Sunday, October 2, 2011

Women and Slander

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that … the older women … be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.(Tit 2:1-5)

Some weeks ago we began a series of exhortations for the women in the congregation. What would God teach us through them and what are the particular sins which women need beware of? Last time we considered Paul’s admonition that the older women are to be reverent in behavior; this week we consider his admonition that the older women are not to be slanderers.

Characteristically sins of the tongue seem to tempt women far more than they do men. Fittingly, therefore, the Word of God does not shy away from exhorting women in this specific area. One of the key signs of godliness is the way we use our tongue. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks – and therefore that which comes out of the mouth reveals that which is in the heart, reveals that which we treasure and love and esteem.

So what do you love? What do you treasure and esteem? Well answer me this – what is coming out of your mouth? For what is coming out reveals what is inside. We have this strange notion that the way someone acts and speaks doesn’t really reveal what they treasure. But Jesus insists that that’s just not true. So let me ask you – what is coming out of your mouth? Is it thanksgivings to God, the wisdom of God’s Word, words and remarks that refresh the soul and build up those with whom you are speaking, gracious words that always put the best interpretation on others’ actions? Or is it fretting and whining, complaints and grumblings, gossip and slander?

It is this last sin that Paul particularly focuses upon in our text – the sin of slander. Slander is closely related to gossip. Gossip becomes slander when the rumors we circulate are clearly false and intended to destroy. Slander has a much clearer sinister element to it – intending as it does to harm the one about whom the tale is told. While those who gossip sometimes delude themselves into thinking that they are really helping the other person or at least not harming anyone, the slanderer intentionally sets out to harm another by spreading falsehoods. She is using her tongue to destroy.

So whom have you slandered? Whom have you maligned and mistreated with your speech? Your husband? Your father? Other women? Your elders? Beware the sin of slander.

Warnings against this sin are replete in the Scriptures. David complained, “For I hear the slander of many; Fear is on every side; While they take counsel together against me, They scheme to take away my life.” His son Solomon notes in Proverbs 10:18, “Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool.” And Paul, in the other testament, notes that in the latter days men will be “unloving, unforgiving, slanderers.”

Because of the insidious nature of slander, severe curses are called down upon the one who practices the same. The psalmist prays in Psalm 140:11, “Let not a slanderer be established in the earth; Let evil hunt the violent man to overthrow him.” And God Himself announces in Psalm 101:5, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy.” God takes slander seriously.

And so reminded that the words we speak reveal what we treasure and love, let us turn to God and confess that we have loved wickedness and deceit. Let us kneel as we confess together.