“…to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:2)
These instructions are given to everyone and are for the benefit of all.
We have seen this word “slander” before: “teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers…” Why is slander such a serious spiritual crime, and why would Christians participate in it? How does it differ from the similar sin of gossip?
I am not a human psychologist, and cannot speak with complete authority on those things that motivate people to sin. But I have made the following observations:
Slander is akin to gossip, yet different. Gossip involves passing along unnecessary or damaging information about others. A gossip doesn’t check to make sure he has his story right. He just enjoys talking, and is empowered when others perceive him as an authority. The damage done by people who talk without thinking is horrendous. James spends an entire chapter addressing the problem (James 3).
Slander employs gossip, but is more strategic in its intent and practice. A slanderer is selective in those she wishes to hurt and looks for opportunities to discredit them and point out their flaws. She is often deeply insecure, and feels a need to compete with those who threaten her position or prestige. And so she is always spinning tales to profile her targets, leaving out the good they do and overplaying their weaknesses.
One of the worst things about slander is that people often believe it. I remember the first time I met someone who used half-truths and untruths to hurt others. I was completely dumbfounded because I didn’t think it was possible for Christians to purposely say things they knew were false. In fact, one of the reasons slander spreads quickly is because most of us assume when someone tells us something, it must be true. But people lie. Good people lie! (I know that sounds weird, but hopefully you know what I mean). It took me a while to accept this harsh reality, but when I did, I became much more careful what I listen to, what I repeat, and what I believe.
The other characteristics in this morning’s verse take care of themselves when we care enough about others to be honest with them and about them. When we are humble, we do our best to present others in a good light, and don’t attempt to hurt them for the sake of building up our own ego.
Don’t believe everything you hear, and don’t say anything you don’t know for certain. And if you have the courage to do so, when you hear something that isn’t true, hold people accountable. Slander and gossip is a big deal and according to the scripture can keep one out of the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
No wonder the Bible tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19).
Dear God, help me be careful what I say. In Jesus’ name, Amen.