7 Minute Read


1 Kings 11:1–12:19
Acts 9:1-25
Psalm 131:1-3
Proverbs 17:4-5


Proverbs 17:4 (CSB): “A wicked person listens to malicious talk; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”


The verse I have chosen as Today’s Bible Verse should have lights flashing, sirens blaring, and a flare gun sending up red flares into the sky. It is such a serious warning.

Proverbs 17:4 (CSB): “A wicked person listens to malicious talk; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”

We all know that gossip and slander is wrong. We know that the Bible speaks against it. We know that it is utterly wicked. And we understand this personally when we become the object of gossip and slander.

Yet, we often give a pass to those who simply listen. We don’t hold those who listen to gossip and slander to the same standard as the one who is actively committing verbal murder in the shadows.

Once again, read today’s Proverb. Notice that it is not talking about the one who gossips and slanders. It is talking about those who listen.

Proverbs 17:4 (CSB): “A wicked person listens to malicious talk; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”

But someone will say: “I don’t talk badly about others. I just listen to what others are saying.”

Friend, if this is the case with you, then you are the one that Proverbs 17:4 is calling “a wicked person” and “a liar.” You are wicked because you are engaging in something that is morally wrong and cowardly and you are a liar because most gossip and slander either has no truth in it or is a mixture of truth and embellishment (a.k.a. lies).

Pastor Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) at Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, TN

A former pastor of mine once said: “It’s a small compliment to you that others use your ears for a trash can.”

It is not a small thing if you listen as others run someone down behind their back.

It is not insignificant if you are a passive listener as someone commits a verbal assassination in your presence.

If you simply listen as someone engages in slander and gossip, you, my friend, are complicit. The Bible makes it clear that you are a wicked liar.

So, what should be done? Every one of us will find ourselves in a situation where someone is being run down in our presence. What should we do so that we maintain a godly standard in such circumstances?

1. Determine if what you are hearing is slander or gossip.

Sometimes it is necessary to say something bad about others. One such instance would be to warn others of someone who hurt us and could hurt them, too.

2 Timothy 4:14-15 (CSB): “Alexander the coppersmith did great harm to me. The Lord will repay him according to his works. Watch out for him yourself because he strongly opposed our words.”

It seems to me that something is considered slander or gossip when information (primarily, but not necessarily, negative) about someone is being shared with others who don’t need to know and/or would not do anything constructive with the information.

If it’s just idle words that are shared with people who have no love for the person, no need to know the information, or won’t do something constructive with the information, then its slander/gossip.

2. Don’t listen

Either walk away or speak up to stop the talk.

Someone may say: “But, it would create friction and hurt their feelings if I told them that they were engaged in slander and gossip.”

Who cares?! They are treating your ears as trash cans to pour their filth into and the Bible says that you are wicked and a liar for listening. So, you need to bring the talk to a halt or walk away.

Besides, it has been my observation that Satan’s tool of choice to destroy a family or the unity of a church with gossip. It is a fire that can quickly rage out of control if someone isn’t courageous enough to stop it.

Be courageous, friend! Either stop the sinful talk or walk away.

3. Hold the slanderer/gossiper accountable

Don’t let them off the hook. Someone who slanders and gossips usually does so in the shadows. They are cowards.

And don’t think that you are special because they are sharing such juicy information with you. You are just one of the many people that they are talking to. They are creating a fire that eventually may be impossible to put out.

So, shine a light on the matter.

Matthew 5:14 (CSB): “You are the light of the world…”

How do you do this?

By holding the person accountable for their words.

You might say: “Friend, you are alleging some serious offenses against (the one being talked about). If what you say is true, this matter can’t be limited to the shadows. It needs to come to light. So, let’s go right now to (the one being talked about) and have a conversation with them. Let’s tell them what you have just said about them. If it’s true, then let’s pray that they repent. If they don’t repent, we need to get some witnesses involved to work toward repentance (Matthew 18:15-17). But, if what you are saying isn’t true, you will need to repent to everyone who has heard what you have said or has been hurt by our words. In fact, the greater the audience, the more public your repentance needs to be.”


Friend, listening to slander and gossip isn’t a small matter. It has major moral implications. You can’t sit idly by and passively listen. If you are a courageous follower-of-Jesus who takes His Word seriously, you must deal with the matter.

Otherwise, if you simply listen, you are a wicked liar.

Proverbs 17:4 (CSB): “A wicked person listens to malicious talk; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”