As I was reading my Greek New Testament the other day I made an interesting discovery. I was reading the passage where it talks about the qualifications of deacons and deacons’ wives
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience….Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. (1Tim 3:8-11)
As I read this passage in Greek, I noticed that the word for “slanderers” here was the Greek word διάβολος (diābolos). This is noteworthy because διάβολος is the word that the New Testament uses for “the devil.”
- Matthew 4:1—Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (διάβολος).
- Ephesians 6:11—Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (διάβολος).
- Revelation 20:2—And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil (διάβολος), and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.
1 Timothy 3:11 is not the only place where a human is called “a devil” (Jhn6:70, cf. Mt16:23), but I don’t think that makes this example any less powerful. Paul specifically says that deacons’ wives are not supposed to be “slanderers/devils.”
But Paul does not limit comments like this to just deacons’ wives. In Titus 2:3, Paul says that younger women should not to be “false accusers.” In 2 Timothy 3:3, Paul tells us that one of the signs of the end times is that people will become “false accusers.” In both of these passages Paul uses the word διάβολος (diābolos) just like in 1 Timothy 3:11. So as much as we would like to pin these statements on someone else—oh, not me! I would never act like that!—we need to realize that everyone is capable of acting like a devil.
What we should notice right away is that slanderer, false accuser, and devil are all synonyms here. Whenever we gossip and spread lies about someone we are doing exactly what the devil does to us. If you a hear a piece of gossip, don’t spread it. If you’re tempted to gossip, don’t do it. If you know an accusation is false, don’t make it. Even if you find out something true; don’t be a talebearer. It’s sinful, and its devilish.
Keep in mind that 1st & 2nd Timothy and Titus are a unified group. All three books were written by Paul to young preachers, they were written in a very short time span, and they cover similar themes. So it should stand out to us that people are called διάβολος (diābolos, “devil”) three times in these three books, one time per book. It should also stand out to us that two of these three times are directed to women.
Ladies, I’m looking at you. I have known women who would spread lies and gossip for the pure fun of it, no matter who it hurt. If that is the kind of person you are, don’t be surprised when people call you a devil (or worse). The devil is described as someone “who accused…day and night” (Rev12:10). If you are constantly creating drama—“stirring the pot with a boat oar,” as my father would say—you are sinning and you need to repent. It’s demonic and it’s wrong.
Men, we aren’t exempt from this either. It’s easy for us to stereotype the women as gossips, but the closer we get to the return of Christ the easier it will be for us to fall into this trap too. We must resist the urge to gossip and accuse, slander and misrepresent the motives of our friends. Men, let’s just be honest, sometimes we get a vendetta with people. And rather than just have it out with them in person, we will assassinate their character when they aren’t around. Paul still told Titus “to speak evil of no man” (3:2).
The world has enough trouble with one devil tempting and accusing. He doesn’t need our help! Let’s put away gossip, slander, and false accusation. If you know someone’s “business,” don’t spread it. Pray about it. Be an intercessor like Jesus instead of acting like a devil.