Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, 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 only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
James 4:11-12 ESV
Have you ever said things that you should not have against a fellow believer? What was the outcome of your words? Did you feel better after speaking those words?
In James 3:1-12, we read that the tongue, though small, has great power and we ought to discipline our tongues because of the evil that sprouts from our mouths. James recognised that much of the evil and sin in the human heart manifests in the words. Hence in chapter 4 verses 11 and 12, James returns to the theme of evil in the form of slandering.
At first glance, it seemed that these verses were speaking about judging people but a careful look will tell us that the emphasis is about "speaking evil against another brother." But how is speaking evil or slandering on others similar to judging others?
It is the attitude that we apply when we speak of people. In the context of James, he was warning that no one assumes that he was more superior than the other, rather they were to be humble before God and submit to him. But when we do not submit to God, we assume the position of judge. Slandering is an act of evil not only because its intent is to harm and hurt others, but because it puts us in a position of power which belongs to God alone.
Slandering comes from an inward attitude of pride that considers others lesser than ourselves. Hence, when someone slanders another, he is making himself a judge - an evil judge. James warns us that such an attitude is evil and an affront to God who is the only Judge - who is holy and righteous.
Friends, did you slander a fellow believer lately? Did you speak evil toward them whether in secret or in public? Jesus said that the evil and sin that comes out of the mouth comes from the heart (Matt. 12:24).
Today, we must learn to submit ourselves to God and be humble before him, recognising that we are no greater than another. In doing so, in our humble state we will not have the attitude of superiority, rather in humility speak life to one another.
May the Holy Spirit help us to be humble before God so that we may speak life and praise. Amen.