Effects of Slander

I sat down to write this afternoon, and I realized with a little embarrassment that it has been almost a full month since I’ve written on this blog.  I’ve been writing and writing off the blog, creating and teaching lessons for my Community Bible Study class (on Genesis 15-18) and preparing to teach a lesson series in our KidzChurch on the Sermon on the Mount. Unfortunately, as exciting and wonderful as it is to able to offer up my lessons in my classes, it limits my time write for the blog.  

I’ve been in the middle of writing a series on Psalm 15 and one on systematic theology.  I’m going to pick up the threads of where I was in Genesis 15 first, and share about it and a lot of other things going forward.  When my blog is silent, just remember to pray for me because I’m in a time of more intense teaching when that happens.

Let’s begin again with our mini diversion from the path of Psalm 15 to consider slander.  I’ll link to the previous posts I’ve written on slander below.

We have seen what causes slander.  We have seen specific commands given to the saints concerning slander.  Now, it’s time to take a look at the effects that slander has on us.

The first thing we should remember about slander is that it causes anger.  I know that if I feel misunderstood or misrepresented that I feel angry.  As a mom, I have seen how quickly my children turn to wrath when they feel that they are being misunderstood or that I am mischaracterizing their actions.  I have also noticed that when I see that anger at misrepresentation on the face of my children that I am driven to stop and get it right.  It reminds me that Proverbs 25:23 says:

The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.

We should be angry when we hear someone being slandered.  We should be angry when we hear someone misrepresented.  We should be angry when we only hear one side of a story and are asked to condemn the people on the other side.  All these are ways we backbite each other, and those ways should be condemned.

Let’s attempt to get it right.  The effects of slander are just too great.

The first effect of slander is that is separates friends.  If you are feeling hurt by a tale you have heard about a friend, reach out directly to that friend.  Don’t let someone else’s story about your friend separate you. Proverbs 16:28 says:

A dishonest man spreads strife,
    and a whisperer separates close friends.

If you’re not convinced by that verse, perhaps Proverbs 17:9 would help.  It says:

Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
    but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8). A question we should ask ourselves when we have heard a rumor or been hurt by the actions of a friend is whether or not we can just love enough to carry on in our relationship.  Sometimes a fault needs confrontation.  Other times it just needs forgiveness and covering with our love.

If someone is repeating rumors and telling stories, they often want to cause that kind of division between friends.  There are many motivations for this kind of slander, and we may not even realize our motivations when we spread rumors.  No matter what the motivation, just do not spread tales.

Not only does slander separate friends, but it also causes deadly wounds.  Proverbs 18:6 says:

 A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.

Proverbs 26:22 says:

 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

There is not much that’s more hurtful than hearing rumors that question your friend’s motivations.  There’s not much that is more hurtful than hearing just one side of a story.  The wounds are deep, and sometimes lifelong.

Another effect of slander is to cause strife.  Proverbs 26:20 says:

Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

Every time a tale is spread or a story is told or something is gossiped about, there is strife, division and unhappiness.  Hearing the words of someone else can cause a division between us and a friend and keep us angry at a friend that has transgressed against us.

It keeps us angry, and it can lead to arguing and division in our relationships with others.  All because we stopped to listen to someone who gossiped.

This strife from slander also causes discord among brethren.  Proverbs 6:19 says:

A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Two of the most painful experiences in my year this year involved catching people that I love in lies.  When this happens, there’s an undeniable break in relationship, a loss of trust, and just a clashing disagreement.  That’s what discord is. It’s a disagreement that results in angry people, and although not always caused by lies, lies and slander can be a huge contributor to discord. Slander can also be a result of discord.  The two seem to breed each other.

Another result of slander can be murder.  Psalm 31:3 says:

For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.

Of course, that can be literal murder.  But it doesn’t have to be Matthew 5:21-22 say:

Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Here Jesus is putting anger and murder on the same level.  That’s something that will make you go “Ouch!” when you think about it.

So, there you have it.  My glance through the Bible for the results in our lives of slander. The next post in this series that I’ll be sharing will be a quick post on a couple of things that the Bible says about the tongue, and then we’ll head back to Psalm 15:3 to discover what else a righteous man does not do.

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Hearing from God

I just wanted to take a few minutes today to share the text of a devotional I gave a couple of weeks ago.  I’ll be back to my Psalm 15 series, specifically talking about the effects of slander very soon!

The topic of God speaking to me has always been one that I’ve avoided having to talk about, so I admit that I was less than thrilled when I saw that this was the topic for devotions this year.

I often find myself leery of the whole “God spoke to me” language that runs rampant with my brothers and sisters in Christ. When I was a younger, less mature Christian, I often considered myself spiritually less mature than other Christians because I had never heard the voice of God from up on high personally guiding me. I would always say, “well, they’re closer to God than I am,” and sometimes I’d doubt my own relationship with God because I was never certain, when I came to a decision or conviction, if God was speaking to me or if it was my own idea that I was clothing in God’s voice.

I continued to study, and to listen, straining to hear God’s voice, because I longed for more in my relationship with him. Contentment in my spiritual walk eluded me.

Then, one day, I was reading in I Corinthians, and I realized what a sin of discontent and pride that I was harboring in this area. My longing for more from God was a desire to be lifted up. I had a pride in myself and in my specialness in relation to everyone else.   That really embarrasses me when I think of I John 2:15-17, which says, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.

(As an aside, since this is my devotion, I decided to use all KJV verse references. I love the KJV for the same reasons that I love Shakespeare, visiting museums and watching the perfect sunset, but sometimes I feel uncomfortable using it in public because it makes me worry about people thinking I’m old fashioned or weird. I have serious issues with men pleasing, and despite the fact that I keep memorizing Galatians 1:10, For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. However, I’m still struggling to obey the lesson of that verse. That’s a different devotion though!!)

 

My desire to hear personally from God was related to my pride, and my need for specialness. If I’m reading my Bible correctly, I soon realized that my desire to hear God’s voice was a sin issue for me. I desired to look wise, and I desired to be thought of highly or super-spiritual by other Christians. It was the opposite of what God wanted for me. I had completely forgotten that every verse in the Bible that talks about pride discusses how much the Lord hates it, how it is evil and leads to destruction or how the Lord will humble those who are prideful.

It’s amazing to me how sometimes, when we come to Christ, we might stop climbing one ladder of accomplishment and success only to find ourselves climbing another. We have, in ourselves as humans, a drive to accomplish and to do, and a difficulty being still and waiting on God. It is a quality that I almost find completely lacking in my life, and I’m thankful that God accepts us as we are because I may never be who I want to be.

As I read more about pride, and thought more about how it related to my life, my idol of being the perfect Christian was shattered. I realized that I had committed grave sin and error, and I was convicted.

I also realized something else. God had spoken to me. It didn’t look how I wanted it to look. It didn’t look how I had imagined it would. There was no audible voice. There was just the still small voice of conviction in response to scripture in my heart. The conviction that I knew came from the Holy Spirit.

I find that God speaks to me all the time if I am listening, but I often am not. Each morning, as I read my Bible I have an opportunity to hear from God. Each time I am reminded of a verse that I have studied or a passage comes to my heart at just the right time, I am hearting from God.

It is not the audible voice, and that is okay. This also isn’t the devotion that I imagined giving and that’s okay. I was in the middle of writing this devotional and thinking of how bad it was when I went to church Sunday morning. My pastor, in a section of his sermon, while mentioning Elijah and how his troubles had distracted him from God, mentioned how, I Kings 19, when Elijah stood before the Lord in the midst of his troubles that God was in the still small voice.   My pastor then said, “That’s why God doesn’t speak in an audible voice. You can put your fingers in your ears to stop an audible voice, but you can’t stop a still, small voice.”

Today, I am just thankful that I realized that God was in the still, small voice, and that he was always speaking to me. I had just, in my pride, been blind to hearing from him in that way. In repentance, I thank him that he gave us his sure word and that he speaks to us through it and that he writes that word in our hearts to speak to us.

Commands to the Saints on Slander

Slander, as we learned in our last blog post is often in the realm of the wicked.  However, we who are God’s people often have the temptation towards both gossip and slander.  We also, even if we are not the one slandering, may find ourselves in the situation of being slandered.

Christ was exposed to slander (Psalm 35:11; Matthew 26:60).  Rulers and leaders are often exposed to slander (Jude 8). We, as servants of God, should not be surprised when we are exposed to slander (Romans 3:8; 2 Corinthians 6:8).

We are fortunate that the Bible lays down some very clear commands for us Christians in dealing with slander and evil speaking in our lives.

The first command for us is to keep your tongue from slander.  We receive this command in two places.  First, we have  Psalm 34:13, which says:

 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

We also have this command in I Peter 3:10.  In this verse, we are told:

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:

This is pretty straightforward, right?  Just don’t speak evil.  Ephesians 4:31 reminds us that:

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

I love this because it reminds me that God doesn’t expect me to be suddenly perfect.  Instead, this is a sin that I have to set aside. In case I doubt that this is really a commandment, I also receive it in Titus 3:12:

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

I want to be gentle and not speak evil of people.  I want to go a little further and not think evil of others.  Instead, I want to think the best and believe the best in all.  I don’t always manage it, but it’s my goal.

So, we shouldn’t speak evil and slander towards others.

The second command that God gives us about the tongue is that we should not give others the occasion to gossip about us and slander us.  I say that this is easier said than done since we can’t control the way that other people react to us.  However, we are commanded this two places in I Peter.  I Peter 2:12 says:

Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

I want this for myself.  I want to be able to tell people about Jesus, but I want to lay the foundation for it in my good works so that no one can speak evil against me.  I haven’t arrived at that level yet, but I’m praying for it.

We also see in I Peter 3:16 that:

Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ

I want those who speak evil against me falsely to feel embarrassed.  I want them to be convicted of their slander by the Holy Spirit.  I may want it a little too much, in a vengeance type of way.  That’s my own sin nature showing.

So, that’s why I need the third command that God gives about slander.  He tells us to return good for this evil against us.  I Corinthians 4:13 says,

Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

Here Paul is begging the Corinthians church to reconsider their feelings towards him and his associates.  Instead, they have made him a pariah.  Yet, Paul continued to try to restore relationship with these people.  I can’t even imagine the character that took.

He endured much from the church and we are told that we will be blessed in our endurance of those who speak evil against us.  Matthew 5:11 says,

 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

This isn’t necessarily a blessing that I want, but I’ll take it.  It is far better to be persecuted and reviled and spoken slanderously against than to be the one speaking that kind of slander.

And, of course, the text that we are currently studying (Psalm 15) reminds us that the righteous man is characterized in avoiding slander.  As Psalm 15:3 says,

He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

Our last command concerning slander, as Christians, is to not listen to slander.  We want to listen, but we are to avoid it.  I Samuel 24:9 says,

And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?

In this story, David is reprimanding Saul for believing rumors that David is trying to hurt him.  Because of the lies that Saul was listening to, some pretty stiff consequences resulted from those lies.  We will see how these consequences play out in our lives in the next blog post.

Causes of Slander

If you’ve been following along in my Psalm 15 series, you know that I recently found out that the word “backbiteth” in Psalm 15:3 actually means slander. When I realized this, I used one of the tools in Blue Letter Bible to research scriptures on slander. I will be sharing these verses over the next several blog posts.  I currently have four posts planned.  They are: (1) Causes of Slander; (2) Directions to the Saints About Slander; (3) Effects of Slander; and (4) Warnings About the Tongue.

I’m going to associate gossip and slander in these posts because I feel like they are so closely related.  Someone else might not do this, but I felt this was the way that I wanted to go with these posts.  Always feel free to disagree with me. With this in mind, let’s get started:

The first thing that we learn about slander is that it comes from an evil heart.  Luke 6:45 tells us:

 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

My personal belief is that we all have pretty evil hearts, so this verse reminds me that we’re all capable of slander.  When I am following my own way and not God’s way, I will speak evil.

Sometimes, my intense emotions are a way that I excuse myself from evil words.  If you harbor hatred in your heart, you are especially prone to slanderous words.  Psalm 109:3 tells us:

They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.

This is probably also why I assume, when I hear someone speaking lies about me, that they hate me.  I ask questions later, after I’ve gotten over the hurt of what they have said.  One of the things that I’ve noticed is that gossip often leads to slander. In I Timothy 5:13, we are especially warned that idleness leads to slander.  This verse says,

And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

When I am idle, my first impulse is often to check Facebook and Instagram or to send out a text.  It is in these times that I am most tempted to gossip, to chit-chat, and to spread rumors that I have heard.  If you’ve ever played the game of telephone, you know that this does not usually end well.

Sometimes, I find that checking my phone to see what is on Facebook is an addictive thrill.  I can’t stay off of it.  So, I deleted Facebook from my phone. I deleted Facebook messenger from my phone.  I thought about deleting Instagram, and then, I realized that it was my best way to load photos onto my Instagram and Facebook for others to see and for me to import over here to my blog.  So, I kept Instagram on my phone.  I was hovering over the deactivate Facebook button on the computer the other night, but my “fear of missing out” roared its ugly head, and I stayed a member of Facebook . . .at least for now.

That reminded me that evil people are addicted to gossip and slander.  We even slander the people we love because of the evil in our hearts.  Psalm 50:20 says:

Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son.

Those who are hypocrites are often habitual slanderers.  Proverbs 11:9 says:

An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.

That word destroyeth gets me every time.  Slander can destroy someone’s life.  We like to think our talk is harmless, but it is not. In fact, slander is a characteristic associated with the devil in Revelation 12:10.  This verse says:

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night

Do you know someone who loves to gossip? Do they also display other kinds of wicked behavior?  The Bible tells us that wicked people love it.  When I find myself loving to hear or to speak gossipy words, I remember that Psalm 52:4 says:

 Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.

Not only is my tongue deceitful, but those who gossip or slander others, are fools.  When I speak words that are unwise, I am deserving of God’s punishment. Proverbs 10:13 says:

In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

This cuts a little close, but women especially are warned against gossip and slander.  Titus 2:3 says,

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

Let me not be a false accuser!  I want to behave in a way that becometh holiness.  I’m afraid that I don’t always do so.  (That’s kind of embarrassing as a former pastor rightly calls repetition in the Bible God’s form of volume control.) This isn’t the only verse that specifically discusses women in a propensity to slander.  We are also told that the wives of God’s servants should avoid slander.  I Timothy 3:11 says,

Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

I want to be faithful.  I want to be sober.  I don’t want to gossip or to slander.  However, I know that, in the past I have, and I can only be thankful for God’s forgiveness for my past mistakes.  I can ask for God’s protection for the present and future against temptation.  I also must learn to forgive those who have slandered against me, but that’s another post for another day.

Easton on Backbiting

So, I introduced Psalm 15:3 to you in yesterday’s post.  I don’t want to rewrite that post, so if you haven’t read it, you might want to before you read this one. 🙂

I had settled on the idea of backbiting as spying and looking for weaknesses to attack with after reading all the Biblical uses of the word ragal. However, I knew there were some other great tools on Blue Letter Bible to use, so I decided to start using them to expand my idea of backbiting.

I turned first to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, and found some verses that were really helpful.  I’m going to share them now.

The first is Psalm 15:3. This verse says:

He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

As you’ll know, if you’re paying attention, this actually the verse under consideration!! Easton explains that here this word means to run about tattling and caluminating

Next was Proverbs 25:23, which says:

The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue

In this one, according to Easton, the word means secret talebearing or slandering.

Then, we have two verses that Easton considers together.  They are Romans 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 12:20. Romans 1:30 says:

Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents

2 Corinthians 12:20 says:

For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:

According to Easton, these usages of backbiting mean evil-speaking and maliciously defaming the absent.

All of these helped me immensely in my understanding of backbiting, except for one thing.  I didn’t know what calumniating meant.  So, again I checked with Webster’s 1828 dictionary and found that calumniating mean slandering.  So, the person is a class “tale-bearer.” A gossip. Someone who spread stories without checking the truth of the story.  They want to run the other person down and believe the worst about that person.  They want others to feel the same way.

There was a heaviness in my heart as I realized this, and decided to check Nave’s Topical Bible to make sure that there weren’t any additional verses on backbiting.  There wasn’t. Easton’s had it covered.

However, now that I knew that backbiting was the same as slander, I knew that the Bible had a lot to say about slander, and I decided that this would be my next avenue of study.

He That Backbiteth Not

My last couple of posts have alluded to the fact that I’ve been pondering Psalm 15:3.  This verse says, in whole:

He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

As you’ll remember, Psalm 15 is answering the question of what are the outward characteristics of the man or woman who enjoys fellowship with God.  I kind of undertook this study because the children and I had been studying Psalm 91, and we saw how God shelters those who abide under his shelter, and I wanted to see more practically what it looked like.

So, here we are weeks and weeks later in Psalm 15:3, and I am considering the phrase “He that backbiteth not with his tongue. . . ”

Well, the problem is that I wasn’t sure what backbiteth even means.

The first place I went was to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.  It is here that I learned that the word backbite means “to censure, slander, reproach or speak evil of the absent.”

Using Blue Letter Bible, I was also able to find out that the Bible variously translates the Hebrew world translated backbiteth here (ragal) as spy, spy out, view, espy out, and slandered.

If you’re interested in seeing some of these biblical uses, you’ll find them in Genesis 42:11, 14, 16, & 34; Numbers 21:32; Joshua 2:1; Joshua 6:22, 23, 25; Judges 18; I Samuel 26:4; 2 Samuel 10:3; 2 Samuel 15:10; and 2 Samuel 19:27.

After quickly reading through these verses, I got the impression of someone who was sneaking around trying to find out more about someone just so they can use it against them.  They were looking for weaknesses and ways to attack.  I felt then that someone who is backbiting is someone who is seeking to attack you.

So, I thought to myself, “Keep your guard up!” and decided to seek out some other sources.  I’ll share more about one of them tomorrow.

 

Control of My Tongue

As I’ve studied Psalm 15, I’ve become convicted of how much time I let things fly out of my mouth without thinking.  I lack the self-control to control my tongue, especially when I’m irritated or angry. I felt really guilty about that a couple of months ago when I read Karen Ehman’s Keep It Shut.

In this book, Ehman discusses our speech.  She discusses the things that are wrong with our speech and gives plenty of self-help hints for making sure that your speech is graceful and kind. After all, we are told that we will give account for every careless word that we utter.

Why?

In Ehman’s words, it is because:

The truth is, words are never accidental. To be sure, there are times we utter careless words, but even then those words are first formed in our minds, filtered to our hearts, and then given permission to come out of our lips.

We have control over our words.  After all, we are able to stop an angry tirade at a loved one to be perfectly polite to a stranger. This is proof in my book that we have more control over our tone and our words than we would like to admit.