GOSSIP AND SLANDER – THE DEADLY SINS

 

"The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." (Prov. 18:8 KJV)

 

Steve and Sarah are Christians who were a part of a closely-knit family.  Steve caused division in the family by slandering Sarah so that their entire family turned against her.  They believed his lie, though he had no evidence for the statements he had made.  As a result, Sarah no longer has contact with her family.  She has been ostracized as a result of a lie.

 Because the sins of gossip and slander are rampant among Christians, there are many other cases like this.  Many Christians have been deceived and hurt their own relatives, even their own Christian families.  They have slandered their own Christian friends.  Many times Christians have slandered others causing defamed reputations and broken hearts.

These sins of gossip and slander are widespread and have serious consequences.  Many of us are not aware of the devastation resulting from a slip of the tongue, saying something negative about somebody else, or making false accusations.  I cannot over emphasize the severe consequences of this sin; I have seen much harm as a result.

In our generation the breaking up of families is common.  Often we think this is caused by the pressures of the world around us: financial problems, the lack of friendships due to our busy schedules, or pornography to name just a few.  However, our most dangerous attack is from our own willful sin.  In particular, slander and gossip.


Speaking Falsely

 

Gossip is defined in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary as “a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts.”  Gossip “is a rumor or report of an intimate nature.”  Slander is defined as “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another's reputation.”   Many of us think that false refers to anything obviously untrue.  However, according to definition, it is also something that “is adjusted or made so as to deceive,” “is tending to mislead,” “is not faithful or loyal,” or “is inconsistent with the facts.”

The word talebearer is used for the word gossip in the King James Version of the Bible.  The word gossip is used in the New International version (NIV).   Talebearer defines the word gossip well.  Proverbs 11:13 states, “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”  The Bible also states “Whoever spreads slander is a fool.” (Prov. 10:18a)  “A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.” (Prov. 12:17 NIV)  “Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbor.” (Prov. 25:18 NIV)

One of the Ten Commandments (which is often forgotten) warns against giving false testimony or witness.  The following passage is from Matthew 19:16-19 NIV: 

 

A man came up to Jesus and asked, 'Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?'  …Jesus replied,…'If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.'  'Which ones?' the man inquired.  Jesus replied, 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony[1], honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.' 

 

Clearly Jesus taught that giving false testimony (e.g., gossip and slander) is sin.

Paul, expounding on the commandments says,

 

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom. 13:8-l0)  

 

The NIV states it in this way, “…Whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  Love does no harm to its neighbor….”

Christians need to beware if they are sharing intimate information, speaking false statements or misrepresentations to others about other people.  For we are not loving our neighbor and we are not loving God.  When we state something false, we are doing ill to ourselves, to another person and to God.  “The hypocrite (or the godless) with his mouth destroys his neighbor.” (Prov. 11:9a)  God is not pleased when you speak falsely.  He deals very seriously with this sin because slander and gossip can destroy.  For “Death and life are in the power of the tongue….” (Prov. 18:21)


The Mouth is the Heart's Mirror

 

Jesus made it very clear that what comes out of a man's mouth is what is in his heart.  If slander and gossip are coming out of your mouth, then that's what is inside your heart.  If you are making false statements or slandering you have hurtful behavior towards others within you.  Jesus said,

 

Listen and understand.  What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'  …For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man 'unclean….'(Matt. 15:10,11,19,20 NIV)

 

Note that false testimony and slander are included with murder, adultery, and stealing.


Stop Gossiping and Slandering

 

Those who have been involved in gossip and slander need to repent so that harm will not come to them and others.

For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us.  Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.  So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.  Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. (Is. 59:12-15 NIV)

 

As this scripture states, when we slander and gossip it causes justice to be driven back.  It hides the truth and righteousness stands at a distance.  As a result, unrighteousness prevails.  Injustice prevails.  People who are innocent become hurt.  The people that you are speaking falsely about get hurt.   In the example above, not only was Sarah hurt, but also her family, friends and acquaintances.

 

Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord.  This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.  Do not trust in deceptive words and say, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’  If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place….  Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense… and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe’- safe to do all these detestable things?  Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?  But I have been watching! declares the Lord. (Jer. 7:2b-7,9-11 NIV)

 

If you are a Christian and you are involved in sin of any sort, in particular gossip or slander, you are not safe to say, “I am going to church” or “I am religious.”  God sees your heart.  God knows what you are doing.  Others will know what you're doing as well.

 

To the wicked [which include supposed Christians who are walking in darkness in the areas of slander and gossip or other sin], God says: 'What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?  You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.  When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers.  You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit.  You speak continually against your brother [or sister] and slander your own mother's son [or daughter].  These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you.  But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. (Ps. 50:16-21 NIV)


Danger!

 

     There is a danger to those who are involved in promoting this sin.

 

Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says:  'See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?  Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit.  With his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him.  Should I not punish them for this?' declares the Lord.  ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?' (Jer. 9:7-9 NIV)

 

During Old Testament times, if a malicious witness were to take the stand to accuse a man of a crime, the two men involved in the dispute were to stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who were in office at the time.  The judges made a thorough investigation and if the witness proved to be a liar, giving false testimony against (or slandering) his brother, then they were to do to him as he intended to do to his brother.  This is how they purged the evil from among them.  The rest of the people would hear of this and be afraid and never again would such an evil thing be done among them.  They were to show no pity.  Life for life; eye for eye; tooth for tooth; hand for hand; foot for foot.  “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free.”  Instead, “He who pours out lies will perish.” (Prov. 19:5,9b NIV)   “A false witness will perish, and whoever listens to him will be destroyed forever.” (Prov. 21:28 NIV)   “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy…” (Ps. 10l:5)  It was (and is) a very grievous matter to promote falsehood or to be a false witness.  Just as grievous is the one who becomes part of this by receiving and believing the lie.

In addition to the Old Testament, what does the New Testament have to say about slander... those who speak falsely about someone else?  When the people were asking John the Baptist what they needed to do to repent, he gave specific instructions to different individuals.  One particular group he told to stop accusing people falsely. (Luke 3:14)  Paul taught the following:  “…I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man, do not even eat.” (I Cor. 5:11 NIV)

If persons that are involved in gossip and slander do not repent of their deeds, the Lord states that they will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus said,

 

Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 

          Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood

          I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches…. (Rev. 22:12-16a NIV) 

 

He that loves and practices falsehood will not be in the kingdom of God when the consummation comes.  Believers that follow these lies of gossip and slander will be separated eternally from God if they don't repent for practicing and loving falsehoods.  Notice that falsehood is in the same category as witchcraft and sorcery and murderers.  God Himself says in Proverbs 6:16-19 that there are six things He hates, seven that are detestable to Him and included in that list is a false witness who pours out lies.


The Solution

 

What should a Christian do who is a gossiper or slanderer?  A Christian who is involved in this, either spreading or listening to gossip and slander, needs to repent.  Go before God, tell Him that you are sorry and ask Him to change your heart.  For it is from your heart that this wickedness has proceeded.  You also need to watch your tongue.  There is a scripture song from Psalm 141:3 that says, “Set a watch, 0 Lord, set a watch, set a watch before my mouth.  Keep the key, Oh Lord, keep the key, keep the key of my lips.  As the scripture says it shall be, a prayer from the heart of me.  Set a watch, oh Lord, set a watch, set a watch before my mouth.”

I recommend praying or singing a prayer something like that.

Next, obey God and do not spread false reports.  Stop speaking falsely about other people.  Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness or being part of circulating a lie.  “Do not go about spreading slander [or being a tale-bearer] among your people.  Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life.  I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:16 NIV)

I recommend meditating on the following scriptures concerning the tongue:

 

Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.  The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. (Ps. 34:11-16 NIV)

He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. (Prov. 13:3 NIV)

 

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. (Prov. 21:23 NIV)

 

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Prov. 18:21)

 

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:26 NIV)

 

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?  Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:5,6,10-12 NIV)


Dealing with Gossip and Slander

    

     What should one do if confronted with gossip or slander?  If it is obvious that what is being said belongs in one of these categories, then simply tell the person that you are not interested in that information.  Confront them about being a gossip or slanderer as appropriate.  If it is not obvious, or if the information you hear raises a serious concern about the one being spoken about, go to that person and find out if that statement is true.  Do not pass on the questionable information to others during this process.  Doing this will stop (or slow) the sin of gossip or slander from spreading and possibly rescue someone who is in sin.  You will keep your own conscience clear and yourself free from sin, too.

What should a Christian do who realizes a Christian is a slanderer?  The Bible states if your brother sins go to him.  If he listens to you, you've won over your brother.  If he doesn't, take one or two with you.  If he doesn't listen to him, take it to the church.  If he doesn't listen to the church, than do not associate with him.  As stated in I Corinthians 5:11,12 NIV: 

 

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.

          What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.  'Expel the wicked man from among you.'

 

Clearly slanderers, if they do not repent of their sin when confronted, are to be expelled from the church.  Others who participate in their slander by believing and promoting their lies become slanderers themselves and are also told to repent.  If they don't, they are to be expelled from the church, too.  You're not even to eat with such a one but to treat them as an outsider.  Perhaps then their soul will be saved in the Day of Judgment.  Remember,

 

…Where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. (Prov.26:20b)

And

A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much. (Prov. 20:19 NIV)


Comfort to Victims

 

Finally, what is God saying to those that are victims of slander?

 

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:11,12 NIV)

 

     You are not the only ones who have been falsely accused.  John the Baptist was falsely accused of having a demon. (Luke 7:33)  The disciples at Pentecost were ridiculed and called drunk after they received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:13)  Steven was falsely accused by the Sanhedrin (religious leaders) who produced false witnesses who testified, saying, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.” (Acts 6:13b NIV)  Paul was taken before a king and called a troublemaker.  He was accused of stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world and even of desecrating the temple. (Acts 24:5,6)  Paul was aware of the slander spoken against him. (Rom.3:8)  Jesus was told he cast out demons by Satan.  He was called a glutton and a drunkard.  Remember Jesus' response: “...wisdom is proved right by her actions.” (Matt. 11:18,19 NIV)

            “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.” (Mt. 26:59 NIV)  It's amazing that even the leaders of the Israelite nation at the time were trying to kill the Son of God who was preaching truth, righteousness, healing and delivering many people.  If religious leaders did that to Jesus, they will persecute us also. (Jn. 15:20)  And “…Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12 NIV)

 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.  For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And, 'If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?'  So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (I Pet. 4:12-19 NIV)[2]

 


 

[1] The underline is my own emphasis as in all underlined scriptures.

 

[2] A good article to read is called “Innocent Gossip?” by Taprina Milburn.  Taprina Milburn, “Innocent Gossip?” (Focus on the Family Magazine, February 2000 (cited 14 August 2003); available from http://www.family.org/fofmag/pf/a0026189.cfm; INTERNET.