When I was about 9, my 5 year old brother was annoying me while I was trying to read a library book. Somehow, my vast amount of patience (ha ha) was soon exhausted, and I decided to use my superior size/strength to illustrate my annoyance – but I intended to moderate this “show of force” to reduce the likelihood that Aiden would run to Mom and get me (the innocent party trying to read a book) in trouble! My brilliant solution was to tap (or hit) Aiden on the head with my library book. After the “tap”, Aiden burst into tears and ran to Mom to tattle on me with me trailing behind to defend my action. As Aiden is crying his eyes out with his head buried in my Mom’s lap, she finds a “pimple” on his neck – Aiden has chicken pox. I escaped with little more than a frown from Mom as she focused on my sick brother. For years, Aiden was convinced that the book gave him chicken pox!
Tattlers aren’t unique to young children. Several Jews went to the Pharisees to tattle on Jesus:
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11: 45-46)
What action of Jesus’ did they “gossip” about to the Pharisees? Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. And instead of being in awe of the power of Jesus, the Pharisees were worried about their own power:
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
“What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation.”…
So from that day on they planned to kill him. (John 11: 47-48, 53)
Whoa! The Pharisees was planning more than a “tap” on Jesus’ head. While the news of Jesus raising Lazarus was not the first “annoying” action of Jesus that the Pharisees had heard, it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and they planned Jesus’ murder.
As a parent, I did find it hard to teach my sons how to distinguish between “tattling” on their brother and telling me about events that needed to be addressed to help their brother. Telling your mother that your brother snagged a pre-dinner cookie is probably tattling. If your brother/sister/friend is skipping school, sexting, doing drugs or alcohol, stealing, etc., a parent (or other trusted authority) can step in to try and stop harmful behavior. If you’re not sure, you can ask this trusted adult what you should do.
Be honest with yourself about your motives. If you’re concerned that your diabetic brother is about to fall into a coma because of that pre-dinner cookie, then yes tell someone. However, sometimes you want to get your brother in trouble because he didn’t sneak a cookie for you! Maybe the Jews who went to the Pharisees wanted to spread the news of the miracle, but I think they really wanted their own cookie – a gift of faith from Jesus.