tell something that they know is happening.

We will begin with this story and then go to some other Bible verses to try and find the balance.

Knowing all the facts is important, so let’s see what exactly is going on in this particular story.

I. The Matter – let’s look at what happened.

Joseph was seventeen years old. He was the 11th of 12 sons; only Benjamin was younger.

Joseph was out feeding the sheep with his brothers; technically they were half-brothers.

Joseph came home and told his father an evil report about his brothers. “…their evil report…”

He was not telling something he HEARD about or THOUGHT happened.

He was there; he was a witness; he was directly involved in whatever it was that happened.

Because it happened when he was there, he became involved.

He had two choices; ignore it or confront it.

People say all the time, “well, I don’t want to get involved.”

If it happened in front of you, or while you were there, you ARE involved.

If someone was foolish enough to do something evil in front of you, that was their fault.

If someone does something wrong in front of you, they are thinking one of two things:

               1. Either you will go along with it, meaning they have very little respect for your character, or…

               2. They think you won’t say anything about it, or tell anyone, and that you’ll cover for them.

Either way, they don’t think much of you.

They may even think they have enough power and influence over you that you’ll be too scared to tell.

It my opinion, anybody that does something evil in front me has disrespected me in more ways than one.

II. The Manner – he went to the right person

The word “evil” is Hebrew Rah translated – evil 442 times, wickedness 59 times, wicked 25 times,

So, we can conclude that this wasn’t a petty incident that Joseph was telling his father about.

Joseph had every right to go to his father with this news, for several reasons.

Jacob was the authority figure in this story.

1. Jacob was his father.

Teenagers should always go to their parents and talk when something happens.

Children and teenagers need to learn how to talk to their parents about hard things.

I have seen children go and t ell just about anybody and everybody things that they should have told their parents – immediately.

For some reason, young people allow fear to dictate how they respond.

The devil fills their heart and mind with unfounded fear that they are somehow going to get in trouble.

Not once in my life have I ever thought I was going to get in trouble unless I was somehow a part of it.

Joseph was able to tell his father of the THEIR evil report because it was them – not him.

2. Jacob was his boss. These flocks belonged to Jacob; these brothers were working for Jacob.

If you work for a person, and something happens in the business or with the employees, they deserve to know.

The quickest way to gain the trust of your employer is to have his back.

If you know things that are going on and you cover for your friends, that is wrong.

These men were on the job, presumably doing something wrong pertaining to the flocks.

Whatever it was, it was wicked. It wasn’t just a mistake or an accident.

There was clearly something evil and wicked going on, and Joseph owed it to his dad to tell him about it.

III. The Method – notice how he went about it

This is a very important part of the story.

The word “report” is Hebrew dibbah dib-baw’ – whispering, defamation, evil report

The Hebrew Lexicon states that the word REPORT is given in the furtive sense (secretive)

It literally said it means to move gently, glide, glide over

He didn’t shout it coming down the driveway and yell it throughout the house.

He appears to have pulled his dad aside and in a whisper, told his father about their wickedness.

Joseph didn’t go to his brothers and threaten to blackmail them with what he knew.

He didn’t go to them and hold it over their head.

He didn’t put out an ad in the paper and tell the whole world.

He didn’t try to use it to gain advantage over them.

IV. The Mandate

Interestingly enough, the Bible has quite a bit to say about this issue.

Notice these verses about the “talebearer.”

  • Leviticus 19:16 Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
  • Proverbs 20:19 He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.

The word TALEBEARER here is the Hebrew word rakiyl raw-keel’ a scandal-monger; slanderer, tale bearer,

The Bible is clear that a person shouldn’t go among the people and slander someone.

Deal with it biblically. Not in a way that will sow discord or divide the people.

  • Proverbs 11:13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.

SECRETS – the counsel of a friend

The Bible is talking about betraying the trust of a friend that has shared personal information in an effort to get advice or counsel.

This is why it is ESSENTIAL that do not confide in people about personal issues that cannot help you.

Go to your parents; your pastor; your authority and let them help you.

If you share secrets with your friend just because you need to tell somebody, they are not obligated to carry that secret if it is something that will hurt you or cause you to get in more trouble.

  • Proverbs 18:8 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
  • Proverbs 26:22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

The word TALEBEARER here in the Hebrew is different than the word in Leviticus 19.

It is nirgan neer-gawn’. It literally means to whisper, murmurers, backbite, slander, talebearer, backbiter

This is talking about gossip; just running people down behind their back to others.

The word gossip is not in the Bible; but God calls it “backbiting.”

  • Proverbs 26:20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

This is not a biblical telling of a matter because it uses the word “strife” here.

This is not done to the right people in the right way; this is done in a carnal and unbiblical way.


Illustration: I once found a love note written by a 28-year-old divorced woman with 2 kids to a 17-year-old boy.

I was faced with the dilemma – to tell or not to tell.

I gave him the option to go tell his parents or I would. I even offered to go with him, and I did.

I was not going to live with that secret.

Look at this verse.

  • Psalms 50:18 When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.

This was a test. Literally a few months after his happened, a much bigger scandal happened.

I had to bring my pastor before the deacons of the church and expose him as a homosexual and abuser.

God honored it.

Over and over in my ministry I have had to make the decision – to tell or not to tell.

Do the right thing. Tell what you have to tell for the right reason. God will honor you.

Here’s what we know the Bible clearly teaches.

If you find out something or know something, go to that person.

Give them an opportunity to make it right on their own.

If they don’t, then you have no choice but to go to the next step.

Matthew 18 is talking about a person that has committed an offense against you.

But the principles are the same. Notice the steps of making this right.

  • 15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
  • 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
  • 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Ephesians 5

  • 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
  • 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
  • 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
  • 13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

The Bible is clear about one thing. We should never participate in other people’s sin.

  • 1 Timothy 5:22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.