Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God's Beautiful Design for Women, Day 9

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: There is no acceptable degree of malice or slander or evil speaking for Christian women. This is something that in our own lives we need to have zero tolerance about.

Sometimes I think we’re just careless. But it’s an area where we can’t afford to be careless, because when we speak slander, we’re doing the work of the devil.

It wrecks marriages. It wrecks children. It wrecks workplaces. It wrecks churches. It wrecks relationships. It wrecks us. It wrecks our relationship with the Lord to be a slanderer.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Thursday, February 16, 2017.

Nancy’s been leading us through a helpful study of Titus 2 called "God's Beautiful Design for Women." God even has a design for the words you’ll speak before your head hits the pillow tonight.

Nancy: We come today to what, for me, thus far has been one of the most convicting and challenging points of the study. So now I need to share it with you so you can be convicted and challenged as well.

We’re looking in Titus chapter 2. The apostle Paul has said to Titus he has to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (v. 1). What does that look like in us as women?

Well, he starts with older women. We’ve said that these things are to be true of older women; but that means as younger women we need to be working on these things and cultivating them, or we won’t be this way when we get to be older women.

Verse 3, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior.” We looked at that in the last session.

Then it says, “Not slanderers or slaves to much wine.” “Older women . . . are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine” (v. 3).

We talked about what it means to be reverent in behavior. Now the apostle Paul makes two specific, practical applications of what reverent behavior looks like: If you are reverent in behavior, it will affect your tongue and your temperance.

The tongue—not slanderers; a temperate lifestyle—not slaves to much wine. Women who are reverent in behavior are not slanderers, and they are temperate in their behavior.

This is where the sound doctrine that we’ve been talking about over the past week or so—this is where the rubber meets the road. These are the things that are in accord with sound doctrine.

You can’t say that you have sound doctrine if you’re not living this way. You may have sound doctrine in your head, but it you don't have it in your life, you don't have it.

I remember reading the Tozer said that the curse of the twentieth century (his day) was because we think we know something, therefore, we have it, when sometimes nothing can be further from the truth.

We have a lot of people in a lot of our churches who do know sound doctrine, but they don't live in a way that accords with sound doctrine. If you have a loose tongue, then there is something wrong with your doctrine or your application of doctrine to life. If you are not temperate in your lifestyle, then there is something wrong with your application of doctrine to life.

Paul says that these are the things that accord with sound doctrine. This is fitting for sound doctrine. This is the overflow, the outflow of sound doctrine in a woman's life. This is was reverent behavior looks like. Reverence for God affects the way that we talk and the way that we walk. Sound doctrine will always result in a certain kind of speech and a certain kind of behavior in our lives.

Now, this issue of slander; I had planned to do only one session on it originally. But as I got into it, I realized God was probing deep in my own heart on this, and I thought, This needs more than one session.

So we’re going to take the next few days and park on this issue of slander. It’s a serious issue to God, as you’re going to see as we open the Word. It’s a serious issue in the church. And it’s a serious issue among women in particular.

So we’ll look at the issue of slander, and then we’ll go to the issue of not being slaves of much wine, and the broader issues of temperance and addictions and what God’s Word has to say about that. So that’s where we’re headed over the next several days.

Women “are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers.” If you’re using the NASB, the translation says they should not be “malicious gossips.” The KJV says “false accusers.”

These are all translations of the same word. One commentator suggests that it means “purveyors of intrigue or scandal.”1 I thought that was pretty graphic. Women should not be purveyors—ones who give out—of intrigue or scandal. We don’t just pass on these juicy little tidbits from one person to another.

In my Bible, the English Standard Version, the word that is translated “slanderers” or “malicious gossips” or “false accusers” is the Greek word diabolos. It’s the word from which we get our English word diabolical. It comes from two words: dia or dio, which means “through,” and bolos, which means “cast.” “To cast through.”

You’ll see that that takes on meaning as we look at this concept of slander. The word diabolos is used thirty-four times in the New Testament. Thirty-four of those times the word is a name for Satan, the devil.

Satan is the father of lies. He is a slanderer. He is called diabolos. Thirty-four of the thirty-eight times, that’s what the word means.

How is Satan a slanderer? You see it in various ways. First of all we see that from the very beginning of Scripture, Satan has accused and slandered God to man.

For example, Satan came to the woman and the man in the Garden of Eden, Eve and then Adam, and he accused and slandered God. In Genesis 3 he said, in essence, “God has not told the truth. Did God say you will surely die? You will not die. God’s not telling the truth” [see vv. 1–5].

He lied about the consequences of eating the fruit, and then he slandered God by suggesting that God’s restrictions were unnecessary or unreasonable. He was attacking the truth, the veracity, of God’s Word. He slandered God to man.

It wasn’t just in the Garden of Eden. Satan is still slandering and accusing God. And he does it to us. Thoughts like these:

  • Where was God when you needed Him?
  • You can’t trust Him.
  • His Word isn’t true.
  • You don’t need Him.
  • You can do this on your own.
  • God doesn’t love you—not really.
  • If He did, He would have ___________ [or] He wouldn’t have ____________.

What is Satan doing? He’s slandering God to us, making God seem unreasonable, untrue, unfaithful, unloving, unwise, unkind. He’s slandering God.

So Satan accuses and slanders God to man. But Satan also accuses and slanders us to God. He slanders God’s people. In Revelation 12:10 he’s called the “accuser of our brethren” (KJV). He continually brings accusations about God’s people before the throne of God.

There’s an example of this that some of you will remember from Job 1:7–11, where Satan went before God and said, “Let’s talk about Job.” Actually, God brought up Job, and then in that context Satan slandered Job.

He accused Job of being committed to God only for what he could get out of the relationship. “He’s a paid lover.”

Satan claimed that if God took away the things that were precious to Job, then Job would curse God to His face. He slandered Job.

And he slanders us. He attacks. He accuses the brethren before the throne of God.

So diabolos—thirty-four times in the New Testament it refers to Satan who is the slanderer, the accuser. Three of the times that this word is used it refers to some person who slanders or falsely accuses others.

Let me give you an example. Turn in your Bible to 1 Timothy 3, and you’ll see these two uses in the same context. There are three uses of the Greek word diabolos in verses 6–11. Let’s read through part of that passage.

First of all he’s talking about those who are going to be spiritual leaders in the church. Verse 6:

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. [That’s the word diabolos.]

Verse 7:

Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil [diabolos].

Verse 8 & 11:

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.

Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers [diabolos], but sober-minded, faithful in all things.

So you see two times in that passage, diabolos is referring to Satan. The third time it’s referring to a woman who talks in such a way that she becomes devil-like, diabolical.

To be a slanderer, to make false accusations, to be a malicious gossip is to be diabolical. It is to be like the devil. It is to participate in the works and the character of Satan himself. When we slander others, we are doing Satan’s bidding and fulfilling his purposes.

When we slander others, we are doing Satan’s bidding and fulfilling his purposes.

Now can you see why I said slander is no small thing and why God would take it so seriously and why it’s so deadly and destructive in the church of Jesus Christ?

It’s interesting that two of the three times when diabolos refers to slander, it’s speaking specifically to women. I think that’s because, as women, this is an issue that we are more prone to be tempted in and one where we’re more inclined to sin with our tongues.

What is slander exactly? Legally, slander is an untruthful statement about a person that harms or defames their reputation. It’s bearing false witness with the intent to harm another person or their reputation.

There’s a related word in the New Testament. In the Greek it’s the word blasphemia, from which we get our English word blasphemy. That is the Greek word that’s most commonly translated “slander” or “evil speaking” in our English Bibles.

That word means "to revile; to hurt the reputation or smite with reports or words; [to] speak evil of”2 someone else. It’s a very closely related word to this diabolos word.

There are a number of related sins of the tongue that come into play here, and I think they are all under this umbrella of slander.

  • It can be spreading a false report about someone.
  • It can be spreading harmful information about another, which is what the Scripture calls “tale bearing.”
  • It can be reporting the truth with the intent to harm.

Do you see the nuances there?

  • It may be a false report—something that’s not true.
  • It may be something that’s harmful information about another that we spread—tale bearing.
  • It can even be saying the truth with the intent to harm or damage someone’s reputation.

So when Paul says that older women are to be reverent in behavior and not slanderers, that means that they are to refuse to listen to or to spread reports or stories about others that are false (they’re not true) or they’re harmful—they could be injurious to that person..

Slander is a serious matter to God. It’s one of the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:16 says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Exodus 23:1 tells us, “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.” Don’t do it. Don’t go there.

Proverbs 6:16 says, “There are six things that the Lord hates; seven that are an abomination to him,” and then in verse 19, right in that list is “a false witness who breathes out lies.” It’s an abomination to God.

By the way, in that same list is a person who spreads discord among brethren. Those two often go hand in hand—spreading discord, and being a false witness who breathes out lies.

People who slander others often do it with the intent to divide. But even if that’s not their intent, that’s the effect. They end up sowing discord, dividing, creating wedges and barriers between people by using their tongues to slander.

Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander [evil speaking] be put away from you, along with all malice.” Paul says, “Get rid of it.”

There is no acceptable degree of malice or slander or evil speaking for Christian women. This is something that in our own lives we need to have zero tolerance about.

As I’ve been studying this week and thinking about this, part of me wonders how much I would ever say if I really had a zero tolerance level for this in my own life. I’m sure I wouldn’t say as much.

And the intent is not always malicious. Sometimes I think we’re just careless. But it’s an area where we can’t afford to be careless, because when we speak slander, we’re doing the work of the devil.

  • It wrecks marriages.
  • It wrecks children.
  • It wrecks workplaces.
  • It wrecks churches.
  • It wrecks relationships.
  • It wrecks us.
  • It wrecks our relationship with the Lord, to be a slanderer.

In Titus 2, which is the passage we’re looking at, verse 3 says that godly women, older women, should not be slanderers. There’s a contrast to this in the next chapter, where Paul says, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient . . . to speak evil of no one” (3:1–2).

The word there is not, in fact, the word diabolos. It’s the word blasphemeo—to speak evil; to blaspheme. He says we’re to “speak evil” of no one.

What does that mean, “no one”? Not to speak evil of anyone.

James 4:11 says, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.” The word there is another Greek word [katalaleo], but it is a similar word. It means “to speak against, allowing thoughtless words to be spoken.”3

As I said, sometimes it is thoughtless; it’s careless words. James says, “Don’t do it. Don’t speak evil against one another. Don’t allow those thoughtless words to be spoken.”

Here’s a verse that states it pretty plainly: “Whoever utters slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18).

Who is a fool? A fool is not someone who’s intellectually deficient. A fool is someone who is morally deficient. A fool is someone who orders his life as if there were no God.

Proverbs says if you utter slander against or toward others, you are a fool. You are ordering your life as if there is no God before whom you will have to be accountable.

But the fact is, there is a God, and we will be accountable for every vain or empty or useless or slanderous word. “Whoever utters slander is a fool.”

We will be accountable for every vain or empty or useless or slanderous word.

In the Old Testament the punishment was pretty harsh. Let me read you a passage out of Deuteronomy 19:

If a malicious witness [a slanderer] arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you (vv. 16–19).

Why do you think God takes it so seriously? Because it is so Satan-like to lie, to deceive, to bear false witness, to accuse falsely. It is so divisive. It’s deadly. It’s destructive.

God knows that this destroys the community of faith. He knows it destroys and divides relationships. So He says, if you’re going to make false accusations, if you’re going to say things that are not true, then you are going to give account for your words.

Now, I’m kind of glad that they don’t go through this system today. But God said, you’re going to reap what you sow. And whatever harm you meant to do to the other person, whatever your intent was to do to him, that’s what’s going to happen to you.

That’s really what Jesus reiterated in the New Testament. It’s what we will experience. We’ll experience mercy. But those who judge others, those who have malicious intent or speak maliciously of others, they will reap what they have sown.

Our words will come back to haunt us. We don’t always reap the harvest immediately. But we will reap the harvest. So God says, “This is something that has to be purged from your midst. It should have no place in the church of Jesus Christ.”

It’s something we need to examine, we need to evaluate and weigh. We need to say, “Is there slander? Is there malicious gossip? Are there even truthful things being said with the intent to harm, behind others’ backs, to other people, bringing other people into the conversation who aren’t part of the problem or part of the solution?”

We’re saying things about others that are not productive. They’re not true. They’re not edifying. They’re not building up. They’re tearing down.

God says don’t do it. Purge out the evil from your midst. And when others see consequences, they will fear, and they will “never again commit any such evil.”

The community of faith, the body of Christ, is supposed to be a place that’s safe for sinners who are in the process of being redeemed. But when we maliciously or carelessly or thoughtlessly speak words that tear down, that defame, that are deceptive or untrue or harmful in intent, we’re undoing the work God’s Spirit is trying to do in His people.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). We can build up with our tongues. We can encourage people in that process of sanctification, or we can say words that destroy and tear down.

I would suspect there is not a woman listening to these words who would not say, "There have been times when I have sinned with my tongue in these very ways."

So what do we need to do? The first step is to get honest. Just agree. Acknowledge, “Lord, I have been a slanderer. I have slandered others.”

In the next couple of sessions, we’re going to talk about more of what slander does and why it’s so deadly, and also what we can do about it. But we can start by just saying, “It’s not my brother, it’s not my sister, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer,” and acknowledging, “Lord, I have sinned with my tongue.”

Whether you’re an older woman or a younger woman, say, “I have not been reverent in behavior in the way I speak about others.” You may not have said these things in big public settings but just one on one.

You know how we can mask those things as prayer requests, as matters of concern. Some of that is way, way over the line, and if you have any doubt or any question, you probably shouldn’t say it. If it is not going to build up or encourage . . . 

We're going to talk about times when it is appropriate to say something about another person that needs to be said in order for their life to be dealt with in a redemptive way. But we want to deal first with that heart attitude that causes us out of bitternesss or heart anger or comparison or jealousy or just sinful pride to slander others, to put them down, to speak harmful things, to speak things that aren't true, or to speak with harmful intent.

I want us to bow our hearts before the Lord for a moment. Allow the Holy Spirit to search you. He’s maybe bringing to mind conversations or situations or people you have slandered. If God’s Spirit has brought conviction to your heart . . . He may bring situations to your mind or people that you have slandered. Would you just agree with God?

Say, “I’ve sinned against You in slandering with my tongue. I’ve realized today, Lord, that You take that very seriously, and I want to take it seriously too.”

Lord, I pray that You would show each of us our root issues and our hearts that would produce this hideous, diabolical fruit of slander, and that You would help us not just to deal with the surface issues but to put the axe to the root of what might be in our hearts that might cause the slander.

So over these next couple of days, would You be speaking to us and convicting us and reminding us as we go from this place and we’re in conversations? I pray, Lord, that You would fill our mouths with words that are edifying and profitable and worthwhile and beneficial, words that will encourage and strengthen and give life to those about whom we’re speaking.

Thank You, Lord. May we be reverent women who honor You and glorify You with our tongues. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: I’ve never thought of gossip and slander quite like Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been describing it. This study on Titus 2 has been so practical, and I hope you’ll spend some more time in Titus 2 for yourself.

One way to get to unearth rich treasures in this passage is by reading Nancy’s brand new book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel. And Nancy, in the book you talk in detail about slander and gossip.

Nancy: Wow, what a huge issue. The temptation to slander or listen to slander is everywhere. Once we had a guest here on Revive Our Hearts. A listener wrote in expressing concern about that guest and sent a link to a website that explained in great detail the guest’s supposed faults. What I found was a network of websites that seemed to be devoted to exposing Christian ministries and leaders for supposed wrongdoing. In the Adorned book I share the story in more detail and explain why this is an example of slander and why it is so, so dangerous.

Paul’s instruction in Titus 2 has huge ramifications in a time when slander and false accusations can spread like wildfire with a simple click on our laptop or our phone. As we tweet and text and post and “like” and “share,” we need to make sure we’re not spreading slander—especially in such a contentious environment when it seems people are dividing into warring camps about so many things. As followers of Christ, we ought to be hugely counter-cultural in this area and in every area. In the book, Adorned, I’ve tried to help us think through this issue of slander and let God’s Word guide our thoughts, our words, our texts and the way we interact online.

I can’t wait for you to get a copy. We’ll send you the brand new book Adorned when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com, make your donation, and you’ll be able to get the book as well.

Tomorrow, learn about verbal homicide. What does that phrase mean? Be back to find out on the next Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to use your words to build up others, and is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1Thomas C. Oden, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. First and Second Timothy and Titus (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989).

2Zodhiates NT.

3Ibid.

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