Slander – Talebearing – Gossip

“Have you heard what has happened at such-and-such a place?”

“Have you heard what so-and-so has done?”

Sadly, this kind of talk is too common. He was a wise minister who, whenever confronted with this kind of question, met it with one of his own: “Is it something good you are going to tell me?”

The Word of God abounds with advice and warnings concerning the use of our tongue, “that unruly member,” as James describes it. We are told that “the words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious.”

How sad it is that the people of God do not always speak graciously!

A man (or woman) who would be shocked at the thought of theft or adultery seems to have so little conscience about the way he speaks.

What is slander?

Saying untrue things about a person. It is as simple (and solemn) as that. God’s word is very express:

“Thou shalt not raise a false report”
(Exodus 23:1)

“Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile”
(Psalm 34:13)

“Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off”
(Psalm 101:5)

But how is it possible that God’s people can be guilty of slander?

Usually through careless repetition. Some story is misheard, or the person gets the wrong name, or the wrong place, or there is some exaggeration.

But O the havoc it causes!

The psalmist David found that, among his many trials, “the slander of many” was not the least.

But what if the tale is true? (This is the usual justification.)

Well, there are solemn warnings given against talebearing. Again the Word of God is express:

“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people.”
(Leviticus 19:16)

“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”
(1 Timothy 5:13)

We well remember seeing a little plaque on the wall of a friend’s house with the following inscription:

(Proverbs 26:20)

It was very true what cursed Ham knew about his father’s dreadful fall; but he was the one who bore the punishment for exposing it. And his two brothers were honoured for taking a garment and walking backwards to cover their father’s nakedness.

“When free from envy, scorn and pride.
Our wishes all above,
Each can his brother’s failings hide,
And show a brother’s love.”

This does not mean sin is to be connived at. There is a clear, scriptural pattern, if we hear of something that distresses us: to go directly to the person concerned and speak to him in love. (And it is always wise to begin by enquiring if what we have heard really is true.)

Idle gossip is of no value to the church of God. In days of real prosperity “they that feared the Lord spake often one to another” not one about another. It will be remembered that John Bunyan speaks of passing a few old women outside a cottage and he says they were “gossipping the gospel.” O for more of this!


May the Lord deliver us and our churches from these three evils.

You remember the story of the old lady who, before repeating anything, put it through three sieves (as she called them):




It was said of the younger Ryland (author of “Sovereign Ruler of the skies”) that his word could be relied on as much as the Angel Gabriel’s oath!

“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt”
(Colossians 4:6)

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”
(Ephesians 4:31-32)

The Lord Jesus never spake an untrue, an unkind, an unnecessary word.

“Brethren, suffer the word of exhortation.” It is needful. We think often of the dear old godly lady who, when people were speaking to her, would say, “We do need to ask the Lord to set a watch over the door of our lips.”

One final word:

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain”
(James 1:26)

By B.A. Ramsbottom

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