By Howard L. Whittlesey
When a Christian confronts theft, he will likely disdain the prospect, and he will put to shame the one who would even suggest it. He would probably be heard saying that his resistance to such a temptation is a trademark of his Christianity. While the worldly man may steal without a flinch, this is just not in the moral repertoire of the man of God.
It seems to be quite a different matter, however, for even the Christian to steal the reputation of another man. While that Christian might cringe at the very idea of stealing something which can be replaced, he quite possibly will find pleasure in passing on a story which ruins someone else’s good name without even trying to find out if it is true.
The story of another man may be told by word of mouth, or it may be written in a letter or in some publication that circulates throughout the brotherhood. Neither of these legalizes this sin; nor does it please or glorify God. There is no justification for this sinner, be he well-known or unknown. He has told the story; he has stolen, or assisted in the stealing of, a man’s good name or reputation. That which he has stolen cannot be used by him, replaced by anyone, or ever quite restored.
Neither the writer nor the reader of such an evil story is guilt-free if their spirits and efforts coincide in any way. Many a church has suffered the consequences of such a sin. Sometimes this sin is perpetrated under the guise of being done in the name of truth, justice, or for [he putting down of a so-called false teacher.
Two things are required of a false teachers: (1) His teaching must be provably false and, (2) He must be proven to have taught that which is false. The proof of either or both of these behooves the honest, loving brother to approach the errant one in the spirit of Galatians 6:1-6 and of 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15. A lesser spirit is not a godly one.
The apostle Paul enumerated a number of types of people that should be avoided (2 Tim. 3:2-5). In this list is the false accuser, which is a slanderer. The Greek word is diabolos, meaning devil. The devil is the patron saint of all slanderers. He and the malicious brother-in-Christ are one when slander is cruelly meted out. Then the devil embraces the brother-in-Christ who receives this slander and then passes it on, having believed it without verifying it.
Thus, not only is the stolen good name irreparable, but also the soul of him who commits such a theft, initially or second-handedly, without repenting before departing this life.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 14, p. 431
July 16, 1992