When we gossip or slander, we kill at least three people. We kill ourselves, we kill the person who listened to us and we kill the person about whom we spoke. Naturally, if we speak to more than one listener, or about more than one person, we will inflict greater damage. We’ve all done it at one time or another. That doesn’t make it right. That makes it alarming. The most dangerous weapon you will ever possess isn’t one you can go out and purchase. Nor is it one for which you need a conceal/carry permit. It was given you to in your mother’s womb, before you even knew how to wield it. I’m talking about your tongue.
What is “gossip”? The Greek word in the New Testament that is translated into the English word “gossip” means “whisperings” or “tale-bearings.” It is to speak in ways where the speaker does not want to be easily identified because of the inappropriate, less than honorable subject matter and/or manner in which it is shared. When we “whisper,” we don’t want others to hear what we have to say – especially the person about whom we are speaking. A gossip “whispers” in order to protect their own identity while damaging that of another. It’s classically hypocritical, which should wake us up. In Matthew 24:42-51, Jesus speaks with great force against the sin of hypocrisy:
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
“For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
“Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?
“Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
“Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
“But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (ESV)
Slander is gossip on steroids. One of the Greek New Testament words translated into “slander” means “to defame,” and “to injure the reputation.” A slanderer is not merely sharing information, but sharing it in such a way as to destroy another person or people. Like gossip, slander often takes place in secrecy, with the slanderer taking great measures to ensure their own protection. Again, it is hypocrisy in classic form.
The Greek word in the famous Matthew 4 account of Jesus’ wilderness temptations is translated into the English word “devil.” Amazingly, it is the same root word used for the word “slander” and “slanderous” found in other parts of the Bible, like 2 Timothy 3:3, where people in the last of the Last Days are said to be “slanderous.”
Gossip and slander are forms of verbal suicide. When we engage in gossip or slander – or tolerate it when practiced in our presence (which is to be a “listener”), we hold the devil’s hand and speak his language. Enough is enough. It’s time we begin to be a catalyst for healthy conversations, and fulfill the greatest of all commandments, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5), and to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). This teaching is just as relevant as it was in Old Testament times, or in the day when Jesus referenced both of these commands and said they were inseparable (Mark 12:28-34). When we gossip or slander, or tolerate those who do, we condone verbal suicide and collateral murder. Murder by mouth is a serious sin. It’s time we get serious about loving God and loving our neighbors.
Do you gossip or slander? Do you tolerate people doing it in your presence? Why? When you do, you are neither loving God nor your neighbors.
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