Most Christians look into their mirrors and like what they see. They see an individual who has never committed murder or rape. They see a person who is trying to do good and believes in God. But what happens when we peel back the curtain and look even deeper? Is it possible that our mirrors have become fogged over to everyday sins?
When we consider sin we often mentally picture the “big” sins—and yet, we don’t find this delineation in the Bible. Instead we learn that sin (big or little) separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). God cannot be holy and have anything to do with sin. So while we may not have ever committed murder or rape, what about something just as sinful—like backbiting? How many times has that person in the mirror talked about someone behind his/her back, not giving second thought to the fact that you are gossiping or back-biting?
Stepping on toes from the pulpit is not nearly as common today as it was in decades gone by. Preachers, worried about their jobs, are not as quick to point out sins that might affect a large proportion of their church family. Even though we may not discuss it much, it doesn’t change the fact that back-biting is very prevalent and still very sinful.
Here’s what I intend on teaching my children about backbiting.
I had a humbling experience that I’m not proud of that I want to share in hopes that you learn from my mistake. Several years ago I talked to a friend and his wife who lived out of state on my cell phone. After hanging up I put the phone away and continued to talk about this family. I didn’t say mean or unkind words, but I talked never-the-less. Imagine my horror when I discovered that my phone had dialed them back and they had been listening to my entire conversation. The problem was not that my phone dialed without me knowing—the problem was me. I shouldn’t have been talking about these people behind their backs. It was a lesson I will not soon forget.
One of the hardest things you will ever learn is to keep your mouth shut. There will be times in your life that you want to pick up the phone and express your frustration or your anger over something that someone has done to you. Let me strongly encourage you to grow in maturity and leave the phone alone. Learn to go to the person you feel has wronged you rather than talking about them behind his/her back. I promise you this will save you a great deal of heartache in the future.
The Bible is crystal clear when it comes to backbiting. Webster’s dictionary defines backbiting as saying mean or spiteful things about someone else. Sometimes people use the word slandering when discussing this topic. In essence, what you are doing is corrupting someone’s name and character behind his/her back. It is a form of gossiping, and the Bible condemns such behavior, even for preachers and elders. In Proverbs 25:23 we read, “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue an angry countenance” (see also James 4:11-12).
In Paul’s second letter to the Christians in Corinth he noted “For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; (2 Corinthians 12:20; see also Romans 16:17-18). In Proverbs 16:28 we read “A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends.”
I have two instructions for you when it comes to this sin. First, when someone comes to you with gossip or is backbiting, take the backbiter to the one they are talking about, and do not receive their comments. Instead, encourage them to discuss their problems with the one they are upset with. Do not promote backbiting by receiving it! Second, do not say things behind someone’s back that you would not say to his/her face. The way to end backbiting and gossiping is to never let it leave your lips—that will end it.
In Proverbs 6, Solomon lists 6 things that the Lord hates, seven of which are an abomination unto Him. The last thing on that list is one who sows discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:19). Look at Psalm 15—a psalm about who can dwell on God’s holy hill. In that list, the Psalmist specially mentions, “He who does not backbite with his tongue,” (Psalm 15:3). God formed you with a tongue for a reason. Do not forget how you should use your tongue. Never forget what Jesus said: “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”