Proverbs 26:20 - The Verses Project

Bible Proverbs 26:20

Posted September 15, 2014

For lack of wood the fire goes out,
and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

Our words are pregnant with power. They can both erupt wars and calm storms. This particular proverb is embedded in the middle of a few other proverbs (verses 17-22) that point to one whose words are dished out without thought, care, and concern for those around them. Our words are likened to wood that keeps the fire of conflict burning. The words that kindle this flame aren’t a “in-your-face” shouting match witnessed on a public street, but rather the whispers of a gossip in the shadow of an alleyway, coffee shop, or living room. Eugene Peterson re-phrased the verse this way: “When you run out of wood, the fire goes out; when the gossip ends, the quarrel dies down.”

Here we sadly find a person not going directly to the person they are in conflict with seeking to sort out whatever issue they may have, but rather going around behind the scenes disparaging the person who they’re quarreling with. The Bible teaches us that gossip is nothing short of sin; it is both destructive and divisive. Paul put gossipers in the same list as murderers in his list of sins in Romans 1. James spoke of the tongue this way, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire (James 3:5).” Friends, may we use our words for healing instead of heat; may we seek reconciliation instead of recruitment, attempting to coerce other to take up our offenses and throw a pity party with us. Let us put out the fires of gossip forever.

For a great resource on this strange and often unchecked sin, check out “Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue” by Matthew Mitchell ( It provides a helpful definition, why we do it, the different kinds of gossiping people, and practical ways of resisting and responding to it.


Song & artwork by Forenn feat. Breanne Düren of Owl City and Gatlin Elms.

Forenn is a band from Houston, Tx & Santa Cruz, Ca that includes Logan Samperi, Neil Sandoz, and Zach McNair. This week’s song is in two parts: the first half of the song was intentionally set to be a meditative time for prayer; the second half is the word for word Scripture.