James 4:11-12 KJV
11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
Now James turns back to the tongue that we talked about so extensively in chapter 3. He admonishes us here to not speak evil of one another. As we take a look into the Greek about what this means it is actually talking about slandering someone else or doing something to harm their reputation. It is obvious that God frowns on this and yet it is so prevalent in our society that we almost don’t give it a second thought anymore.
You can look at the political atmosphere and see how often people slander one another. It is an ongoing thing and when we see those in power doing it it seems to give us license to be able to say what we want to about other people as well. To me slander takes in gossip and backbiting and complaining about somebody else’s behavior to someone other than them. All of these things ruin someone’s reputation.
How often have you known someone who will give you their negative opinion about a person before you haven’t even been able to form your own opinion. I hear it happening all the time around me and I do my best to stay above the fray, but quite often I fall into it as well. Sometimes it’s because we say we want to protect another person from getting too close to someone, or it could be because we have had a very negative experience with someone and don’t want somebody else to go through the same thing. We consider it a warning to help somebody else, but are we not saying things that will ruin someone’s reputation when we do this?
James has it right. When we bring negative thoughts to somebody else about a person it is the same as judging that person. We have made an opinion and we are sharing it with somebody else – it is our judgment abut that person. James says we should not be in that position as God is the only judge that matters. We have a tendency to judge people on what we see and what we hear and then we share that, whether we have seen the whole story or heard the whole story. We do not take time to look into the truth behind the actions.
God judges by the heart. Unless we can truly know somebody else is hard we have no right to make any kind of judgment about them to someone else. We have no right to tell somebody else about a problem we’ve had with one person or another. We have no right to slander the reputation or put down another person in front of somebody other than the person we have the problem with.
The Bible is very explicit – if we have a problem with our brother we should go to them first. I’ve always heard that if I have a problem with someone I should only share it with somebody who can do something about it. That would be that person themselves. If I share that problem with my wife or somebody else in the congregation most likely they can’t do anything about it, and then others are aware of the problem that don’t need to be aware. Only the person that I have the problem with can fix the situation so that’s the only person that I should be talking to.
I’ll take you back to a verse that we have used before. Ephesians 4:29 says that no corrupt communication should proceed out of our mouth but only that which will edify the other person. Why is it that it is so hard for us to live buy this simple verse? Why is it that we can use this scripture and that scripture against a brother or sister when they are doing things that are unscriptural, but we can’t take this scripture and apply it to our own lives? Why can’t we make sure that we’re not saying anything harmful but only those things which are edifying? Why can’t we be more kind and gentle in our speech about other people?
I had a problem with a good friend recently. His language has been continually deteriorating and I just couldn’t bear to hear some of the words that he was saying over and over again. But I did not say anything to my wife or to other friends. I went directly to him and told him unless he could clean it up, I just could not talk to him for a while. We talk almost daily so this was a tough thing to say. The easier road would be for me to put up with it and just complain to my wife or others that this was happening. But that would have no affect on the situation. He was somewhat receptive, but said we would not talk for a while. I miss him, but hope that it will do some good in the end.
How much better this world would be if we would follow this simple biblical advice in James 4:11-12? One person at a time, we can make a difference. Let us strive to be the uplifting voice in the crowd.