And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.
This passage refers to the temptation younger widows encounter when they have no husband at home to provide the ballast they need to be home-centered. But certainly, other women in the Christian community are tempted to be busybodies as well. It may sound harmless, but Scripture ranks this sin with some of the big ones.
1 Peter 4:15
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.
What is a busybody? In this passage, she is a woman who delights in other people's business. Instead of being focused on her own home, her own duties, her own family, the busybody is interested in everyone else's business. A busybody is "busy" gathering and passing on information. Of course, saying these things is sinful, but knowing them may be equally sinful.
Let's back up and examine how a woman becomes a busybody. First, she must learn idleness, as our text says. But how does a woman learn idleness? The image seems contradictory! I suggest that it is learned by studiously avoiding the duties God has laid out for her. The budding busybody must shirk her domestic duties for the more pleasant task of "visiting."
The woman Paul describes is wandering about the neighborhood. It is far easier to leave unfinished duties behind than step over them. The women the busybody visits can't see her laundry pile or the dirty kitchen floor. As the busybody wanders from house to house, she is far from idle: she is busy gathering information about everyone else's affairs.
Does the modern busybody wander from house to house? You bet. She goes here for coffee and there for lunch. She's charging around town, dropping in and checking up. The news gathered at stop one is repeated with relish at stop two. This also provides her with lots of prayer requests for Bible study or prayer meeting.
Of course, the modern busybody is not restrained if she doesn't have the means to wander about town. She has a more convenient method - the telephone. The modern busybody can be very "busy" on the phone for hours a day. This sort of idleness may produce weariness, but it doesn't produce the fruit God requires. A woman's God-given duties must necessarily be neglected to carry on such extensive visiting.
How does the busybody conduct her visits? She asks many questions and is a keen listener. She asks questions that are meddlesome and interfering. But she seldom gives offense because she seems so genuinely interested. No detail is insignificant for her. She delights in passing on "tasty morsels" and offers much information (about others) without being asked. Since her head is so full of "other people's matters," much of what is fact and what is hearsay is easily blurred. Now she has become not only a busybody, passing on the "news," but a gossip passing on rumors.
Meanwhile, is the laundry done? Is dinner planned? Can she really afford all this time?
A few cautions come immediately to mind. First, ask yourself if you are a busybody. IF YOU ARE WORKING HARD AT HOME FAITHFULLY DOING YOUR GOD-GIVEN DUTIES, THEN YOU WILL HAVE LITTLE TIME FOR SUCH FOOLISH BEHAVIOR. Nevertheless, recall your recent conversations.
Have you been too involved in "other people's matters"?
Do you ask questions that are really not your business?
Do you pass on information about other people's affairs?
Do you delight in being the first to know and the first to tell?
Second, do you have a friend who is a busybody? Take care. You may be drawn into her bad habits. Don't listen to her repeat all the news. Excuse yourself from inappropriate conversations.
Do you have a regular group you meet with to "visit" and fellowship? Is the conversation often about other people? Perhaps you should withdraw from such a group.
Finally, if you know someone to be a busybody, keep your distance. Be careful what you tell her. Assume that everything you say will get around the community. That should motivate you to exercise discretion. Be careful what you say, especially about your husband. Be sure your comments are always respectful and kind and God honoring.
That sort of news isn't nearly as much fun to pass on.