Ray Donovan was the Secretary of Labor under President Reagan. His time in office was marked by a highly publicized case in which Donovan and six others were tried in New York on charges of larceny and fraud. In the end, Donovan and the six other defendants were acquitted. However, at the conclusion of the trial, Donovan pointed out a lingering problem when he famously asked, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”
Proverbs 22:1 says: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches…” (N.K.J.V.). In light of this, we should all guard ourselves against committing the sin of slandering another person. And as proof that slander can take place, let me point out that some of the Bible’s greatest characters were slandered. I’m talking about the likes of Joseph (Genesis 39:7-20), David (2 Samuel 10:1-3), Stephen (Acts 6:8-14), Paul (Acts 24:5-6), and, of course, Jesus (Matthew 11:19, Matthew 26:59-68). Even though these men were all innocent of the accusations leveled against them, much damage was done to their reputations.
To be clear, all criticism is not slander. If the criticism is legitimate and valid, that’s another subject altogether. Furthermore, God’s word certainly does allow for not only the proper voicing of appropriate criticism but also the proper prosecution of criminals if a situation merits it. Christians are even scripturally mandated to rebuke sin. But we must tread carefully in the midst of this potential minefield, especially in these days when anybody can use social media to accuse anyone of anything. Ray Donovan was spot on when he noted that there is no way for a person to reclaim his or her unjustly destroyed reputation. As Proverbs 11:9 says: “The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor…” (N.K.J.V.). That’s why we must make sure that our words are marked by both accuracy and discernment. Otherwise, we’ll cross the line into sin ourselves by damaging someone’s reputation who doesn’t deserve it.