And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 15, Number
In this issue:
Joe R. Price
False accusation is a lie, and slander is the lie’s effect. Both are of the devil:
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (Jno. 8:44).
Everything God’s word says about false accusation and slander is to be kept within this overarching context: God is truth and the devil is the father of lies (Jno. 1:14; 14:6; 1 Jno. 1:5-7). Those who spread false accusations and slander reject truth and show themselves to be children of the devil. On the other hand, children of God “speak truth with his neighbor” (Jno. 8:38, 44; 1 Jno. 3:4-15; Eph. 4:25-27).
The word “devil” is translated from the Greek word diabolos (false accuser, slanderer), from diabollo (“to throw over or across, to send over,” thus, to “traduce, calumniate, slander, accuse, defame,” Thayer, 135). To slander is to throw or cast doubt against a person using false accusations that harm or otherwise damage his credibility. The devil’s purposes are always served by false accusation and slander.
The aim of false accusation and slander is to defame, debilitate and destroy a faithful person’s name, credibility and godly influence for God. Those who do not have or do not value a “good name” easily and carelessly distort good reputations with malicious gossip, misrepresentations and lies (Prov. 22:1). The devil does not have a good name and he delights in tempting us to use false accusations and slander to injure the reputations of godly men and women. We must understand how the devil uses false accusation and slander to destroy good names and the progress of the gospel.
1) The devil has falsely accused and slandered God from Eden to this very moment. The devil impugned the integrity of God when he lied to Eve that “you will not surely die” by eating the fruit. Satan continued to slanderously judge God’s character by saying, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). He continues to cause people to doubt God with his lies against God.
2) The devil and his children repeatedly lied about Jesus Christ while He was on the earth. Lying in wait to “catch Him in something He might say,” the scribes and Pharisees were anxious to falsely accuse the Son of God (Lk. 11:53-54). They could not convict Jesus of sin so they found liars to falsely accuse Him as part of their murderous plot (Matt. 26:59-62). People still lie about Jesus.
3) The devil and his cohorts continue to falsely accuse and slander the people of God (Rev. 12:10). Just Satan maligned Job’s faith and integrity, God’s faithful ones are defamed to this present hour. Slander is cruel and hurtful. Nevertheless, the righteous are comforted by the Lord’s pledge, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
Exposing the Problem
We must have the faith and courage to examine ourselves lest we harbor the sins of false accusation and slander in our hearts and express them with our tongues (2 Cor. 13:5). False accusers and slanderers hate the light. (Who sees himself as a slanderer?!) These imposters of enlightenment and knowledge lurk in the shadowy darkness of bitterness and pride, envy and malice, evil suspicions and hatred (Eph. 4:31; 1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:3-4). We will not be able or willing to see these sins in ourselves unless we earnestly and honestly examination our motives in the light of God’s word (Jno. 9:39-41; 3:19-21).
God straightforwardly condemns the false accuser and his slanderous words. Israel was commanded,
“You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice…You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked” (Exo. 23:1-2, 6-7).
The Law of Moses condemned giving a false report and its distribution. The Lord God was clear that He would not justify such wickedness. The God of truth and justice detests “a false witness who speaks lies and one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19; Deut. 32:4). There is no doubt that “whosoever spreads slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18).
The New Testament of Christ equally condemns false accusations and slander. The slanderer walks in fellowship with those who love themselves, being traitors, headstrong, haughty, and unloving toward men and God. Godliness is merely a facade in this person’s life. Therefore, we are commanded to “turn away” from such (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
The Holy Spirit commands us to put away lying and speak truth about one another, “for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25). The separation of best friends is just one of the sorrows produced by the whisperer who spreads gossip and slander (Prov. 16:28). Spreading false accusations and slander divides the body of Christ. Is this not the desire of the devil? There is good reason why “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
False accusation and slander are the products of a prideful, hateful, malicious and envious heart. They serve the devil’s desires. We ought to be deeply grieved over such treatment of one another. David sought divine deliverance and protection from the danger and damage of those who had wicked intent and slanderously defamed him:
“Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their hearts; they continually gather together for war. They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; the poison of asps is under their lips…let not a slanderer be established in the earth…I know the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted…” (Psa. 140:1-3, 11-12).
The terribleness and evil of false accusations and slander causes every righteous soul to pause and examine his or her treatment of others in the light of God’s truth.
Knowing the Difference
People often make distinctions where God does not reveal a difference. For example, men make legal distinctions between slander (“oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another, which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed”) and libel (“to publish in print, including pictures, writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others”) (The People’s Law Dictionary, Gerald and Kathleen Hill, www.law.com). Whether it is spoken or written makes no difference to God; He says lying about another person is sin.
God expects His people to “judge what is right” and know the difference between what is slander and what is not (Lk. 12:57). For instance, identifying false teachers and their false teachings is not slanderous. Jesus warned us of false prophets and said we “will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-16, 20; cf. 1 Ths. 5:21). We are commanded to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11). If we cannot identify false teachers by their false teachings then why did Jesus say we will know them by their fruits? Was Jesus encouraging citizens of the kingdom to slander men when He said to test their fruit? No. When one’s teaching does not accord with “the pattern of sound words” his teaching is false; his fruit is rotten (2 Tim. 1:13; Matt. 7:21-24). It is not slanderous to say so; it is commanded in order to expose error, to protect the innocent ones and to call the sinners to repentance. For some examples from the Scriptures consider the following:
1) Paul and Elymas. When the false prophet Elymas withstood the truth, trying to turn Sergius Paulus away from the faith, Paul unhesitatingly identified him and his error: “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:6-10) Are we to charge Paul with slander for publicly opposing this false teacher by name? Certainly not. Otherwise, the Holy Spirit is also to be blamed because He filled Paul on that occasion (v. 9).
2) Hymenaeus and Philetus. Paul did not falsely accuse or slander Hymenaeus and Philetus when he identified them as men who had “strayed concerning the truth” and as men who were overthrowing the faith of some Christians (2 Tim. 2:16-18). The truth was clear, the fact of their false teaching was established and the warning was given (2 Tim. 2:15).
3) Paul and Peter. Paul did not slander Peter when he publicly withstood him to the face. Paul told Peter the truth: “when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all…” (Gal. 2:11-14) Peter had sinned publicly it demanded a public rebuke in order that souls could be saved and protected from error.
Jesus rejected and condemned false accusations and slander when they occurred, and so must we (Lk. 6:40; Jno. 8:44-47). Christians are committed to justice, fairness and the honest treatment of others. As we grow in meekness, brotherly kindness and love we reject false accusations against others and we refuse to participate in the spreading of lies. Do not forget that our father is revealed by how we speak about others (Jno. 8:38, 44).
With Super Bowl Sunday approaching the NFL Players Association announced this week it is “funding a 10-year, $100 million research project at Harvard Medical School to reduce the impact of on-the-field injuries and improve the long-term health of players” (“NFL Union Funds Study of Injury Risk”, The Wall Street Journal, 29Jan13, A2). Concussions, bone and joint injuries, heart disease, depression and chronic pain are among the long-term health issues prompting the project.
“We recognize that football is an inherently dangerous game,” said Sean Sansiveri, lead counsel on the project for the National Football League Players Association. “This is aimed at changing the outcomes of working in that inherently dangerous game” (Ibid).
Professional football is an “inherently dangerous” game. That got me to thinking about other “inherently dangerous” things people often choose.
1) The sin of adultery. Just as fire is “inherently dangerous”, even so the lustful sin of adultery consumes and destroys lives and souls. “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Prov. 6:27). Protect yourself from danger and “do not lust after her beauty in your heart” (Prov. 6:25).
2) Believing you cannot fall away from God. Pride is inherently dangerous because it conditions one’s heart to ignore the warning signs of sin. Pride comes before the fall (Prov. 16:25). Spiritual complacency is instilled in many hearts by the religious doctrine that says Christians cannot fall from God’s grace. A warning of pride’s inherent danger is in order. The apostle of Christ warned of danger: “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
3) Sin in all its forms. The world says sin exists only as a tool of repression to induce fear and stifle personal expression. God’s word says “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Sin is real, and there is nothing more dangerous than that (2 Ths. 1:8-9; Rev. 21:8)!
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated.01/30/2013
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA