July 10, 2011 by Stacy McDonald

Gossip, Slander, and the Power of the Tongue

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Music by Judy Rogers. Visit her HERE

Technology certainly hasn’t invented a new sin (Ecclesiastes 1:9), but as the Internet has grown and advanced, it has increased our ability to involve others in our sin—and at a faster rate. Rather than gossip with just one neighbor at a time, we can now multiply our efforts via Facebook, Twitter, or any other number of social media.

Sometimes the “tasty morsels” are actually true (Matthew 5:13; Proverbs 26:22). Yet, even then, the Bible tells us to walk away (Provers 26:20). We can see the love of gossip in the smallest of children – it’s called tattling. If we experience a certain smug satisfaction when a brother or sister falls, or if we bask in the limelight of being the one “in the know” every time there’s a scandal, we need to look hard in the mirror. Read here how gossip is just Sin Grown Up.

And, when we gossip, since we usually do so by superimposing our own personal biases and perspectives onto what is probably  none of our business anyway, we inevitably risk simultaneously slandering someone, at least in some way.

Liar, Liar, Soul on Fire!

And, while gossip is bad, slander carries a more perilous weight (Psalm 101:5). Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines slander as a “false tale or report maliciously uttered and tending to injure the reputation of another.” Whether the slander exists out of deliberate malice or it’s an inadvertent byproduct of the gossip we’ve been enjoying (1 Timothy 5:13), someone still owns the sin.

But, hatred is at the heart of deliberate slander (or libel in its written form) and it’s something we should warn our children about. (Proverbs 26:28) Bearing false witness may be motivated by pride, envy, or perhaps bitterness over a past offense; but, no matter the motivation, we are warned against it. Click here to read all that is both required and forbidden in the Ninth Commandment.

Expect It

“All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV)

These problems even affected the life of the Apostle Paul. He was forced to clarify his message because of “slanderous charges.” Paul complained: “And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:8, NKJV). Even Paul was misrepresented!

Matthew Henry warns:

[Paul] goes on to remind us that even Jesus was slandered (Matthew 12:24): It is no new thing for the best of God’s people and ministers to be charged with holding and teaching such things as they do most detest and abhor; and it is not to be thought strange, when our Master himself was said to be in league with Beelzebub. Many have been reproached as if they had said that the contrary of which they maintain: it is an old artifice of Satan thus to cast dirt upon Christ’s ministers.

Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Matthew 12:24 (NKJV)

And, again in Mark 2:16, rather than question Jesus directly, the Pharisees gossiped about Him. They could have asked Jesus directly why he was eating with publicans and sinners, yet the Scribes and Pharisees instead asked leading questions to his disciples. But Jesus heard and answered them directly.

Going back to the Old Testament, Moses experienced slander as he attempted to live and teach God’s message (Numbers 14:36) to the Israelites. The ten spies made the entire congregation to murmur against Moses; Scripture tells us they brought a “slander upon the land.”

Those that represent the service of God as mean and despicable, melancholy and uncomfortable, hard and impracticable, needless and unprofitable, bring up an evil report upon the good land, pervert the right ways of the Lord, and in effect give him the lie. They made Israel to sin. They designedly made all the congregation murmur against God. Note, Ring-leaders in sin may expect to fall under particular marks of the wrath of God, who will severely reckon for the blood of souls, which is thus spilt. –Matthew Henry

So expect it. If you’re a Christian and you’re living like one, you can be assured that someone, somewhere, at some time, will twist your words, misrepresent your theology, gossip about you, lie about you, associate you with the latest fallen Christian celebrity of the day, and (gasp) even hate you!

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” John 15:18 (NKJV)

Let me be clear, I don’t believe that an honest, negative critique is an act of slander or gossip. Online discussions and even fiery debates can be very fruitful. Iron sharpens iron and we can all learn a lot in these settings if we are gracious and genuine.

But let’s stick to the facts. When a critic writes a book review that deliberately misrepresents a book or makes a disingenuous statement that purposely maligns his/her neighbor (public figure or not), then that’s called slander (or libel). It’s bearing false witness, it’s a violation of the Ninth Commandment, and it is sin.

A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:24, NKJV)

If You’re the One Misrepresented or Slandered

Maybe you’re the one being lied about. Maybe people are questioning the way you live out your Christian beliefs or perhaps they’re associating you with someone or something you do not believe in or condone at all. You may want to clarify your position quietly and graciously; but, don’t make the mistake of being overly offended every time someone opposes you or gossips behind your back. Cry at home and develop thicker skin. People are jerks – just like you are. Get used to it.

I have had to repent of this myself. I need to keep my mouth shut more often than not. I also understand how very tempting it is to jump into the fray and answer a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:4). But remember that proverbial warning, or you may find a familiar fool facing you in the mirror.

And be nice. Hatred has a way of exposing itself…and exposing you if you’re the one doing the hating! (Proverbs 26:26) Several years ago, there was a small group of women who deliberately misrepresented things I had written. It was really frustrating to keep silent, but for the most part, after trying unsuccessfully to reason with people who were hell-bent on believing their own lies, it’s what I chose to do.

In the end, and ironically, the only thing their  ramblings really accomplished was to expose their weird hatred (I say weird because I think it’s weird to hate someone you don’t know). I finally figured out that I didn’t have to worry about being lied about because God had my back. And if He chose to let someone believe something about me that wasn’t true, then I could trust that He had an ultimate, sovereign purpose for it.

And you know what? Those who had read my books and my articles knew what I actually taught.

He who hates, disguises it with his lips… Proverbs 26:24

Treat others the way you want to be treated by not accepting the words of a talebearer (Proverbs 18:8; Proverbs 26:20). Next time it may be you they’re talking about.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him. Proverbs 26:27

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3 Responses to “Gossip, Slander, and the Power of the Tongue”

  1. Heather says:

    Yes! We love her Go to the Ant tape! I did not know sheet music was available. I’m going to go check it out right now.


  2. Ginger says:

    I’ve never heard of her. I love how calming that song is. Well, the tune anyway. The words are very convicting. ;)
    We’ve been going thru the book of James at church for the past seven months. We just covered the tongue a few weeks ago. Such powerful words! If my tongue is bridled, it is clear my heart has been bridled. (Out of the overflow of the heart. . .)

  3. Kathryn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I got some of her music after reading your post this morning and it was wonderful to listen to as I cleaned my kitchen.

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