Perhaps you remember the little line, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” I was taught that idea in my elementary school as a boy by well-meaning teachers. However, that little line is simply not true. Names do hurt people and in fact, they can leave deep scars for people to struggle with for their entire life.
The Fruit of Slander
Slander occurs when someone shares something about someone else that is not factual, or perhaps partially true, but results in damaging the individual’s reputation. The subtlety of slander can occur over a casual coffee conversation among friends or it can happen as a means of asking prayer for someone who left your church or a staff member in your local church who people are having a hard time following, or a hundred other examples could fit this equation.
The fruit of slander is that it damages the perception of another individual in the mind of one or more people. Sometimes slander is obvious and at other times it flies beneath the surface and is not easily detected. Sometimes the heart of one person is not pure and due to jealousy one friend slanders another person to keep their close friends from becoming close to the person being slandered. The ungodly competition factor among groups of friends precipitates the sin of slander which often hinders the growth of friendships. This can be true among high school friends as well as a local church.
The end result of slander is the devaluation of a person in the eyes of others. Sometimes this happens in the locker room of a football team among athletes, at lunch among middle schoolers who want to remain at the top of the “cool list” among friends, and sadly—it happens circles within local churches.
Slander is the sharing of speculation and hearsay about someone that results in a negative depiction of another person and a decline in their reputation. This can result in broken friendships, divided families, and fractures among a local church. When you see friendships broken and families leave a church due to slander, it can be a very discouraging thing to witness. The fruit of slander is not sweet and it never glorifies God.
The Root of Slander
Slander is deceptive, destructive, and devious. Simply stated, God hates slander. In Proverbs 6:16-19, we find these words:
There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
To call slander anything other than sin would be to miss the mark. Slander is sinful and God views it as an abomination. Why such strong hatred by God for the sin of slander? Consider what Solomon writes about the value of a person’s name:
Proverbs 22:1 – A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
Ecclesiastes 7:1 – A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.
Since a good name and a person’s good reputation is such a valuable thing that can be ruined through slanderous lips, God considers it evil and he hates it. According to James 3:15-16, the practice of slander is demonic. People who engage in slandering other people are being led by demons—not the Spirit of God. The root of slander is a heart that is either wayward or completely unconverted.
Because slander is one of the greatest poisons that can be injected into the life of a local church to divide it, God hates it and opposes it strongly. God places a high priority upon unity among the church (see the word “maintain” in Eph. 4:3). Any movement to divide a local church by slanderous accusations and speech is simply devilish. We live in a cut-throat society where people are willing to do whatever necessary to achieve success. The church, however, is called to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace for the glory of God.
Rather than stealing a person’s reputation by slander, we should guard people’s reputation. Rather than sharing and receiving slanderous talk about others, we should reject it and correct the person slandering others. A loose tongue is a deadly weapon—one that Satan rejoices in using.
When Korah slandered Moses, God was not pleased with the people and he judged them swiftly (see Numbers 16). Certainly we know that one day every person will give account of how they used their tongue—including every word that proceeds from our lips (Matt. 12:36-37). However, when we’re slandered, we must not attempt to vindicate ourselves in an ungoldly manner. We must go through the means of biblical church discipline (confrontation see Matt. 18:15-20). However, if it’s someone outside the church throwing rocks at you, hear the words of Charles Spurgeon who was commenting on Psalm 119:23-24:
The best way to deal with slander is to pray about it: God will either remove it, or remove the sting from it. Our own attempts at clearing ourselves are usually failures. Be quiet and let your Advocate plead your cause.