Perhaps the most effective tool in the Devil's arsenal is his use of gossip and slander. It is by this method that Satan is able to poison brethren toward one another.
Consider it's effect in the life of the Apostle Paul. To the Church at Rome he was forced to clarify his message because of "slanderous charges", -"And why not say (AS WE ARE SLANDEROUSLY REPORTED AND AS SOME AFFIRM THAT WE SAY), "Let us do evil that good may come?" Their condemnation is just.." (Romans 3:8)
And again before Felix following his journey to Jerusalem to answer slanderous charges, -"Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now ACCUSE ME. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets."(ACTS 24:13-14)
The Scriptures show that many of Paul's close friends and fellow workers of the faith turned away from him before his death. And indeed even whole sections of territory consisting of possibly hundreds of home churches turned away from him, notice his second letter to Timothy, -"Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. You are aware of the fact that ALL WHO ARE IN ASIA TURNED AWAY FROM ME, among whom are Phygelus and Hermongenes." (2 Tim.1:14-15)
How did this happen? Paul had made many missionary journeys and had established many assemblies throughout the Gentile world. But during the last years of his life he was imprisoned at Rome. It is from his letters from prison to the churches that we learn of all those who were turning away from this faithful apostle of Christ. Although Timothy remained faithful there were few others that were loyal enough to travel the church areas to combat slanderous reports and false teaching. And Timothy was needed at Ephesus to fight the constant poisonous flood taking place there. Paul was reduced to defending himself and his ministry primarily by letter. But God was allowing this to happen in order to test the brethren, and Paul knew it would happen, notice -"Be on guard for yourselves and for the flock, among which the holy spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." (Acts 20:28-30)
Satan wanted to cause division in the churches and even among individual people. But the Apostle Paul was in his way. He had to discredit him through gossip and slander to prepare the brethren's minds for false teachings and additional evil. Satan had to first engender distrust for Paul as a person, then attack his teachings and finally cause division among the brethren themselves through various disputes which are readily referred to throughout Paul's letters.
Paul was given the gift of Apostleship by God. And Paul knew that being in a position of leadership in the church of God, also means that you are a primary target of Satan the Devil. That is why he told Timothy not to receive an accusation against a local overseer when he visited a church area, except on the basis of two or three witnesses. "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at PREACHING and TEACHING. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing", and "The laborer is worthy of his wages." DO NOT RECEIVE AN ACCUSATION AGAINST AN ELDER EXCEPT ON THE BASIS OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES. Those who continue in sin, REBUKE in the PRESENCE OF ALL, so that the REST also may be FEARFUL OF SINNING. I solemnly CHARGE YOU in the PRESENCE OF GOD and of CHRIST JESUS and his chosen angels, to MAINTAIN THESE PRINCIPLES WITHOUT BIAS, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality."(1 Tim. 5:17-21)
An Apostle, Evangelist or local pastor is not above accountability, but they are worthy of honor which means that one should not receive an accusation against them unless two or more witnesses come forward concerning the matter. To listen to a charge against one whom Christ has set in a leadership position by only one witness is contrary to God's instructions and opens oneself up to receive a dose of the Devil's poison.
Because of these things the Apostle Paul was forced to reveal sins and even name the names of those who were slandering him and causing division such as in the case of Hymenaeus, Phygelis, Alexander, etc. Paul wrote the Galatians to remind them of how he had even rebuked Peter openly when Peter was caught up in hypocrisy. The Apostle John was forced to reveal the secret motives of Diotrephes by letter to Gaius and said that he would expose his evil deeds openly to the brethren if and when he was able to come to that church area. Peter warned that the newly baptized Simon Magus was secretly "In the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity."(Acts 8:23) In Acts 5 Peter exposed the evil intentions of Ananias and Sapphira because of which God afterwards struck them dead.
In exposing these "brethren" did Paul, Peter and John engage in gossip and slander? The answer is of course"no." Their motives in doing so was the same as Jesus' when he openly revealed the sins of the Jewish religious leaders, -so that the people would not be deceived by their hypocrisy.
The Apostles motives were to protect the brethren from men who had turned away from true Christianity, and who were bent on poisoning others to the point that they would not be able to receive sound counsel from them. Satan's tactic worked, as evidenced by the amount of time the Apostles and Evangelists had to spend defending themselves and the ministry God had called them to, -and as evidenced by the many churches which would no longer receive Paul, -and by the fact that Diotrephes even had aquired the power to deny brethren to hear the teachings of the Apostle John, and in fact put out of the assemblies any who received his teachings. As in the cases with Jesus, the Apostles were only reacting to false charges and false teachings from those being used as instruments of the Devil. They did not initiate these war of words, the accusers did.
Their motives were pure. The end result of those who would accept their defense and receive their warning against these "wolves", would be peace, harmony, unity and safety. These brethren would not be scattered from those Christ, Himself had placed in the assembly to guide and serve as examples to the flock of God. And they would no longer even listen to a charge against an elder brought to them privately by only one witness. By receiving the sound warning from the Apostles, the brethren would be able to distinguish between a "witness"and an "accuser."
Unlike the pure motives of Jesus and the Apostles, these accusers were not working to insure unity. They were imputing evil motives to the Apostles in order to separate the brethren from them. They worked secretly, privately not openly. (Jude vs 4) The accusations directed at Paul and John were made in their absence when they were not there to defend themselves. And whole church areas and indeed even entire territories were seduced by the spirits working through these men. It could have been avoided by their refusal to hear these slanderous charges against the Apostles while they were not there to give a defense.
But why did so many thousands fall away from the Apostles even after they had heard their defense by letter?The answer can only be that the brethren had been so poisoned by the gossip and slander that they were unable to believe the Apostles anymore. They had let a "root of bitterness" set in towards them. They had been constantly told how dictatoral, unfair and untrustworthy they were before the letters ever arrived. Their mental image of these dedicated servants of God had changed. Their concept of them was no longer based on the good fruits many of them had witnessed, but on the constant poisonous flood of slanderous reports they gave ear to. These godly servants were not what these brethren believed them to be, but they had become unable to see them in any other way. This is of course, exactly what the Devil wanted, and his tactic, -gossip and slander.
It is important to realize that the gossip and slander did not end with the Apostles, but later was used on those who remained loyal to them. Notice -"I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, neither does he himself receive the brethren (loyal to John), and he forbids those who desire to do so, and puts them out of the church."(3 John vs 9-10) Many were branded as heretics and put out of the churches. As Jesus had prophesied, even family members in the church betrayed one another due to a spirit of partisanship which was created by factious menunjustly accusing His true servants with wicked words, and denying the brethren access to the truth.
From my booklet "Beware the Wolf", -"One of the most effective tools of the wolf is gossip. With gossip he will poison the minds of the unsuspecting. He may come to you with the words, "Just between me and you." Then proceed to poison your mind toward other brothers or sisters that are not there to defend themselves. The wolf will say he is telling you because, "You need to know" and because he is "deeply concerned." What he tells you may be 100% true or some truth mixed with lies. But his real purpose is to get your mind off holiness. Byenticing you into critical evaluations and conversations of other brethren, he will succeed in hampering your prayers, thus achieving the first step in separating you from your Savior and true Shepherd. Again, the wolf probably is not aware of his own motives. He has been given a spirit of delusion.
The Bible is clear in its instruction toward helping a brother or sister if you see him practicing sin. You are to go to him directly in a spirit of love and humility, motivated to restore your brother. To reconnect him to the Vine. The wolf will not follow this Biblical procedure, because he is not really motivated by the spirit of restoration of the brother or sister. He may offer various excuses, such as, "I would talk to him, but I'm sure he won't listen to me", or "That person thinks he knows it all".And like the Pharisees who would not accept Jesus, and would not allow others to either, the wolf will not want you to go try to help the person he is accusing, even though he says he is concerned for them. He may say, "I'm going to tell you this, but please don't tell anyone I said it."You may give your word to keep it confidential, then receive into your being poison that would eventually destroy your soul. You won't really know if it is true, and now you won't have a means of finding out. You may never look at that brother or sister in the same way again. You will have received "seeds of division." Notice Paul's instruction in Romans 16;17-18, -"Now I URGE YOU, brethren, keep your eye on those who CAUSE DISSENSIONS and HINDRANCES contrary to the teaching which you learned, and TURN AWAY FROM THEM. For such are SLAVES not of our Lord Jesus Christ but of THEIR OWN APPETITES; and by their SMOOTH and FLATTERING SPEECH they DECEIVE the HEARTS of the unsuspecting."
One should respond to those bringing accusations by asking. . ."Why are you telling me this about brother or sister so and so". . .How do you know what you are telling me is true?". . ."Why haven't you gone to him (or her) privately as the Scripture says?". . ."If you are really concerned, do something about it other than telling others about it.". . ."Can I quote what you are telling me?". . ."Let's you and me go to that person and help restore him.". . ."Even if what you say is true, isn't is still gossip to tell me about it?". . ."Didn't Jesus say we will answer for every careless word we speak?" (Matthew 12:26-27)
Often, those bringing accusations and seeds of division come as "vulnerable victims" "unjustly hurt" or"abused" by another especially by someone in leadership.They may pull on the strings of your heart with a sad story thus as the Scripture above warned, -"by their SMOOTH and FLATTERING SPEECH they DECEIVE the HEARTS of the unsuspecting."
It works much like a son or daughter complaining to their friends about "unfair" treatment by their parents, -"My parents grounded me for no good reason. . .They wouldn't even give me a chance to explain. . .They don't understand me." Their entire focus abandons the reason for the disciplinary action and targets the "unfair, unjust" way their parents reacted to it. As long as their focus remains on their "unjust" parents, they will never be able to come to see the magnitude of their wrong and come to repentance.
Their friends usually go along to get along, giving them an ear to complain to and sympathizing with them along the way. Of course "real friends" would never do this because they would be truly concerned with their well-being and would remind them that God put parents in the family to guide and correct them when needed, just as He also placed overseers in His churches to do the same.
PROVERBS 6:16-19, -"There are six things which the Lord hates, yes even seven which are an abomination to Him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness that utters lies, and one that spreads strife among brethren.
COMMENTARY: Without a doubt, the chief tactic used by Satan to spread strife among brethren is through the poison of gossip and slander.
PROVERBS 12;18-22, -"There is one who SPEAKS RASHLY like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise BRINGS HEALING. Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for the moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but COUNSELORS OF PEACE have joy. No harm befalls the righteous, but the wicked are FILLED WITH TROUBLE. Lying lips are a abomination to the Lord, but those who DEAL FAITHFULLY are HIS DELIGHT."
PROVERBS 13:3, -"The one who GUARDS HIS MOUTH preserves HIS LIFE; The one who OPENS WIDE his lips COMES TO RUIN."
PROVERBS 16:27-28, -"A worthless man DIGS UP EVIL, while HIS WORDS are as a SCORCHING FIRE. A PERVERSE MAN SPREADS STRIFE, and a SLANDERER SEPARATES INTIMATE FRIENDS."
COMMENTARY: This passage shows that SLANDER is used to cause division, even separating intimate friends. It brings to mind the words of Jesus when he said that even family members will rise up against one another even to the point of causing some to be put to death. Slander itself is a lying demonic spirit sent forth by the Devil. Once received, it opens the door for the spirits of bitterness, envy, malice, hatred, division etc. to enter into the mind of the unsuspecting person.
PROVERBS 18:6-8, -"A fool's lips BRING STRIFE, and his MOUTH calls for BLOWS. A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the SNARE OF HIS SOUL. The words of a WHISPERER are like DAINTY MORSELS, and they go down into the INNERMOST PARTS of the BODY."
COMMENTARY: A man with hasty words of accusation brings strife and is himself ensnared by the Devil. A WHISPERER is one that introduces gossip and slander secretly, usually asking that his words be kept confidential. But notice that his words are as "dainty morsels" which go down into the innermost parts of thehearer's body. This illustrates the dangers of listening to gossip and slander. God's command to us is to not engage in gossip and slander nor listen to it from others.
PROVERBS 20:19, -"He that GOES ABOUT (or telephones/writes) as a SLANDERER reveals secrets, therefore DO NOT ASSOCIATE WITH A GOSSIP."
COMMENTARY: A Christian should quickly correct anyone bringing gossip and slander to them, and if they will not receive the correction, - drive the point of how serious the sin is to the slanderer home by refusing to associate with them. This isn't just a good idea, but what God is commanding His followers to do here in this Scripture.
PROVERBS 21:23, -"He who GUARDS HIS MOUTH and his TONGUE, GUARDS his soul from troubles."
PROVERBS 22:24-25, -"DO NOT ASSOCIATE with a man GIVEN TO ANGER; or GO WITH A HOT-TEMPERED man, LEST YOU LEARN HIS WAYS, and find a SNARE FOR YOURSELF."
PROVERBS 26:23-24, -"Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross are BURNING LIPS and a WICKED HEART. He who HATES DISGUISES IT WITH HIS LIPS, but he lays up DECEIT in his heart."
PROVERBS 28:13, -"He who CONCEALS HIS TRANSGRESSIONS will not prosper, but he who CONFESSES and FORSAKES THEM will find compassion."
PROVERBS 29:20, -"Do you see a man who is HASTY IN HIS WORDS? There is more hope for a fool than for him."
MATTHEW 12:36-37, -"And I say to you, that EVERY CARELESS WORD that men shall speak, they shall RENDER ACCOUNT for it in the day of judgment. For by YOUR WORDS you shall be JUSTIFIED, and by YOUR WORDS you shall BE CONDEMNED."
MATTHEW 15:11, -"Not what enters into the MOUTH defiles the man, but what PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH, this DEFILES THE MAN."
ROMANS 14:12-13, -"So then each one of us shall GIVE ACCOUNT of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another any more, but rather determine this, not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way."
COMMENTARY: To poison brethren towards other brethren is putting a stumbling block in another's way. It is a rock of offense, especially when the gossip or slander is directed at one who is placed in the assembly to teach, guide and give Biblical counsel to the flock. Preaching cannot find its place in the heart of one whose mind is divided and whose heart is hardened toward the preacher. When one is poisoned to this extent, weekly services become a test of survival and endurance for them. They come to the assembly in a "guarded" state of mind.
ROMANS 16:17-18, -"Now I urge you, brethren KEEP YOUR EYE ON THOSE WHO CAUSE DISSENSIONS and HINDRANCES contrary to the teaching which you learned, and TURN AWAY FROM THEM. For such men are SLAVES not of our Lord Jesus Christ but of their own appetites; and by their SMOOTH and FLATTERING SPEECH they DECEIVE the HEARTS of the UNSUSPECTING."
1 CORINTHIANS 1:10, -"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be NO DIVISIONS AMONG YOU, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment."
1 CORINTHIANS 11:19, -"For there must also be FACTIONS among you, IN ORDER that those who ARE APPROVED may have BECOME EVIDENT among you."
1 CORINTHIANS 15:33, -"Do NOT BE DECEIVED; BAD COMPANY CORRUPTS good morals."
GALATIANS 5:19-16, -"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, ENMITIES, STRIFE, jealousy, OUTBURSTS OF ANGER, DISPUTES, DIVISIONS, FACTIONS, envyings, drunkeness, carousings and things like these, of which I forwarned you that those who PRACTICE SUCH THINGS shall NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD!"
EPHESIANS 4:29-32, -"Let no UNWHOLESOME WORD PROCEED FROM YOUR MOUTH, but only such a WORD AS IS GOOD FOR EDIFICATION according to the need of the moment, that it may give GRACE TO THOSE WHO HEAR. And do not grieve the holy spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all BITTERNESS, and WRATH and ANGER and clamor and SLANDER be PUT AWAY FROM YOU, along with all MALICE. And be KIND TO ONE ANOTHER, TENDER-HEARTED, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
PHILIPPIANS 2:14-15, -"Do all things WITHOUT GRUMBLING or DISPUTING; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world."
1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-14, -"But we request of you, brethren, that you APPRECIATE THOSE who DILIGENTLY LABOR among you, and have charge over you IN THE LORD and GIVE YOU INSTRUCTION, and that you ESTEEM THEM VERY HIGHLY in love because of THEIR WORK. Live in PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER. And we URGE YOU brethren, ADMONISH THE UNRULY, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men."
2 THESSALONIANS 3:6, -"Now we COMMAND YOU, BRETHREN,(not a suggestion) in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you KEEP ALOOF FROM EVERY BROTHER WHO LEADS AN UNRULY LIFE, and not according to the tradition which you received from us."
1 TIMOTHY 5:13, -"And at the same time they also LEARN TO BE IDLE, as they GO AROUND FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE; and not merely idle, but also GOSSIPS and BUSYBODIES, TALKING ABOUT THINGS NOT PROPER TO MENTION."
1 TIMOTHY 5:17-21, -"Let the elders who rule well be considered WORTHY OF DOUBLE HONOR, especially those WHO WORK HARD AT PREACHING AND TEACHING. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing", and "The laborer is WORTHY of his wages." DO NOT RECEIVE AN ACCUSATION AGAINST AN ELDEREXCEPT ON THE BASIS OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES. Those who continue in sin, REBUKE IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL, so that the rest also may be FEARFUL OF SINNING. I SOLEMNLY CHARGE YOU in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to MAINTAIN THESE PRINCIPLES without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality."
HEBREWS 12:15, -"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that NO ROOT OF BITTERNESS springing up CAUSES TROUBLE and by it MANY BE DEFILED."
COMMENTARY: Just how would a "root of bitterness" springing up in someone "defile MANY" if it wouldn't be through gossip and slander? This is the vehicle by which bitterness is spread.
HEBREWS 13:17, -"Obey your leaders, and submit to them; FOR THEY KEEP WATCH OVER YOUR SOULS, as those who will give an account. LET THEM DO THIS WITH JOY and NOT WITH GRIEF, for this would be UNPROFITABLE FOR YOU."
JAMES 3:6-10, -"And the TONGUE is a FIRE, the very WORLD OF INIQUITY; the TONGUE is set among our members as that which DEFILES THE ENTIRE BODY, and sets on FIRE THE COURSE OF OUR LIFE, and is SET ON FIRE BY HELL. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race. But NO ONE CAN TAME THE TONGUE, it is a RESTLESS EVIL and full of DEADLY POISON. With it we BLESS OUR LORD AND FATHER; and with it WE CURSE MEN, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the MOUTH come both BLESSING and CURSING. My brethren these things OUGHT NOT TO BE THIS WAY."
COMMENTARY: Notice that James reveals that a FIERY TONGUE gets its flame from Hell. A righteous tongue is a two-edged sword which cuts away all evil and pierces the deepest places of our heart even revealing our motives. But the tongue set on fire by Hell and Satan destroys anything in its path being a "restless evil" and being "full of deadly poison."
There are many various kinds of poison, and although they may attack the body in different ways, they all have the same commonality of destroying one from within. Unless the poison is absorbed into the body it cannot harm you. Since Satan is called the "serpent" of old, lets consider that the poison of a deadly snake cannot harm you unless it enters the inside of your body. One may pour deadly venom on their skin, but it will not harm them unless it enters the body through an open wound, mouth, nose or tear duct.
But that is why deadly snakes have teeth isn't it? They make their own place for their deadly venom to enter. When a person is bitten by a poisonous snake the critical damage is being done on the inside, but soon the effects become visible on the outside.
I once saw the effects of the poison of the Fer De Lance through the eyes of a microscope, - the snake had bitten a lady on the foot. The lady was in excruciating pain and the microscope revealed why, -one by one the deadly poison was causing her blood veins to literally explode inside her foot and leg! She almost died but survived due to quickly administered anti-venom, but her foot still required extensive restructure and numerous surgeries.
This lady had walked that same trail many times and had always worn snake-proof boots. She was well aware of the dangers of the Fer De Lance, her job was to study them. But this one time she made a conscious decision to proceed carefully without changing into her protective boots. In recounting the story, she said that she was watching extra carefully and could not believe that she did not see the snake lying in wait on the side of the paved trail.
As Christians we don't have to wonder if there is a serpent lying in wait in our path, we know the Devil is always there seeking an opportunity to give us the poisonous bite of gossip and slander. So let us make sure we don't neglect to put on the full armor of God in our Christian walk. And don't let Satan's deadly poison of gossip and slander enter into our body through our ears, or into the Body of Christ through our mouths.
As God warned Cain concerning his attitude toward his brother Abel, -"If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, SIN IS CROUCHING AT THE DOOR; and its DESIRE IS FOR YOU, but YOU MUST MASTER IT." (Genesis 4:7)
JAMES 5:9, -"DO NOT COMPLAIN, brethren AGAINST ONE ANOTHER, that you yourselves may not be JUDGED; behold the JUDGE (Christ) is standing right at the door."
So we find both Jesus standing at the door and Satan and sin crouching at the door. CROUCHING in order to hide and not be seen clearly. Jesus STANDING because He has knocked announcing He is there waiting for you. Choose Jesus, Don't let the Devil in.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon