Do Not Speak Evil!
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Do not slander…
Kataleo: to speak ill of. Speak evil about.
Think about the fights and quarrels mentioned in the previous section!
James has told us to deal with our hands, our hearts and our minds.
Wash hands, purify hearts, double minded…
Now he returns to our words, specifically our words toward others.
Let’s unpack this issue:
- Why Do We Speak Ill of Other People?
- Reasons to speak against other people
- We may be feeling insecure/ it makes us look better.
- They hurt or threaten us/ self-defense or revenge
- They disappoint us/ we are getting them back
- We bond over hard things that happen to us/ others like it
- We are competing for affection, attention or acclaim
- They deserve a balanced opinion
- We are jealous
- What does speaking ill of others accomplish?
- Makes us feel better
- Brings others into fellowship with us
- Balances the scales
- Treat others as you would like to be treated
- Can others speak against you? Are you ever annoying or disappointing to people?
- Is this the way that you would like to have your reputation managed? Jealousy and or gossip?
- Matthew 5 in the section about murder and respect Jesus says this:
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
- Our Words and the Law of God
We are comparing the power to judge in a real or meaningful way.
- God’s law judges all people
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
The law of God is a reflection of His character. We will all be judged by God as the Judge. And the standard that will determine our guilt or innocence is His law. This is why Jesus addresses this directly in the SOM.
Matthew 5: 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
And then Jesus addresses the law specifically:
Murder: it’s more than not ending another person’s life.
Adultery: It’s more than just physical. It has to do with managing desire.
Lying: Let your words be yes and no.
Loving Neighbor: Loving enemies because God loves enemies because we are created in God’s image.
You must be as perfect as God.
- Our words judge us
Matthew 12: 33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
James 2: 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
- Our words do not judge others
There is only one lawgiver and judge.
So, when we judge or condemn other people it is a veiled criticism of God. We think God is not doing things rightly!
Jesus hung on the cross. The people at the foot of the cross are mocking Him. “If He is the Son of God, let Him come down from there and save Himself.” This is the worst statement in all of human history.
Jesus says: “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
It may just be that we will have to find ourselves in a similar position. Do we believe that God is at work?
III. God as Judge and Lawgiver
- God is the only Creator
God as Lawgiver and therefore Judge is fundamental to the fact that He created all that there is and He has an expectation for His creation. Like an artist who has the right to destroy or change what they do not like in their artwork, God alone has this right.
When we judge others or when we condemn others, we decide for God how people are to be treated. Now, we must judge behavior, but that is different. It may seem like splitting hairs, but there is a real distinction.
We are created in the image of God and have the drive for truth and judgement as a part of us. But to recognize and proclaim truth is does not mean to condemn other people. What do I mean?
- God has gone to great lengths to save
II Peter 3: 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.
II Peter 3: 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
- We must align our desires with God’s
For our own lives to make sense, we have to be about sharing the gospel with other people. This makes sense of our suffering. Whether or not we are sharing the gospel with others, the reason that others are not currently judged by God is that He is allowing space for repentance. This is the primary purpose of our age.
Hebrews 12: 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Revelation 5: 6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.
7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
Rather than speak ill of others, we need to call them to follow Jesus in order that they might have life!