The Sin of Slander

Richard Salbato - June 2, 2011


In this month on teaching people how to get to Heaven the most important thing is to teach sin because all sin is forgivable if we admit it and repent of it. If we sin and do not think it a sin we do not repent, we do not ask for forgiveness and God cannot forgive us. That is why it is so important to know sin. If I preached in a Church sin would be my weekly subject.

The most prominent and unrecognized sin of today is Gossip – Slander. It is more prominent today because of new communication. In years past we would talk with others one or two hours a day. Now because of phones, cell phones, emails and personal web sites we talk almost all day long and most of the time with nothing constructive to say.

This is so commonplace we fail to see that most of what we talk about is not ourselves but other people. I am going to show below that Gossip is just as much a sin as murder because it kills the reputation of others and it does not matter if the gossip is true or false.

Before doing this I must explain that there is a time when you not only can but must expose the sins of others. An example of this is Saint Paul, who condemned six Christians publically and by name. The reason he did this was because he told them privately they were teaching a false gospel and damaging the souls of others and they did not stop. He had to protect the faith of people from these false teachings. Again Christ condemned the Pharisees publically for their false teaching and example which was harming the true faith of others. A gift of the Holy Spirit is to reprimand the sinner. And if that sinner is harming others and refuses to stop we are obligated to expose him, stop him, and do it however we can. Silence is affirmation says Thomas More because the King not only harmed faith but killed Catholics and destroyed their churches. In every case where someone harmed another in faith or body we are commanded to stop them in anyway we can.

I think that is clear so all other slander is wrong. Even when telling the truth we cannot gossip about another unless he is doing harm to others by his sin.

Gossip, definition and Bible

Gossip is a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts. Gossip is a rumor or report of an intimate nature. Slander is defined as the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another's reputation. Many of us think that false refers to anything obviously untrue.  However, according to definition, it is also something that is adjusted or made so as to deceive, is tending to mislead, is not faithful or loyal, or is inconsistent with the facts.

Proverbs 11:13 states, A gossiper reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter. 

Whoever spreads slander is a fool. (Prov. 10:18a)

A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies. (Prov. 12:17 NIV) 

Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbor. (Prov. 25:18 NIV)

A man came up to Jesus and asked, Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?' …Jesus replied,…If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.

Which ones? the man inquired. Jesus replied,

Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 19:16-19

Clearly Jesus taught that giving false testimony (e.g., gossip and slander) is a moral sin.

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”(Rom. 13:8-l0)

The hypocrite (or the godless) with his mouth destroys his neighbor. (Prov. 11:9a)

Death and life are in the power of the tongue… (Prov. 18:21)

Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man 'unclean….” (Matt. 15:10,11,19,20 \)

Note that false testimony and slander are included with murder, adultery, and stealing.

To the wicked [which include supposed Christians who are walking in darkness in the areas of slander and gossip or other sin], God says: 'What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?  You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit.  You speak continually against your brother [or sister] and slander your own mother's son [or daughter]. These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. (Ps. 50:16-21)

Romans 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 1:29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossipers, 1:30 Slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;1:31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 1:32 Although they know God s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these things but also approve of those who practice them.”

In the scripture above, the Apostle Paul paints a grim picture of reprobates -- those who have rejected the Lord and have embraced a lifestyle of sin. He makes it clear that God condemns such evil behavior. They persist in doing these things, knowing that those who do such things deserve death. (Rom 1:32).

Does this come as a surprise? Paul said that gossips and bad-mouthers were in the same league as murderers, sexual perverts, and God haters -- and that such sins were worthy of a death sentence!

Slander is a word that has an interesting origin. It comes from the word Devil. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, slander means malicious talk; to spread damaging information; to defame; to speak ill of. Is it no wonder where slander derives it’s name? Slander is the work of the Devil, and those who slander are on his team. In fact the Bible says that Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). Are you an accuser of the brethren too? If so, even though it may not be your intention, you are being used an agent of the Devil! According to scripture, any Christian whos mouth is out of control does not have a right relationship with God. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless(James 1:26).

By now I’m sure that you realize that anything which is placed in the same category as murder must be a serious sin -- something that should not be taken lightly. But unfortunately, Christians do not usually consider gossip and it’s related activity as sin.

Things to Remember about Gossip

·                     Gossip is as sinful as murder and will suffer the same consequences unless there is repentance (Rom. 1:32).

·                     God holds you accountable to your words (Matt. 12:36-37).

·                     The person who gossips to you about others, also gossips to others about you.

·                     Gossip & slander disqualifies persons for spiritual leadership (1 Tim. 3:11, Jas. 3:2).

·                     Gossip often masks as pretentious concerns for others.

·                     Gossip often thrives upon secrecy. Where secrecy is removed, gossip is hampered.

·                     Gossip always contributes to a problem and never to a solution.

·                     Gossip always distorts and exaggerates, and is never a reliable source of truth.

·                     Those who gossip & slander are not in right fellowship with God (Rom. 1:28-32).

·                     Those who gossip rarely get answers to prayer, and often face persistent, unexplainable problems (Psalms 66:18, Prov. 21:23, Prov. 6:12-15).

What to do about Gossip

·                     If you have been a gossiper, confess this as sin and ask Christ to forgive you. Repent by turning in a new direction and surrendering your tongue to Christ, not to gossip or bad-mouth again (1 John 1:9, 1 Cor. 7:10).

·                     Keep your nose out of other people’s business.

·                     If you can’t say something good or encouraging about others, then keep your mouth shut (Eph. 4:29).

·                     Never criticize another person, except to their own face with an intent to help. Criticism can never be “constructive” if expressed to anyone else.

·                     If your friends start bad-mouthing others to you, stop them in their tracks -- refuse to be a partaker of their sins (1 Tim 5:22).

·                     Avoid association with persons who gossip (Prov. 20:19).

·                     Expose works of darkness by reporting gossip to the pastor that he may confront and offer correction. Gossip should be treated as any other vile sin (Eph. 5:11).

“I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence” (Psalms 39:1).



(Latin calvor, to use artifice, to deceive)

Etymologically any form of ruse or fraud employed to deceive another, particularly in judicial proceedings. In its more commonly accepted signification it means the unjust damaging of the good name of another by imputing to him a crime or fault of which he is not guilty. The sin thus committed is in a general sense mortal, just as is detraction. It is hardly necessary, however, to observe that as in other breaches of the law the sin may be venial, either because of the trivial character of the subject-matter involved or because of insufficient deliberation in the making of the accusation. Objectively, a calumny is a mortal sin when it is calculated to do serious harm to the person so traduced. Just as in the instance of wrongful damage to person or estate, so the calumniator is bound to adequate reparation for the injury perpetrated by the blackening of another's good name. He is obliged (1) to retract his false statements, and that even though his own reputation may necessarily as a consequence suffer. (2) He must also make good whatever other losses have been sustained by the innocent party as a result of his libellous utterances, provided these same have been in some measure (in confuso) foreseen by him. In canon law the phrase juramentum calumniae is employed to indicate the oath taken by the parties to a litigation, by which they averred that the action was brought and the defense offered in good faith.