What Does the Bible Say About Talking Bad About Others?
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What Does the Bible Say About Talking Bad About Others?

Talking negatively about others, also known as gossiping, backbiting, slandering, or maligning, is unfortunately very common in our society today. With social media and other communication platforms, it has become even easier to criticize and tear down others when they are not present. As Christians, what should our attitude and response be when we are tempted to speak ill of someone else? The Bible has much to say about this issue.


Gossiping and talking negatively about others is a serious sin according to Scripture. When we engage in this behavior, we are acting contrary to God’s commandments and failing to walk in love towards our neighbor. Additionally, spreading lies, slander, and harmful words has incredibly detrimental effects, destroying reputations, relationships, and trust.

As followers of Christ, we are called to build others up with our words and to speak truth in love. Our tongues have immense power, and we must be careful how we use them. Before repeating an unfavorable story about someone else or making a critical remark, we would do well to pause and consider what God says about the way we talk about others.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gossip and slander are strongly condemned throughout Scripture.
  • Speaking negatively about others is destructive and further separates people from God.
  • We are to speak truth in love and build others up with our words.
  • God hears every word we speak, including those said in secret.
  • If we have a complaint against someone, we are to go to them personally rather than gossip to others.
  • We reap what we sow – both positively and negatively.

Having established a broad overview for this topic, let us now explore in more detail what God says about how we are to speak about others.

Gossip and Slander are Sin

Numerous verses throughout the Bible make it abundantly clear that God strongly prohibits gossip, slander, and any kind of speech that tears others down or spreads lies and rumors about them. Consider just a small sampling of verses on this topic:

“Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.” (Psalm 101:5)

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” (Proverbs 11:13)

“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” (Proverbs 11:12)

These verses make clear God’s opinion on those who gossip and slander others. He hates it and considers it an abomination. Other verses use vivid language when describing the evil of gossip and lies, such as calling them a “deadly poison” (Psalm 140:3), a flattering mouth that works ruin (Proverbs 26:28), and being like a bad tooth or foot that needs removed (Proverbs 25:18-19).

The New Testament is equally clear on this matter:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” (James 4:11)

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25)

Based on the strong words and warnings throughout Scripture against gossip, backbiting, and slander, we can conclude unequivocally that God views speaking evil of others, whether truth or lies, as sinful. As children of God, we are to refrain from participating in destructive conversations that deride others made in His image.

Gossip is Destructive

Now that we have established the sinfulness of gossip and slander, we should also consider how incredibly destructive speaking negatively about others is. Scripture uses vivid metaphors to capture just how damaging our words can be:

“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” (Proverbs 18:8, 26:22)

“A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.” (Proverbs 26:20)

Here we see gossip characterized as tasty morsels that get lodged inside of us, as a fire that is spread by the fuel of whispers, and as separating the closest of friends. The Bible makes clear there is no such thing as “harmless gossip.” Speaking unfavorably about others, especially behind their backs, does incredible damage to trust and relationships.

Gossip also breeds strife, conflict, disunity, and dysfunction. It displeases God greatly, as He desires unity among believers and restored relationships, not greater division.

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Romans 16:17)

“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4)

The heart behind gossip is judgment and criticism, neither of which we are authorized to enact against another person, according to Scripture. When we assume evil motives, make unfair critiques from limited information, and put others down, we foster discord and pride. This is counter to the love, patience, and kindness we are to reflect as followers of Jesus.

In summary, the Bible makes abundantly clear through vivid imagery and direct commands that gossip and slander are destructive forces that separate people, breed strife, and displease God. Love seeks to build others up, not tear them down.

Called to Speak Truth in Love

Rather than gossip and slander, Scripture calls us to speak truth in love and to build up fellow believers with our words. Consider these verses that instruct us how to speak to and about others:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)

These verses do not mean we must shy away from speaking truth, even hard truth in love. However, the key is our motivation – are we seeking to help, restore, and build others up? Or do we simply want to tear them down and revel in sharing negative stories about them? Speaking truth in love may mean going directly to someone if we have a concern and sharing it gently and humbly. It does not include whispering behind their back to others.

Scripture’s instructions for how we are to speak to one another are clear:

With patience: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil.” (2 Timothy 2:24)

With kindness: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3 NASB)

With humility: “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” (Titus 3:9)

As we reflect Christ: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

Always with love: “Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14)

This is a very high standard, and one we will fall short of daily. Yet we serve a merciful Savior in Jesus who offers grace, forgiveness, and new beginnings. Our role is to stay connected to Him through prayer, study of Scripture, fellowship with other believers, and obedience. We must also repent quickly when we fail and seek to grow in living out truth and love more consistently.

God Hears Every Word

One fact that should greatly restrain our tongues when tempted to speak ill of others is that God hears every single word we speak. Even words whispered in secret do not escape His notice.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17)

“Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:4)

“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” (Proverbs 11:13)

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” (Proverbs 11:12)

Not even our thoughts are hidden from the Lord. How much more careful might we be if we paused and remembered that God hears every judgmental thought or cutting remark before we expressed it? Understanding the reality that nothing escapes His notice, both spoken aloud or simply thought inwardly, should lead us to greater restraint and wisdom.

Go Directly to the Person

Rather than gossip to others when we have a complaint against someone, Scripture gives clear direction that we are to go directly to the person involved.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” (Matthew 18:15-16)

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25)

Jesus lays out the process plainly – we are to go first alone to the person to express our concerns. Only if that does not resolve the issue are we to involve a few others. At no point does this process include gossiping to anyone willing to listen before (or after) going to the person directly.

Scripture is clear we are to speak openly and truthfully with fellow believers we have sinned against or have a grievance with. God desires unity and reconciliation between Christians, which gossiping and slandering definitely will not achieve.

We Reap What We Sow

A final sobering truth from Scripture on why we must refrain from gossip, slander, and other forms of speaking negatively about others is that we reap what we sow. Just as living with integrity and speaking truth in love results in blessing and peace, engaging in gossip and slander brings strife and broken relationships – and ultimately divine discipline.

“Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.” (Proverbs 22:8)

“A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord.” (Proverbs 6:12-14)

“By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37 NASB)

These sobering truths apply not just to unbelievers, but to Christians as well. If we sow seeds of discord through bitter, judgmental, or gossipy speech, we can in turn expect to reap the same. How much better to live with integrity, speak with wisdom and restraint by God’s power, and reap blessings and mature relationships instead!


In summary, Scripture has a great deal to say about gossip, slander, and speaking poorly of others. None of it is positive. God condemns gossip and vain talk in the strongest terms and makes clear how destructive our tongues and words can truly be. Instead, we are called to focus our speech on building others up, speaking truth in love, and maintaining the unity of the Spirit through patience, kindness, and compassion. This is only possible by staying rooted in Scripture, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

While gossip and other forms of unwholesome talk are unfortunately common, as followers of Christ we are called to live by a higher standard. May we take the Bible’s commandments about our speech seriously, repenting when we fail and striving through God’s strength to speak words that give life and reflect our Lord and Savior.

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.