Jesus was the subject of slander very often during his years of ministry. He was, Himself, accused of being insane, possessed by a demon, and of having committed violations of God’s law. He did violate their laws, but never God’s laws. He did not stone the adulterous. He picked corn and ate it on the Sabbath. He healed on the Sabbath and other infractions that the religious leaders had included as part of God’s laws. It is true that Jesus did these things, but it’s not true that they were violations of God’s laws. Truths can be misunderstood or even twisted intentionally whose result might be defamation of character. The religious leaders of Jesus day sought to discredit Jesus and His teaching in any way they could. Once, according to John Chapter 8, they were striving against Jesus and blurted out “We were not born of sexual immorality.” They were of course referring to Jesus birth to Mary. Jesus’ claim that His father was God was categorically rejected. But responding to the subject of the paternity of the accusations made against him he replied, “You are of your father the devil…”(John 8:41f).

Philip Ryken quotes Jochem Douma’s work on the 10 commandments. Douma attaches gossip to the 9th commandment, “thou shalt not lie.” Yet he expands the understanding to include “truth” telling twisted to mean something more than it should. He writes, “Perhaps the one spreading gossip is not lying, but he or she is being untruthful: saying things that are true, but in the context of slander, is deceitful. The neighbor’s mistakes, faults, and shortcomings are discussed in minute detail. People realize this kind of chatter gets them an attentive audience. For it is a universal phenomenon that we would rather hear something bad about our neighbor than something good. And something dirty always sticks long after the conversation has died. As Martin Luther put it in his Large Catechism, reputation is something quickly stolen, but not quickly returned.”

I have no respect for justice and no mercy for defenseless humanity. I ruin without killing; I tear down homes; I break hearts and wreck lives. You will find me in the pews of the pious as well as in the haunts of the unholy. I am wily, cunning, malicious, and I gather strength with age. I have made my way where greed, mistrust, and dishonor are unknown; yet my victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea, and often as innocent! I feed on good and bad alike. I never forgive and seldom forget. What’s my name? My name is gossip!” Gossip is one of the “methods” of Satan to divide and conquer believers. We must be alert to His schemes. Gossip needn’t be false to be evil—there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.