Lying lips conceal hatred, and whoever utters slander is a fool. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech. (Proverbs Prov. 10:18-19)
One of my jobs is to proofread articles for the terrific Theology of Work Project, begun by my friend Will Messenger. I just finished proofing "Proverbs" and it is so good, I wanted to quote it left and right here, but I can't, since it won't be published until next week.
However, I can mention that the section on slander and gossip is something every person should read--especially every believer in Christ, since believers claim the Bible to be the living, authoritative Word of God--because just about every worker, every church-goer, every parent and teen (in other words, every person), has known the pain of gossip and slander.
Most of us have engaged in gossip--from a sip to a gulp-sized portion
--and the result is never good. I know I don't feel good about myself if I talk about another person out of turn, especially since I have known the sting of being gossiped about.
Slander is similar to gossip, except it is usually more public and more damaging. Two dear friends were the victims of slander a few years ago by someone who had perpetrated a crime but tried to shift blame onto innocent people. Because this person's family was well-known in their city, they made life very uncomfortable for my friends for a while. What made this all the more difficult was that those involved were members of the same church.
Sinners are everywhere and can especially be found at church. Is that such a surprise? True believers are those who know they are sinners saved by the grace of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus. So, our churches are filled with sinners--but they should be growing in love and wisdom and obedience to God's Word, not in building a rap sheet.
The Bible takes slander and lying very seriously and warns us to "not bear false witness" (the ninth commandment, Exodus 20:16). This makes sense, since the very first whisper of slander led to catastrophe. In Genesis 3, the serpent hisses a lie to Eve about God--slandering Him as unloving, selfish
--and extends the luscious fruit that traps Eve and Adam, and catapults the human race out of paradise and into the messed up world we live in.
Slandering our brothers and sisters is wrong, and many times it stems from blame-shifting: we can't face the log in our own eye, so we will try to find a splinter in our neighbor's (Matthew 7:5). Let's not take a bite out of the fruit the "father of lies" dangles before us, and instead have "the tongue of the wise [that] brings healing."
Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness speaks deceitfully. Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but those who counsel peace have joy. (Proverbs Prov. 12:17-20)