What David said, most of us could affirm: “I have heard the slander of many.” (Ps. 31:13) Slander is surely one of the besetting sins of saints. The New Testament epistles are replete with references to this sin. Paul said, “Being defamed, we entreat.” (I Cor. 4:13) Synonyms for slander include the word Paul used in the passage just cited, as well as “backbiting,” “evil speaking,”and “blasphemy.” (2 Cor. 12:20, I Pet. 2:1 and 2 Pet. 2:10)
Slander is making a false statement about someone that is damaging to his reputation. Slander is the spoken version of libel, which is putting the false statement into written form. In some instances, it is a crime and can be prosecuted under defamation laws.
Here is an example of how someone can slander another person. The setting is an aisle of a local supermarket, where Oscar Bruhaha meets up with choir member Sister Saint. After they greet one another, Sister Saint says, “Well, how’d you like the new minster?”
Oscar: “Don’t rightly know, jest yet. It bothers me he’s from Missouri though. Ain’t never had a Yankee for a preacher down in these parts.”
Sister: “Yep, me too, but there’s sumpin what bothers me more.”
Oscar: “What be that Sister Saint?”
Sister: “I heared he’s a cravinist!”
Oscar: “What’s that, Sister?”
Sister: “Oh, you know, they bleve God damns sum to Hell and lects sum to heav’n and that’s it!”
Oscar: “Oh, you mean like them Hard Shell Babitists does?”
Sister: “Yep, no choice, no chance: all set up head uv time.”
Oscar: “I declare! Why on earth did our decons ever bring in someone like that?”
Sister: “Dunno, but I know one thing—he won’t last long here. Brudder Rash will have hiz hide!”
Oscar: “Well, did you ever? A cravinist right here in Hope Holler! What’s this world cumin to!”
Ok, if you remember Paul Harvey, here’s the “rest of the story.” The new pastor was a Yankee, from Missouri, a state that never left the Union during the Civil War. He was not a Calvinist (Cravinist), though someone heard him attempting to expound on I Peter 1:2 (“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father….”) and, taking a couple of his statements out of context, concluded that he believed that some were elected to salvation and others were elected to eternal damnation. The word quickly spread through “Hope Holler” and, as was predicted, Deacon Rash rushed to diffuse the unrest. In less than three months, the new preacher and his little wife were packing their bags. The culprit: slander. The young pastor tried earnestly and honestly to assure his congregation that he believed Christ died for every sinner and that “whosoever” would call upon the name of the Lord would be saved. But all to no avail! The misrepresentation of what the pastor had actually taught stuck. And down went another victim to slander.
It is a sin as old as time. The deceiving devil slandered God to Eve when he said that she would not die, but that God was withholding the fruit of that tree from the couple because He knew that in the day that they ate from it their eyes would be opened, “and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” From that beginning in the garden of Eden, slander has been a dark thread woven through the pages of history—causing division, divorce, destruction and death. It is doubtful that any human being, alive or dead, has avoided its clutches. Most everyone has, at some time or other, probably been guilty of perpetrating this evil—and been its victim.
The Devil is the master of it, and those schooled by him have employed slander to bring about the most heinous of crimes. Jesus was crucified because of slander. The Pharisees were constantly accusing Christ of blasphemy, saying that He did what he did by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils. The Pharisees did this because they envied Jesus and the following He had of the multitudes, along with the power He demonstrated by healing the sick of all manner of diseases. Pilate, Matthew explains, knew that “for envy they had delivered Him” to be crucified. (Matt. 27:18) Envy led to slander. The scribes and chief priests sought false witnesses against Jesus, though they found none until finally two witnesses came and said that Jesus had claimed He was able to destroy the temple of God. Mark wrote that the chief priests accused Jesus of many things. Luke wrote that the same slanderers said to Pilate, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar.” (Luke 23:2) Hearing lie after lie, Pilate finally released Jesus to be crucified—a victim of unrestrained slander from some of the most renowned religionists in history!
Solomon warned that “he who spreads slander is a fool.” (Provs. 10:18). The 9th commandment reads that one should not bear false witness against his neighbor. (Ex. 20:16) In Leviticus 19:16, God said that “You shall not go about as a slanderer.” And, God warns that the person who “secretly slanders his neighbor him will I destroy.” (Ps. 10:15) Writing to New Testament saints, James says: “Speak not evil one of another, brethren, He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law.” (James 4:11)
Sometimes it can appear as a subtle sin, and it may as such surface as a “prayer request.” In a local church prayer meeting, it may sound like this: “Pray for my sister and her husband: they just bought a new BMW and no one knows where they got the money for such an expensive new car. Just pray for them, that he has not gone back to his old ways.”
In light of how devastating this ubiquitous sin is, ought we not all join David in his prayer: “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.” (Ps. 120:2)
Yes, from the lying lips and deceitful tongue of others, and from the sin whereby our own lips become lying lips and our own tongue becomes a deceitful tongue! Deliver my soul, O Lord, indeed!
“For I have heard the slander of many…But I trusted in Thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God.” (Ps. 31:13, 14)