James 4: 11 – 12

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters.  Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy.  So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

James has just written about deep spiritual truths regarding friendship with the world and the necessity of drawing near to God.  Now he turns briefly to some very practical matters that cause damage among communities of believers.  And first on that list is slander.

The Greek used here is katalalein.  This is a word made up of two parts.  The prefix means against and the main part of the verb means to speak. To speak against someone, to slander them … a situation so common to the human being and a situation condemned throughout Scripture.  Hear a few …

When speaking against the wicked, God says in Psalm 50:20  ”You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son.”

God also said in Psalm 101:5 “Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure.”

When describing the unredeemed world, Paul says of them in Romans 1:29 – 30 … “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, … “  (That’s terrifying company, no?)

Paul is also afraid that he will find this sin when he visits the church in Corinth.  He writes in 2 Corinthians 12:20  “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be.  I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”

Peter also condemns this horrific activity of humans when he writes in 1 Peter 2:1  ”Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”

It’s horrible.  It’s in the world.  It’s not of God.  It’s titillating.  We like to do it but don’t like to be the recipients of it.  We play like it’s not really a big deal.  It’s even prevalent in our churches.  ”Speaking against” another.  Satan wins a victory when we just can’t resist a tidbit of gossip.

From Williams Barclay:

This is a much-needed warning.  People are slow to realize that there are few sins which the Bible so unsparingly condemns as the sin of irresponsible and malicious gossip.  There are few activities in which the average person finds more delight than this; to tell and to listen to the slanderous story – especially about some famous person – is for most people a fascinating activity.

Have you ever wondered why God considers it such an offence?  There are two reasons … and James gives us insight into both of them:

  1. It arrogantly sets us against the law.  When people break a law knowingly, they set themselves up against that law.  They have decided that the particular law in question is not worthy of being kept … therefore they have passed judgment upon that law.  Guess what?  It’s not our job to pass judgement upon the laws of God.  The royal law of God is to love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus told a story (The Good Samaritan – Luke 10) so that we could finally understand that all humanity qualifies.  SLANDER IS NOT LOVE!   You break the law of God.  I mean, who do you think you are?
  2. It infringes upon the prerogative and position of God, Himself.  Only God can judge another person.  Only God knows the intent and structure of a heart.  No human being has any right to judge any other human being.  When we slander, we pass judgement on the person … that’s stepping into God’s domain.  I mean, who do you think you are?  DON’T GO THERE!  

Lord, place a guard on our tongues.  When we are about to say some gossipy, slanderous thing about another person, may Your Spirit rise up within us and shout into our mind, “STOP IT!  You are judging that soul!  How dare you!?!?”  Forgive us Lord for taking this matter lightly.  Forgive us for any slander we have committed against another.  And thank You for giving us yet another chance to be the people You have called us to be.