The Bible has a lot to say about backstabbing and betrayal. Though the words “backstabbing” and “betrayal” are not specifically used, the concepts are certainly present throughout Scripture.
Here are some key biblical principles about backstabbing:
1. Backstabbing is sinful and stems from evil desires
Proverbs 26:24-26 warns, “Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” This verse indicates that backstabbing comes from a heart of hatred and deception.
Jesus said in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Backstabbing behaviors like gossip and slander originate from the evil desires of the human heart.
Paul also associates backstabbing with “envy, strife, deceit, maliciousness” in Romans 1:29. This type of conduct has no place among followers of Christ.
2. Backstabbing causes strife and breaks trust
Proverbs 16:28 warns, “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Backstabbing often strains or severs close relationships.
Psalm 41:9 predicts Jesus’ betrayal by Judas: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” Backstabbing breaks trust between even the closest of friends.
Proverbs 17:9 also states, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” Betrayal destroys relationships and unity among friends.
3. Backstabbing is associated with flattery and hypocrisy
Backstabbing often involves flattery or pretending to be someone’s friend while secretly plotting against them. Psalm 28:3 says, “Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts.”
Jesus sternly warned in Luke 20:20, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts.” Backstabbers may flatter and pretend to be spiritual in order to gain position and trust.
Proverbs 26:28 also says, “A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Flattery and hypocrisy cloak the backstabber’s real intentions.
4. God sees and judges betrayal
Hebrews 4:13 declares, “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” God sees all deeds done in secret and will render judgment.
Luke 8:17 also warns, “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” Backstabbing may seem undetected for a time but will ultimately be exposed.
Ultimately, Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples. But God allowed this betrayal as part of His sovereign plan in redeeming humanity from sin. All betrayal, whether against Christ or others, is subject to His higher purposes.
5. Believers should avoid backstabbing behaviors
As children of God, believers are called to turn away from backstabbing. Paul exhorts in Ephesians 4:31, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” These are the very behaviors that characterize a backstabber.
Instead, Scripture calls us to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), to work for peace (Romans 12:18), and to love one another sincerely (Romans 12:9). Backstabbing has no place in the ethics of Christian living.
Matthew 5:23-24 gives this practical counsel for reconciling broken relationships: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Reconciliation and forgiveness should be the believer’s response to betrayal.
6. Betrayal even happens among Christian leaders
Perhaps surprisingly, the New Testament contains examples of broken trust and betrayal even among church leaders. For instance, Paul laments in 2 Timothy 4:10, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me.” Here a Christian coworker abandoned Paul in ministry.
Diotrephes provides another example in 3 John 1:9-10 where John writes, “I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us.” Sadly, power-hungry church leaders can undermine authority and spread false accusations against other leaders.
These cases reveal that backstabbing occurs in Christian circles too. But Scripture declares God’s judgment on such works of darkness and champions reconciliation among believers.
7. Backstabbing ultimately stems from spiritual warfare
Behind all lies, betrayal, and hypocrisy is the work of the “father of lies,” the devil, who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (John 8:44, 2 Corinthians 11:14). Satan engineered Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in Luke 22:3: “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.”
Ephesians 6:12 reminds believers, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Backstabbing is ultimately part of the spiritual battle between good and evil.
Because of this spiritual dimension, believers are called to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Walking in truth and spiritual discernment counteracts the enemy’s divisive schemes.
8. Bless those who persecute you
Jesus taught profoundly countercultural responses to backstabbing and betrayal. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” And Luke 6:28 adds, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
This does not come naturally. But leaving vengeance to God allows Him to work in persecutors’ hearts or administer justice. This fulfills Paul’s charge in Romans 12:19-21:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Entrusting judgment to God releases bitterness and promotes active love. This breaks the cycle of backstabbing.
9. Case studies in the Bible
Several prominent Bible stories reveal the causes, effects, and responses to backstabbing:
Cain murders Abel (Genesis 4)
Cain backstabbed his brother Abel out of jealousy that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not his own. God judged Cain by making him a fugitive. Yet even in judgment, God showed Cain mercy by placing a mark on him so no one else would kill him. This first case of betrayal established the pattern of envy and hatred leading to backstabbing.
Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery (Genesis 37)
Driven by envy of their father’s favoritism toward Joseph, his brothers backstabbed him by selling him into slavery in Egypt. But God used Joseph’s predicament for good, elevating him as a leader in Egypt who could later deliver his family. Joseph’s grace and forgiveness toward his betraying brothers demonstrated a Christ-like response.
David spares Saul (1 Samuel 24, 26)
King Saul repeatedly tried to murder his former servant David out of jealousy and paranoia. But twice while Saul was vulnerable, David spared his life even though killing Saul meant David could become king. David trusted God to make him king rather than using backstabbing tactics against Saul. His mercy showed nobility.
Jesus predicts and experiences betrayal (John 13, 18)
Jesus stunned His disciples by announcing one of them would betray Him. He cited Psalm 41 about betrayal by a close friend. Yet He still washed Judas’ feet and let God’s plan unfold. At Jesus’ arrest, Peter also denied knowing Jesus three times as Jesus had predicted. But Christ’s death and resurrection triumphed over these betrayals.
These examples and many others provide case studies into the causes, effects, and godly responses to backstabbing. They offer wisdom and encouragement for biblical living in the face of betrayal.
10. God ultimately brings justice and healing
Though backstabbing causes deep wounds, Scripture promises that God ultimately brings justice and healing to those who trust in Him. Isaiah 30:18 offers this hope:
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
The Psalms also reiterate that God will repay the wicked for their deeds against the righteous, proving He is a just judge (Psalm 54:5, 94:23).
Betrayal pierced even Jesus’ inner circle, yet He overcame through sacrificial love. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him.” Verse 3 then encourages believers to “[Consider] him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Jesus understands betrayal and intercedes for His own.
By turning to Christ in prayer, studying His Word, and pursuing godly counsel, the backstabbing victim can find grace to forgive (Hebrews 4:16) and strength to persevere. Romans 8:28 also promises God works all things for the good of those who love Him. Though wounds from betrayal run deep, God provides healing balm.