- To attack the character or reputation of a person who is not present.
- To speak unfavourably or slanderously of a person who is not present.
This is one of the most wicked and ungodly evils to be found in this evil world. Yet, despite this, most people have a shamefully poor understanding of how evil backbiting actually is, even though the Scriptures are very clear on this point. Both the Old and the New Testaments measure out a terrible judgment to those who are backbiters and habitual slanderers.
People in their folly generally defend their backbiting by maintaining that what they say is true. But this shows an impudence of which only truly wicked people are capable. The very expression “backbiting” speaks for itself. One talks about other peoples’ sins—or what one judges to be sin—behind their back instead of going directly to them and asking them if what is being said or presumed is really true.
Even for someone who loves the good, being truthful can be difficult enough. Those who backbite are in a very bad spirit. Such people are incapable of keeping only to the truth. Even if what they said was true in every detail, the very act of backbiting was ungodly in itself!
A matter of the utmost seriousness
“You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” Leviticus 19:16-17.
“Whoever … slanders his neighbor, him will I destroy.” Psalm 101:5. The whole matter is as bad as it could possibly be, and for this reason it must be regarded with the utmost seriousness.
“You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will reprove you, and set them in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you to pieces, and there be none to deliver.” Psalm 50:19-22.
Oh, that a tremendous fear would come over each of us, and remain there all the days of our lives.
A powerful explanation
“… they are whisperers, backbiters … who, knowing the righteous judgement of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1:29-32. It continues with, “Therefore you are inexcusable. O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself …” Romans 2:1. Many have fallen in war but an even greater number have fallen because of the tongue! What wretchedness! Everyone who reads or hears this must wake up to seriousness and sin no more. Rather be quick to ask for forgiveness from both God and man!
“… revilers (backbiters) … will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:10. Nobody should be in doubt about this any more.
“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law (the Word of God) and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” James 4:11-13.
Once again we have a powerful explanation of just how evil backbiting is. It is the same as backbiting, judging, and rejecting the Word of God, which alone can bring us salvation!
By doing this we also judge God, who has given us these laws, and who is the Judge of all men! Oh, what audacity!
Some very good help
In 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 we find out how the New Testament regards this matter: We are not to keep company with those who call themselves brothers and sisters and yet backbite (revile). We are not even to eat together with them. Not only that, but we have this commandment: “Put away from yourselves the evil person.”
If someone defends his backbiting by saying that what he says is the truth; he manifests an impudence which shows beyond doubt that he is evil. Those who are evil have no place in the church of the living God.
Concerning this matter we can receive some very good help from Sirach’s wisdom, chapter 19:
“The one who is too quick to believe others, is irresponsible.” (v. 4)
“He who controls his tongue lives without strife, and he who hates gossip avoids much evil.” (v. 6)
“Have you heard a rumor? Let it die with you. Never fear, it will not make you burst.” (v. 10)
“Ask for an explanation from your friend; it will often turn out to be pure backbiting; do not believe everything you hear!” (v. 15)
Yes, say it to him – but by no means to anyone else! No, it must be regarded as strictly forbidden! And incredibly stupid!
We are fallible
One of Francis of Assisi’s disciples has also said something that is very good and striking in this connection. “If you dwell upon that which is good you will become good, and if you dwell on that which is evil you will become evil.” There are multitudes of examples to demonstrate this. Be wise, and take these to heart.
It is extremely rare for something to be retold absolutely correctly; this applies even to the most innocent story. All of us are fallible because:
1) We remember incorrectly.
2) We hear incorrectly.
3) We understand incorrectly.
In addition to this most people are afflicted by the sinful inclinations to exaggerate, to distort, to add or omit, etc. Numerous experiments prove that when an order or a report is passed from one person to another several times the end result is unrecognizable.
Just as those who share the spoil with a thief are little better than the thief himself, so those who listen to the slanderer share the blame with him and for that reason are only slightly less ungodly. What should they have done, those who listened to backbiting?
Everyone should have known what to do right away: Stop this wickedness immediately. It makes no difference who the originator was; whether it was husband or wife, parents or children, mother or father, or anyone else. God is able to give all the boldness and the courage of our conviction to act in such a situation, and in other situations, in rich measure! Honor to God!
Every true and caring servant of the Lord must take this seriously to heart. There is always a need for the fervent love of Christ, for watchfulness, and courage!
An abridged version of the pamphlet “Backbiting,” written by Elias Aslaksen, first published in Norwegian in April, 1971 by “Skjulte Skatters Forlag.”
© Copyright Stiftelsen Skjulte Skatters Forlag