Do Not Slander One Another, Part 1

Last week we talked about encouragement and how closely encouragement is tied to love. Where love abounds, encouragement will also abound. I even gave you an assignment in my last post to help encourage you to be encouraging to one another. How many of you did that challenge? I hope that for many it provided incentive to be encouraging. I hope everyone needed to get a larger jar for the navy beans, and I hope none of you stopped because you ran out of black beans!

As much as Paul was pleased by the encouragement that was being lived out by the churches in Thessalonica, James is just as concerned with the lack of it in the recipients of his letter.

James wastes no time nor does he mince words in his letter. After a one verse greeting, he gets right down to it saying in James 1:2-4 (NIV) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. The rest of the letter unpacks how Christians should live if they as they go through life’s trails and troubles if they are going to persevere and mature.

1:9-11. The poor need to be confident of their high station in Christ, and the rich need to be humble knowing that their money is not real wealth.

1:13-18. We should not ever accuse God of tempting us.

1:19-21. We should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

1:22-2:25. It is not enough to know the Scripture, we have to live it. To know and not to do, is not to know.

3:1-17. James focuses on the power of the tongue and the great danger and damage it causes when our words are not guided and controlled by the Spirit.

4:1-6. James digs into the issues that need addressed if the tongue is ever going to be brought under control: coveting, envy, selfishness. These are the root causes of fighting, quarrelling, and verbally “killing” one another. Such motives keep us from looking to God for wisdom and provision, and stifle the effectiveness of our prayers because our motives are wrong.

4:7-10. The correction is repentance and submission to God (again, not surrender—submission!).

Then we come to the verses I wish to focus on this morning, James 4:11-12 (NIV),

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister 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. 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?

It is interesting that modern translations like the ESV and the NLT follow the KJV and the RSV rendering the Greek behind do not slander as do not speak evil. The NIV in this case I think is more precise as the Greek word literally means “to talk down or against.” In verse 11 the word occurs twice. The NIV renders the first slander and the second speak against. It means to purposely and maliciously speak against someone. Certainly slander is evil speaking, but the context of the chapter seems to focus in on a deliberate slandering of others, speaking against other people with the intent to damage their reputation for personal gain.

James gives three reasons why we should not slander one another…as if we should need reasons…

First, why would you want to slander your brothers? We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. When we slander them we slander our own family, and therefore in some sense we end up slandering ourselves when we slander others. As family we should be building up our reputations and the reputation of Christ in the eyes of others, not tearing them down.

Slander violates the Law, which is summed up as Love your neighbor as yourself. How does slander or maliciously speaking against one another follow the Law? Jesus also summed up the Law in Matthew 7:12 (NIV), So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Is being slandered ever how you want to be treated? Then how is it obeying the Law?

The words “judge” and “judging” in these verses do not mean discerning right from wrong, but being judgmental; they are not about making a judgment but about passing judgment on one another. God is the only Judge, why would we act in such a way as to put ourselves in His place?

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