He that backbiteth not with his tongue - לשנו על רגל לא lo ragal al leshono, "he foots not upon his tongue."
4. He is one who treats his neighbor with respect. He says nothing that might injure him in his character, person, or property; he forgets no calumny, he is author of no slander, he insinuates nothing by which his neighbor may be injured. The tongue, because of its slanderous conversation, is represented in the nervous original as kicking about the character of an absent person; a very common vice, and as destructive as it is common: but the man who expects to see God abhors it, and backbites not with his tongue. The words backbite and backbiter come from the Anglo-Saxon bac, the back, and to bite. How it came to be used in the sense it has in our language, seems at first view unaccountable; but it was intended to convey the treble sense of knavishness, cowardice, and brutality. He is a knave, who would rob you of your good name; he is a coward, that would speak of you in your absence what he dared not to do in your presence; and only an ill-conditioned dog would fly at and bite your back when your face was turned. All these three ideas are included in the term; and they all meet in the detractor and calumniator. His tongue is the tongue of a knave, a coward, and a dog. Such a person, of course, has no right to the privileges of the Church militant, and none of his disposition can ever see God.
Nor doeth evil to his neighbor -
5. He not only avoids evil speaking, but he avoids also evil acting towards his neighbor. He speaks no evil of him; he does no evil to him; he does him no harm; he occasions him no wrong. On the contrary, he gives him his due. See under the second particular.
6. The word חרפה cherpah, which we here translate a reproach, comes from חרף charaph, to strip, or make bare, to deprive one of his garments; hence חרף choreph, the winter, because it strips the fields of their clothing, and the trees of their foliage. By this, nature appears to be dishonored and disgraced. The application is easy: a man, for instance, of a good character is reported to have done something wrong: the tale is spread, and the slanderers and backbiters carry it about; and thus the man is stripped of his fair character, of his clothing of righteousness, truth, and honesty. All may be false; or the man, in an hour of the power of darkness, may have been tempted and overcoxne; may have been wounded in the cloudy and dark day, and deeply mourns his fall before God. Who that has not the heart of a devil would not strive rather to cover than make bare the fault? Those who feed, as the proverb says, like the flies, passing over all a man's whole parts to light upon his wounds, will take up the tale, and carry it about. Such, in the course of their diabolic work, carry the story of scandal to the righteous man; to him who loves his God and his neighbor. But what reception has the tale-bearer? The good man taketh it not up; נשא לא lo nasa, he will not bear it; it shall not be propagated from him. He cannot prevent the detractor from laying it down; but it is in his power not to take it up: and thus the progress of the slander may be arrested. He taketh not up a reproach against his neighbour; and the tale-bearer is probably discouraged from carrying it to another door. Reader, drive the slanderer of your neighbor far away from you: ever remembering that in the law of God, as well as in the law of the land, "the receiver is as bad as the thief."
He that backbiteth not with his tongue - The word “backbite” means to censure; slander; reproach; speak evil of. The Hebrew word - רגל râgal - a verb formed from the word foot, means properly “to foot it,” and then “to go about.” Then it means to go about as a tale-bearer or slanderer; to circulate reports unfavorable to others. It is not improperly rendered here “backbite;” and the idea is, that it is essential to true piety that one should “not” be a slanderer, or should “not” circulate evil reports in regard to others. On the use of the “tongue,” see the note at James 3:2-11.
Nor doeth evil to his neighbor - That does his neighbor no harm. This refers to injury in any way, whether by word or deed. The idea is, that the man who will be admitted to dwell on the holy hill of Zion, the man who is truly religious, is one who does no injury to anyone; who always does that which is right to others. The word “neighbor” usually refers to one who resides near us; and their it denotes all persons who are near to us in the sense that we have business relations with them; all persons with whom we have anything to do. It is used in this sense here as referring to our dealings with other persons.
Nor taketh up a reproach - Margin, “or receiveth,” or, “endureth.” The idea is that of “taking up,” or receiving as true, or readily giving credit to it. He is slow to believe evil of another. He does not grasp at it greedily as if he had pleasure in it. He does not himself originate such a reproach, nor does he readily and cheerfully credit it when it is stated by others. If he is constrained to believe it, it is only because the evidence becomes so strong that he cannot resist it, and his believing it is contrary to all the desires of is heart. This is true religion every where; but this is contrary to the conduct of no small part of the world. There are large classes of persons to whom nothing is more acceptable than reproachful accusations of others, and who embrace no reports more readily than they do those which impute bad conduct or bad motives to them. Often there is nothing more marked in true conversion than the change which is produced in this respect. He who delighted in gossip and in slanderous reports of others; who found pleasure in the alleged failings and errors of his neighbors; who gladly lent a listening ear to the first intimations of this kind, and who cheerfully contributed his influence in giving circulation to such things, augmenting such reports as they passed through his hands - now sincerely rejoices on hearing everybody well spoken of, and does all that can be done consistently with truth to check such reports, and to secure to every man a good name.
“Above all things,” the apostle writes, “have fervent charity among yourselves” (1 Peter 4:8). Do not listen to reports against a brother or a sister. Be very cautious how you take up a reproach against your neighbor. Ask the one who brings the accusation if he has obeyed the word of God in regard to this matter. Christ has left explicit directions as to what should be done. Go to your brother and tell him his fault between him and you alone. Do not excuse yourself from this, saying, There is no personal grievance between the one who is accused and myself. The rules given by Christ are so definite, so explicit, that this excuse is not valid. HP 292.2Read in context »
Nothing can perfect a perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance. Satan can sow discord; Christ alone can harmonize the disagreeing elements.... When you as individual workers of the church love God supremely and your neighbor as yourself, then there will be no labored efforts to be in unity, there will be oneness in Christ, the ears to report will be closed, and no one will take up a reproach against his neighbor. The members of the church will cherish love and unity and be as one great family. Then we shall bear the credentials to the world that will testify that God has sent His Son into the world. Christ has said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”—Letter 29, 1889. RC 200.7Read in context »
22 (Romans 5:1; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 11:1). The Creation of Faith—Under the inspiration of the Spirit, the apostle Peter represents Christians as those who have purified their souls in obeying the truth. Just in accordance with the faith and love we bring into our work will be the power brought into it. No man can create faith. The Spirit operating upon and enlightening the human mind, creates faith in God. In the Scriptures faith is stated to be the gift of God, powerful unto salvation, enlightening the hearts of those who search for truth as for hidden treasure. The Spirit of God impresses the truth on the heart. The gospel is called the power of God unto salvation because God alone can make the truth a power which sanctifies the soul. He alone can render the cross of Christ triumphant (Manuscript 56, 1899). 7BC 940.3Read in context »
God requires all to do with faithfulness the duties of today. This is much neglected by the larger share of professed Christians. Especially is present duty lost sight of by the class I have mentioned, who imagine that they are of a finer order of beings than their fellow mortals around them. The fact that their minds turn in this channel is proof that they are of an inferior order, narrow, conceited, and selfish. They feel high above the lowly and humble poor, such as Jesus says He has called. They are forever trying to secure position, to gain applause, to obtain credit for doing some great work that others cannot do. But it disturbs the fine grain of their refined organism to associate with the humble, the unfortunate. They mistake the reason altogether. The reason why they shun any of these duties not so agreeable is found in their supreme selfishness. Dear self is the center of all their actions and motives. 2T 466.1Read in context »
The great responsibility bound up in the use of the gift of speech is plainly made known in the Word of God. “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37), Christ declared. And the psalmist asks, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour” (Psalm 15:1-3). HP 175.4Read in context »