What is backbiting?
What is backbiting? Backbiting is to talk badly or falsely about a person who is not present.
Backbiting is one of the most sinful and ungodly evils to be found in this evil world. But most people don’t understand how evil backbiting actually is, even though the Bible is very clear on this point. In both the Old and the New Testaments it is written that a terrible judgment will come to people who are backbiters and have the habit of speaking falsely about others.
People generally defend their backbiting by saying that what they are saying is true. But this shows just how truly evil people can be. The word “backbiting” explains itself. You talk about other peoples’ sins—or what you think is sin—behind their back instead of going directly to them and asking them if what is being said or believed about them is really true.
Even for someone who loves the good, being truthful can be difficult. People who backbite are in a very bad spirit. It is impossible for them to keep to the truth only. Even if the details of what they said were true, the backbiting itself was ungodly!
A matter of the greatest seriousness
“You must not spread false stories against other people, and you must not do anything that would put your neighbor’s life in danger. I am the Lord. You must not hate your fellow citizen in your heart. If your neighbor does something wrong, tell him about it, or you will be partly to blame.” Leviticus 19:16-17 (NCV). “I will destroy anyone who secretly slanders [backbites] his neighbor.” Psalm 101:5 (CSB). The whole matter is very, very bad and for this reason it must be seen as extremely serious.
“You speak about evil things, and you are always telling lies. You say bad things about your own brother, and you speak against your own family! You did all these things, and I said nothing. So you thought that I was as bad as you are. But now I am warning you! I will tell you clearly what you have done wrong. So think carefully about this, all you people who have turned away from me. If not, I will tear you into pieces, and nobody will be able to save you.” Psalm 50:19-22 (EASY).
Oh, that a great fear would come over each of us, and stay there all the days of our lives!
A powerful explanation
“… they gossip and speak evil of one another … They know that God's law says that people who live in this way deserve death. Yet, not only do they continue to do these very things, but they even approve of others who do them.” Romans 1:29-32 (GNB). It goes on with, “Do you, my friend, pass judgement on others? You have no excuse at all, whoever you are. For when you judge others and then do the same things which they do, you condemn yourself…” Romans 2:1 (GNB).
Many people have died in war but even more have died because of the tongue! Everyone who reads or hears this must take this very seriously and sin no more. And be quick to ask for forgiveness from both God and man when you have sinned!
“… revilers [backbiters] … will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:10. Nobody should be in doubt about this anymore.
“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.
Here we have again a powerful explanation of just how evil backbiting is. It is the same as speaking evil, judging, and rejecting the Word of God which is the only thing that can save us. By doing this we also judge God, who has given us these laws, and who is the Judge of all men!
In 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 we see how serious this matter is: We must not keep company with those who call themselves brothers and sisters and yet backbite. We must not even eat together with them. Not only that, but we have this commandment: “Remove the evil person from among you.”
If someone defends his backbiting by saying that what he is telling is the truth, then it is very clear that he is evil himself. Those who are evil have no place in the church of the living God.
We are not perfect
A wise man once said something that is very good in this connection. “If you keep thinking about that which is good you will become good, and if you keep thinking about that which is evil you will become evil.” There are many examples to prove this. Be wise and take this to heart.
It almost never happens that something is retold absolutely correctly; this applies even to the most innocent story. All of us can make mistakes because: 1) We remember incorrectly. 2) We hear incorrectly. 3) We understand incorrectly.
Also, because people have a sinful nature, most of them make things bigger or smaller or add or leave out some details etc. Many experiments have been done, and these showed that when an order is passed from one person to another a few times, the end result is not correct anymore.
Just as those who share the stolen goods with a thief are not much better than the thief himself, so those who listen to a backbiter share the blame with him, and for that reason are only a little bit less ungodly. What should they have done, those who listened to backbiting?
Everyone should have known what to do right away: Stop this evil immediately. It makes no difference who started it, whether it was husband or wife, parents or children, mother or father, or anyone else. God can give all the boldness and the courage to act in such a situation, and in other situations! Honour be to God!
Every true and caring servant of the Lord must take this seriously to heart!
You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about our relationship with others