In my opinion, for what it's worth, nothing is more exciting and interesting than "other people's" business. You would think some people had nothing else in the world to do than poke their nose into other people's business.
Contemporary tabloids of our day feed upon this lust for personal information about celebrities, politicians and other varmints. The average American consumes tittle-tattle about his favorite celebrity like a junkie with his overdue fix. The success of these tabloids indicates their place in American culture.
What makes other people's lives more intriguing? Why is it we are so interested in everything they do?
I recently pondered this while sitting in the doctor's office. I found myself pretending to read a magazine, but all the while eavesdropping on a private conversation.
I say "private," but the fact is the people were talking loud enough to be heard in a 10-block radius. If they did not want me to hear, they should have been more discreet.
The people were strangers to me, their conversation had no bearing on my life one way or the other and yet I found myself strangely interested. Perhaps my interest was due to not having anything better to do at the time. Perhaps if the doctor had more up-to-date magazines I would not have this lapse in social etiquette.
Whatever the case, I could not help but listen. At one point I wrestled with the temptation to ask them to speak up, as I was having difficulty hearing every word they were saying.
Several times I wanted to interject a question to clarify in my mind what they were really talking about. My philosophy is, if God didn't want me to listen in on other people's conversation why did He give me two big ears?
It is not that my ears are too big. The rest of my body is several sizes too small for my ears.
As if I didn't have troubles of my own, I delight in taking on the troubles of other people, or at least listening to their troubles. There is a big difference here. I do not really want to get involved in their life; I just want to be informed of their lives. That is more interesting.
I'm curious about other people and their problems. Perhaps I'll find someone with problems bigger than mine. Who knows why we like to eaves -drop? But, we all do it.
When I hear other people's problems, I can forget my own. There must be some psychological term for this. After all, there are terms for everything these days.
I must make a confession. If it were not for busybodies, the general public would never know anything about anybody. I insist that busybodies provide a valuable service to the general public for which they do not get the credit they deserve. I hope to remedy that.
To all those who are busybodies (and you know who you are) I say, "Thank-you." Thank-you for the valuable information you provide to us who are so desperate to get all the irrelevant information we can.
Let me illustrate exactly what I mean.
What would pastors such as me do without the perennial church busybody? Every church has at least one, and woe be to the pastor if his church has two. The church gossip serves the pastor quite well.
How would the average pastor get the needed scoop on people in the congregation if it were not for these religious treasures? You may be surprised at my favorable assessment of the local church gossip. After all, we are supposed to preach against these people. But in reality, they have saved me a whole lot of time.
I take a different view. In fact, I do not call them gossips or busybodies anymore. Their service is much too valuable in these days where information is crucial. I call them "oral historians" of the congregation.
If it were not for these indefatigable people (and some have been men, quite to the contrary speculations), valuable information about people in the congregation would be lost to the new pastor.
The first thing a pastor does in a new congregation, after settling, is to locate the "oral historian" of the congregation. And, it is never hard.
They are not known for their trepidation in coming to the foreground and introducing themselves. In a matter of a few minutes, you know if you got a gold mine or not. It is as plain as the nose on Aunt Tilly's face (and nothing was plainer than that nose). One session with a good oral historian can save a new pastor months of painstaking work - maybe even years.
In addition, every pastor is interested in saving time. After all, we are in the "saving business" and there is a lot more than souls to be saved in the average American congregation.
My personal motto has been: I will not cut off someone's nosiness to spite my grace.
Nosiness does have its place. It's what a person does with such information from these people that really matters.
How can I really pray for someone if I don't have the whole story? And, nobody would begrudge someone information to enhance their prayer time.
After all, the Bible does say that we are to "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2 KJV.)
I can't bear what I can't hear.
Rev. Snyder's new book, "Romance Around A Parsonage Fireplace," is now available at www.jamessnyderministries.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The church web site is www.whatafellowship.com.
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