Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
“Perhaps I shouldnt say this, but Tom told me…”
“I’m not suppose to say anything, but I thought you should know…”
“I wonder why Sally was going into…”
And the beat goes on. Note that the proverb says slandering reveals secrets. The viciousness of slander lies in that it spreads half-truths, the half that puts the person in a bad light. I hear half-truths often when a spouse comes to me to share about the unjust behavior of the other spouse; or when anyone comes to present their “concerns” about someone else. But the slander here is not the half-truth spoken in a private counseling session, but that which is spread publicly (and privately when shared with someone who has no business in knowing or the slanderer has no business in telling anyone.)
When a baseball pitcher was caught on camera responding badly to a cameraman, a sports writer wrote an article recalling instances when athletes had not treated him well. He named each athlete and described the confrontation. He seemed oblivious to the issue that really is at the heart of athletes’ frustration with the media, which is the media’s power to affect how they are perceived publicly. In this article, we were given a detailed description of the athlete’s bad behavior and a sympathetic picture of the writer. His one article of these instances will color how most of the readers will always view these athletes.
We can do the same with other people’s reputations. A single remark of questioning a person’s actions, especially questioning his motives, will prejudice the hearers, so that, despite what the truth is or what the person does for good, the doubt remains in the hearers minds. Slander is ruthless because it has to prove nothing, merely suggest.
The one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps secrets told him. And when he sees something which does not involve him, he is slow to reveal it. He either goes to the person who has done something questionable, or he keeps it covered, trusting God to bring to light what needs to be. He does this for several reasons. One, he knows that he can ruin a good person’s reputation, and for love of his neighbor he will keep silent. Two, he knows the injunction that if he sees his brother in sin, he is to go to that person instead of spreading the news to others. Three, he knows that he can stir up strife, creating greater trouble than the one he supposedly sees. Four, he knows his limits. He knows that he may not know the whole story, and thus will not take the chance of spreading half-truths. Five, he knows that there are limits to his responsibility. He is not to be the judge or take responsibility of everyone he sees doing something he questions. He entrusts them in God’s hands and in the hands of others who do have responsibility.
Keep this proverb in mind today as you hear and see what goes on around you.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By D. Marion Clark. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org