Slander steals and kills! God hates slander (Proverbs 6:16, 19). It is evil. That’s why Paul lists it as a behavior of those who hate God (Romans 1:30) and why James calls it demonic behavior (James 3:15-16). Slander occurs whenever someone says something untrue about someone else that results, intentionally or unintentionally, in damaging that someone else’s reputation. And when it occurs, it becomes a divisive, discouraging, and confusing weight that often affects numerous people – sometimes many, many people. Because of its poisonous power, IT IS ONE OF THE ADVERSARY’S CHIEF STRATEGIES TO DIVIDE relationships and deter and derail the mission of the church. We must be on our guard against this closely clinging sin and frequently lay it aside (Hebrews 12:1). Slander applies to siblings too.
The Subtlety of Slander
Sometimes, saying something untrue and damaging about someone is bold and blunt. But the slander is often insidiously subtle, especially since we have heard it in almost every context and grown accustomed to it all our lives. This means we must heighten our sensitivity to it and lower our tolerance to it. Slander can wear a hundred masks. I’ll mention a few common ones. Sometimes we pass along slanderous information that seems almost like harmless hearsay. Yet, the effect it has on our listeners is to leave them with an unfairly negative perception of another. Sometimes we embellish with information or tone a negative report about someone in order to enhance our listener’s perception of ourselves. Sometimes we have a very real concern about someone, but we share it with someone who cannot benefit from it or help with the concern. We do this because we want our listeners to think worse of a particular person. Or suppose we share a concern with an appropriate person. In that case, we can sometimes indulge our speculations or presumptions, mixing them almost imperceptibly with facts for our listeners, distorting the concern to sway an outcome in the desired direction. The net effect of all forms of slander is to unjustly devalue another person’s reputation.
Slander Is Stealing
This devaluing is at the heart of what makes slander evil. The Bible tells us, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). In this context, a good name represents a person’s character, which is the most valuable thing about their identity. A good name is who we are in the minds of others. And since relationships trade in the currency of trust, a reputation is a very precious asset. So whenever we handle a person’s name – who they are in the minds of others – we are stewarding a treasure that belongs to them. If we unjustly damage a person’s reputation, we are stealing their good name and vandalizing their character. This causes real, sometimes long-lasting damage to people because restoring a devalued name is difficult. Who knows what love, joy, counsel, comfort, and opportunities we take from people if we care for their name carelessly? God knows. And He hates it. God hates when we speak evil of his name (Exodus 20:7) and when we speak evil of others (Titus 3:2). He will hold us accountable for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:36). This is a great incentive for us to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1).
Fight Slander First in Yourself
The foremost slanderer we must silence is the one inside us. Full of malignant pride, our sinful natures are not interested in truth but in self-glory. So they seek to manipulate others through slander (or flattery) for our own selfish benefit. Sin (and therefore our demonic harassers) seizes on a concern for or an offense we’ve received from another and seeks to distort it into thinking evil of that person. Thinking evil of another is assigning imagined or exaggerated negative qualities to them that doesn’t exist. Often this begins as private fantasies where we nurture our concerns or offense by imagining ourselves justified in our righteousness and others condemned in their evil. But in truth, all we’re doing is passing our own evil thoughts on to imaginations disguised as other people. That’s our sinful nature’s slanderer talking. We are fools to listen to it. And when our slander spills out from ourselves to others – and it will if we don’t catch it soon enough – it is both selfishly indulgent and cowardly. Slander is indulgent because we often seek the self-flattery buzz of our listener approving and admiring us more than the one we are slandering. We are robbing another’s reputation to get the drug of self-flattery. Slander is cowardly because it’s a way of nurturing a concern or an offense and gaining sympathizers without doing the courageous work of bringing it directly to the source of our concern or offense. Our rationalizations for this can be countless, but essentially we don’t have the guts to deal with it head-on. This means our character is in serious question since we are willing to vandalize another’s character to gain allies.
We must grow ruthless in ignoring and silencing our slandering sinful natures.
By Jon Bloom