Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 14 Unification of Logos & Houtkruis . The sin of slander (Part 1)

. The sin of slander (Part 1)

THE SIN OF SLANDER (PART 1)

 

Introduction.

The greatest destroyer of unity and the church is ………. We all would love to fill Satan in as the answer for the blanks. Now, in a sense that is true. But more practical, more real, more dangerous is nothing but the tongue and the sin of slander. The quotation on the front of the bulletin by St Francis de Sales says it best: ‘Slander is a kind of murder: for we all have three lives, - a spiritual life which depends on the Grace of God, a bodily life, depending on the soul, and a civil life, consisting in good reputation. Sin deprives us of the first, death of the second, and slander of the third.’

Over the past seven years I have been the recipient of slander on a major scale. Sadly, this slander was not only propagated by immature Christians, but even by pastors who are supposed to be the prime example of Christian living. On the contrary, very few immature Christians have slandered me. In expressing my horror regarding slander and its effect on a person, one’s family and ministry to different brothers in the Lord, all counselled me that I must live with it as you will never stop slander, it is simply par for the course in ministry.

Now if this counsel is correct, what do I do with Colossians 3:5-10 (ESV) 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Paul contrasts the old life with the new, he contrasts heavenly thinking with earthly thinking and he tells us clearly by example of things we need to put away as it contrasts with Christian living. So, the bottom line for me is that if slander is a necessary evil or an unavoidable evil which we must simply live with, why is sexual immorality not, why is impurity not, why are evil desires not, why is wrath not and why is lying not? Should we then not just simply accept that Christians are able to sin, and therefore we do not address sin, or we only address particular kinds of sin?  Surely that is the logical argument if slander must just be accepted because it will always be amongst us.

So, join me as we sink out teeth into this topic of which Spurgeon says: “while truth still battles to get its bootstraps on, slander has gone around the world 10 times”. His quote is based on a similar one by Mark. The original one is that ‘the lie will go half way around the world, while truth puts on its shoes.’ Now, to illustrate the point, just to show you how slander spreads. A local Polokwane pastor who has been very active in slandering me, slandered me to a pastor in another province and that slander has travelled all the way to the United Emirates and who knows where else? Each one obviously added their own tales. No wonder somebody else remarked “slander goes in at one ear and out of 10 mouths.” Let me add that you obviously get 10 versions. Many people revel in slander because it somehow makes them important as they have information you don’t.

I want us to turn to two verses in the book of James that addresses the subject. At face value the two verses present themselves as plain and simple, and should require one simple sermon, and our point is made. However, I want to tackle it slightly deeper than at face value. So, let’s turn in our Bibles to James 4:11-12.

James 4:11-12 (ESV) 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbour?”

A few translations including the NIV says: “Do not slander one another, brothers.”

These two verses are actually so rich in Biblical theology that we cannot just glance over them. To simply focus on the slander part will do injustice to the context. These verses are going to teach us much about our perception of sin and how we perceive sin has a lot to do with how we perceive righteousness and how we perceive obedience and how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive God and how we perceive His law. All of this has major ramifications for our Christian thinking and our Christian living.

When James says that we must not speak evil against one another or slander one another he is talking about that age-old sin of defamation of character. The dictionary defines "defamation of character as an attack on the reputation of someone by publishing falsely and maliciously things that slander and injure."

Now, that is the legal definition or at least the dictionary definition. I believe Biblically that it goes much deeper. I believe the definition should read that “defamation of character is an attack on the reputation of someone by publishing anything whether true or false with malicious intent that slanders or injures.” The bigger issue is the ‘why’ and the ‘where’ and the ‘to whom’ rather than the ‘what’.

Now as you have already gathered ‘slander’ or ‘defamation of character’ or ‘speaking evil of a brother or a sister’ is a sin according to God, but do we realise that it is against the law in I guess, all countries. You can take somebody to court based on defamation of character. Even society realises that a person’s reputation is of value to that person, as your own is of value to you, and that you have no right to defame a person’s reputation. There was a time in New York if you were found guilty of slandering another person your tongue was pierced with a hot iron and you were banished from New York. I think if you applied that rule to society today, you will at least clean out Polokwane. These laws very much find their roots in the Word of God.

I am not 100% sure of the facts, but if Dr John Mac Arthur is correct then it is true that the Old Testament denounces the offence of slandering God and slandering man more than any other sin. Now, where has it gone all wrong that we make the claim today, that it is an evil we must simply tolerate in the church as you are not going to eradicate it?

Slandering is maybe the easiest sin to commit in our day and age, simply because all it requires is a lot of imagination about another person, a bit of actual information, a few tales added and all you need as a tool is your tongue and another person’s ear.  No wonder James warns us that the tongue is like a match that can set the world alight, or it is like a rudder that can steer a ship.

We just looked at James 4:11-12, but let’s put it in context. The opposite of arrogance is humility and humility is the very context in which James is talking here about slander. James 4:6 (ESV) says: 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” And then verse 10 says: 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” True believers are marked by humility, it is the symbol, the sign, the identifying factor, the mark, the bench mark, if you will, the sign of authenticity of a true believer that is humble. If you continually fail in the area of humility you disqualify yourself as a believer.

I believe that Paul is now explaining in verse 11 that a person who is not truly humble is the kind of person who will slander his or her brother or sister.

If you are a person whose life is evidenced by a habit of slandering others, you betray that you have nothing but an evil nature instead of, a transformed new nature in Jesus Christ. This is where it fits with our sermon series on the supremacy of love. A slanderous person is boastful and arrogant and does not exhibit love. They forget their own sins, and highlight that of others. The only reason you slander others is to make yourself look good and that is born by a boastful and arrogant spirit. It is another way of saying like the Pharisee in the temple: ‘Lord I am glad I am not like others’. In this case you are making sure that all and sundry who will give you an ear regarding another person will know that you are better.

So, what does the Bible say about this sin called ‘slander’?

We all should remember the seven deadly sins. These are the things that the Lord hates, things that are an abomination to God. Now, you might be surprised but God’s list differs a little from our lists and most definitely it differs from the lists of legalists. Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV) 16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty (arrogant, self-important) eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Three of these are worth noting because all three of these are sins that are so tolerated in the body of Christ. We will kick out the sexual immoral, the thief, the divorcee and you name it, but you can be a liar, a false witness and one who sows discord and you are given a place of prominence. A person who bears false witness against his brother or who sows discord will actually attract a following. Isn’t it interesting that three of the seven have to do with how we related to others? You can even add ‘a heart that devises wicked plans’, because before you slander you need to consider the intent and outcome in your heart.

This was core in the Old Testament as I mentioned earlier. Look at Exodus 23:1 (ESV) 1 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.” Well, you might say that what you want to share is the truth, so it is not a false report. The problem is that you fail in area number two, in that you are a malicious witness. A dear lady taught me many years ago, that “before you say something against somebody, find out if it is true, if it is true, is it necessary to say it, and if you feel it is necessary to say it, find out if it will glorify God, and only if all three criteria are met, you might choose to share it.” The sad thing is that many Christians will claim that there is holy purpose behind their sharing, or that they are sharing it as a prayer request etc. but if you cut through the surface you will know that 10 % of the time it is for holy purposes while 90% of the time it is with malicious intent.

Let me give you some more Old Testament verses without too much of an explanation.

Psalm 50:19-20 (ESV) 19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son.

This is just another tricky way of saying, do unto others that which you will have done to yourself, because while your brother is in mind, you are also your mother’s son. So, you could just as well have been the recipient.

Jeremiah 6:28 (ESV) 28 They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron; all of them act corruptly.” I think God is serious about slandering, right? He does not even want you to go around with them.  Jeremiah 9:4 (ESV) “4 Let everyone beware of his neighbour, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbour goes about as a slanderer. Wow, what an indictment? You could not easily trust anybody in those days, and it is the same today. Nothing makes people feel better about themselves than to slander somebody else.

Slander is ten to one the sin that has the most devastating effect in the life of a person, and is more than often one of the greatest reasons why the body of Christ becomes divided and splits.

Proverbs 16:28 (ESV) 28 A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 (ESV) 9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” It destroys friendships people, and surely, we all value friendships. Slandering a brother is like putting fresh cow dung on your own front veranda, stepping in it early in the morning and asking, ‘who did it?’ Slandering is maybe one of the sins that leaves the deepest scars in the life of a person. You can steal from me and I distrust you, but slander me and you scar me. Proverbs 18:8 (ESV) 8 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” Not only does it leave deep wounds it actually causes and escalates conflict and sows disunity.  Scripture makes much of this, more than any other single sin in the Old Testament and speaks of its devastation in every dimension of life.

The implications of slandering are so severe. We do not have time to deal with it, but do you realise that 50 000 people died in the Old Testament because of a slandering campaign against David, in which his motives were called into question. Go and read it in 2nd Samuel 10. Can you believe it, but a bit of slander caused a whole war against the Ammonites? That is just how dangerous the tongue is.

Remember the story of Naboth’s vineyard, how he got killed due to slander. 1 Kings 21:13 (ESV) “13 And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So, they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones.” All that happened here was that Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard, so how do we get rid of somebody when we want what they have? Slander them.

You could go to Esther and read the whole story of Haman. Haman was the agent of Satan to try to wipe out the Jewish people who at that time were captive in the Medo-Persian Empire. And you remember Haman got the king to put out a decree that all those Jews were to be killed. And he slandered them with an intent of wiping out the whole race. However, by the intervention of the providence of God, the murder of the Jews was stopped, and Haman was hanged on his own gallows. But he would have intended by his slander and his malicious lies to have massacred an immense portion of the whole Jewish race. And so, I can give you story after story from the Old Testament.

The New Testament is not silent on the issue. Look at Christ’s view on the matter. Matthew 15:19 (ESV) 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Today, many of those in the body of Christ love to highlight the sins of those caught in adultery, sexual immorality and a few other sins, but they will make themselves guilty of being false witnesses and slandering and think nothing of it. The sad thing is that others in the Church of Christ will observe those very actions and ignore it, or even celebrate it. In actual fact, I remember my 30 plus years of being intimately involved in denominational affairs, and year after year I would see pastors found guilty of things like theft (stealing the church’s money), adultery and sexual immorality. Such men will be kicked out of the denomination for 5 years.

However, I have never, let me say it again, never seen anybody disciplined for false witnessing and slander, and believe you me, pastors are just as guilty of this evil. You can report the slander of a person and you are laughed at as it is not a serious matter at all. However, let’s get back to Jesus. Was it a serious matter for Him? Sure – look at verse 19 again: 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Christ will obviously agree with what James wrote in James 2:10 (ESV) 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” All sins are sin in God’s book. It is God’s people today who have a selective view on sin.

Paul highlights the seriousness of this sin in Ephesians 4:31 (ESV) 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” These sins are those sins that destroy relationships and when relationships are destroyed in the body of Christ, the church is destroyed.

Now, I know that I have for a few years been the focus of slander, even by fellow elders and pastors in the body of Christ. Maybe I deserved some, but do we realise that even our Lord Jesus was slandered, and that with Him being 100% innocent. Look at what they said about Jesus in Matthew 11:19 (ESV) “19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” At times He was accused of eating with the tax collectors and prostitutes. Total slander, right? This was not the end of it. Matthew 26:59 (ESV) 59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death,” Let’s put Christ to death, how will we do that? Well let’s start with slander. Do you realise that the whole execution of Jesus Christ was predicated on the fact that some people lied? They lied about the intent of the words of our Lord and they lied about his motives. That's got to be the worst slander case of all.

Where does false witnessing or slander come from? Jesus is clear. Listen what Jesus says to the rulers of Israel. John 8:44 (ESV) 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

What does the word ‘Devil’ mean? The Greek word here is diabolos {dee-ab'-ol-os} which means “prone to slander, slanderous, or accusing falsely.”

 

Does somebody still want to tell me that we must not take this issue seriously? In Revelation 12:10 he is called the accuser of the brethren.  So, slander is basically satanic. It is characteristic of those children of Satan, those who are driven or guided by the prince of the power of the air, whose lives are dominated by the rulers of darkness. Those are the people that lie and slander. It is spawned then by Satan in the wicked hearts of sinners whose character it reveals. It is released through hate. It comes out in venomous hate. Psalm 41:7 (ESV) 7 All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.”

Satan is the father of the fallen who due to their wicked nature do not humble themselves, but they rise up in pride, pride produces arrogance, envy and boasting, and out of envy comes hate, and out of hate comes slander, and mark my words, slander is always in some way or another designed to enhance the slanderer’s person or position at the cost of another.

We will leave it here today and next week we will draw some very practical lessons from James in this regard.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 12 November 2017