By the time I finished Sabbath School and had tidied up the room at least a little from the messiness of my somewhat unruly students, I came in to the main hall to listen to the sermon from our pastor that was in-progress and I came in at the point where he was talking about a bad report that had been given by the ten faithless spies who inflamed the people of Israel in the Wilderness into rebellion against God and against Moses and Aaron as well as Joshua and Caleb. While the topic of the sermon was not the subject of a bad report itself, but rather on the nonexistent value of having faith in ourselves and the consequences it has had on our society, I thought that the subject of a bad report is something well worth discussing, since it does represent one of the ways in which dissatisfaction is communicated. And it is clear that while the bad majority report of the spies concerning the state of Canaan is to be condemned, bad reports themselves are not condemned wholesale and at times reveal the righteousness of the person giving the bad report.
For me, at least, the most interesting of the bad reports given was that of Joseph against some of his brothers in Genesis 37:2b-4: “Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.” It’s easy to understand why it was that Joseph’s brothers couldn’t speak peaceably to him, because he was a snitch. But is that a bad thing? To be sure, Joseph’s snitching on his brothers and the fact that he was (understandably) viewed as a favorite by his father is what pushed his brothers to threaten to kill Joseph and to eventually sell him into slavery, but it was that which eventually led him to become second-in-command over all of Egypt. The same integrity that led Joseph to be hated by his brothers, who were not very good people, we must note, is what led him to eventually be capable of ruling well.
There are implications here that we would do well to ponder. When we look at many of the imprecatory psalms as snitching as well and examine what is said in Genesis 18:20-21 , it is clear that bad reports are a significant matter in scripture, however it is that we view them. And while it may seem as if the knowledge of God does not require an outcry or bad report being made, the fact that someone makes an outcry or gives God a bad report of bad doings puts them on the side of the righteous. It is the same as those who snitch against evildoers. If our sympathies are against snitches, it suggests that they are against the authorities that are being snitched to. And if one is hostile to God being told about the wrongdoing of the world, then it suggests that we are not in fact righteous and do not in fact have the right standards or the right sort of attitude towards God. A bad report is only a bad thing if we are bad people doing bad things. That this is often the case is lamentable but all too true.
But when it comes to bad reports, much depends on our own attitude and how it matches up with reality. One of the students in my class seemed to think that it was improper for an adult to be snooping on her behavior in class. This student would do well to know that there can be no expectation of privacy when it comes to one’s behavior at any sort of church activity. Indeed, that is for the best, because secrecy in such a place is only worthwhile when one is doing things that need to be hidden because they are bad. For anything that one is doing that is proper and appropriate, one wants and even welcomes the awareness of others. The fact that someone would think that people looking into a classroom through a window was snooping makes no sense, but it does demonstrate that someone needs to pay attention to the fact that public places allow someone to make a bad report, which is something that one should never forget, and even embrace.
 Genesis 18:20-21 says: “And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”