Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Life of a Slanderer

"It is one thing to lie to others.  It is still another matter to lie about others.  This involves slander.  To tell lies about other people is to cause them grave injury.  The Devil himself is the master of slander.  He encourages his disciples to engage in gossip, backbiting, and slander.  To steal a person's good name may be more harmful to the person than to steal their property.

"God is so concerned about slander and lying about others that He included a prohibition against it in His Ten Commandments: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor' (Exodus 20:16).

"The prohibition includes more than falsely accusing someone in a law court.  The responsibility in Israel to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in a law court was taken very seriously.  If perjury was committed in the courts, the penalties ranged all the way to the death penalty.

"Justice cannot be maintained in the land unless the courts can be certain of the honesty of witnesses.  But on a more daily basis, injurious lies can take the form of slander.  Let us consider briefly the meaning and force of the verb 'to slander.'  To slander someone is to tell lies about him, lies the injure him.  Slander involves making an unjust accusation.  We have all felt the sting of being slandered.  It is one thing to suffer injury for sins of which we are guilty.  It is another thing to be punished for something we did not do.  No one enjoys the pain of false accusation.

"I labor the point of slander's being an injurious lie because it is one of the chief works of the Devil against God's people.  To slander a person is to injure that person's reputation.  Our reputations, our 'good names,' are important to our lives.  Life is difficult enough without trying to operate with an evil reputation."1

"Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile." -Psalm 34:13

"He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool." -Proverbs 10:18

Slander is an ugly word.  Slander.  What do we think of when we hear the word?  Insult.  Smear.  Character assassination.  A once good name thrown in the mud.  Hatred.  Lies.  Cruelty.  Pride and jealousy.  Resentment.  Disgrace.  Tarnish.  Slander.

Slander is much like the cruelty seen in the classrooms of public-schooled kids.  Snooty high school girls picking on the one lonely outcast because of jealousy.  Rumors of character-slight.  Lies spread so that someone else looks bad and is discredited from teenage society [i.e. pride: a promotion of self].  From kindergarten to high school, kids sure know how to slander.  Another word is backbite.  Slander is much like grabbing a knife and stabbing someone in the back.  Most times slander will hurt much more than a protruding knife will.  Words have force.  Words have power.  And if used for evil, words cause wounds much deeper than a blade can go.

But it isn't just public-schooled kids who know how to be cruel.  Think about it.  Pride is a sin in everyone's life, and because pride only wants the promotion of self—for self to look better than everyone else—it is only a logical follow-up that the cruel words of slander and degradation will pursue.  Not just the world and its people, but Christians as well, our own friends and families even!  The life of a sibling is constantly filled with jealous lies about a sister and hateful, stinging words of degradation to a brother.  The same is said of life amongst friends. In an instant someone whom you thought loved and trusted you turns into a conniving, slanderous, roaring lion, seeking to devour.

"Lie not to one another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him." -Colossians 3:9-10

Lying creates a vast majority of tension and even hatred between people.  The guilty party who does the slandering, miserable are they!   "That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified" (1 Thessalonians 4:6).  As for the innocent to whom the slander is against, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48).

For those of us who have had to deal with friends or family creating rumors behind our backs, loving that person is a hard thing to do. Sometimes it seems impossible even.  Why would they do such a thing when they were once a good friend?  Why would they pretend to love us, and in the next instant stab us in the back?  These are difficult questions to answer.  Perhaps some kind of jealousy and resentment on their part.  Maybe they were never really the person we thought them to be in the first place.

It still hurts.

"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." -Ephesians 4:31-32

Forgive them?

Why should they be forgiven when they have spread lies about me, hurt me, caused strife between us, ruined friendships, created division, and slandered my once good name?  They don't deserve my forgiveness!

"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.  For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." -1 Peter 3:8-12

As we have seen many times, the tongue can be the unruliest member of our body (James 3:6-18).  First of all the sin of envy, jealousy, or hatred causes unrest in the heart, which then proceeds in slander, lies, and evil words from our fire-of-a-tongue.  There is no other cause for this, except pride and self-love.  Self-love is angered when we think another person looks better than us in front of other people.  Pride is miffed when someone else is better than we are.  Therefore, the tongue begins to wag, degradation causes catastrophe, and before we know it, the situation is out of hand and people are hurt because of our slander.  Our pride and self-love can't stand for someone else to be in the limelight.  "I can do better than that!"  Self says.  "I am better than that!"

Unfortunately our personal pride is strong.  Pride is happily uplifted when someone else is degraded.  We think that it makes us look good when we make others look bad.  However, we don't realize that no one likes a slanderer.  No one lasts long in a friendship with slander.  A true friend is one "that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor" (-Psalm 15:3).  A true friend dies to self, and that means he will not care whether another person looks better than him in front of others or not.  It is only those with evil intentions of heart who will spread the rumors, start the gossip, and create the lies.  A mean word is like a cruel slap in the face.  It stings, it burns, it causes embarrassment, but the one who looks the fool is the one who did the slapping.

The Lord abhors the lies of a slanderer.  "Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer" (Psalm 101:5).  Instead, He demands a loving heart.  "To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing meekness unto all men" (-Titus 3:2).

The effects of slander are very dangerous.  Therefore it is our duty to beware of the trap we all so easily fall into.  Whether it is a look, a glance, a whisper, a cutting remark, it is to be removed far from us.  Slander creates more problems than we know what to do with.  Slander is the treacherous enemy of friends and family alike.  It separates the very best of friends and the closest brothers and sisters, if it is loosed.  Slander destroys, whereas love creates.  While slander is forgivable, first of all it must be repented of.  Our tongues must be guarded by the Word of God, and the sins of envy, jealousy, pride, and self-love—which causes slander—must be isolated from our heart.  No good thing comes from the maliciousness of slander.  It is a life of wounds and friction.  And it is not a life worth living.

"A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends." -Proverbs 16:28

"The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." -Proverbs 18:8

"Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer the strife ceaseth." -Proverbs 26:20

"The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." -Proverbs 26:22 (Repeated from Proverbs 18:8)

Footnote 1 R.C. Sproul, Pleasing God: Overcome the obstacles that keep you from honoring God, pg. 196-197, 199; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois, 1988.

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