The Biblical Difference Between Gossip and Slander

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King Solomon was known for his unsurpassed wisdom, granted by God. By the inspiration of God, some of those jewels of keen insight are recorded in an ancient document known as the Book of Proverbs.

Here are two practical statements:

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

“A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends” (11:13; 16:28, NIV).

Five years ago a guy named Rick Renner was reviewing Scripture concerning a lesson he was about to teach. As he sat at a Starbucks in Moscow, he recorded a video of himself sharing his discoveries, and posted them on YouTube. He emphasized how horrible gossip is, and even said some believe it it’s worse than murder. Because his video was so powerful and relevant, it went viral among Christians. He summed up the Biblical reality that gossip “is the worst of all abominations.”

Not all of us would agree, but we know gossip is bad. Even so, we find it all too prevalent in society. Worst yet, it’s in our churches.

There are many reasons people struggle with this horrible, divisive, and destructive sin. One of the more flagrant ones is justifying it because the gossiper believes what he or she is spreading is true. This is a basic misunderstanding many of us have, so let’s clear it up.

Paul was concerned as he intended to visit the church in Corinth that he might discover their behaviors were not as he hoped. He wrote in his letter to them in 2 Corinthians 12:20b, “I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” (NIV). Notice how he mentions both slander and gossip. There’s a reason. They are related but different things.

Biblically, gossip is sharing information that ought not be shared. It may or may not be true.

This is where we assume too much concerning gossip. Too many people think it’s OK to share information that shouldn’t be shared, because they believe it is true. So they justify sharing personal, private information that is nobody’s business to share. In their minds it’s fine to destroy things like relationships and reputations because, “Hey, if it’s true, they deserve it.”

One could learn quite a bit about how God sees different types of sins by researching what kind of atonements could or could not be made for sins done intentionally versus those done unintentionally. There is a huge difference in a person who simply and often selfishly messes up, and a person who purposely goes out of his or her way to try to hurt other people. As the Bible teaches, the heart (intentions) of one who gossips is evil.

Slander is spreading false information. We need to understand that one can be gossiping and slandering at the same time, and one can be gossiping and not slandering at the same time. In other words, gossip can be true and slander is false.

Some information is nobody’s business to share. So what if you have the dirt on somebody else? Why is it OK for you to spread other people’s personal and/or private information?

Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (ESV).

True or not, don’t share others’ personal and/or private things. That’s gossip.

Jeff Adams is pastor for Paramount Christian Church. His column appears weekly in the Nisqually Valley News. Email him at jeff@paramountchristian.org.

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