Slander, Judging, and the Lawgiver – James 4:11-12

Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of 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, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? James 4:11-12

In our text, James continues from where he began in chapter 3:1, on the topic of wisdom in speech. Here in verses 11-12 of chapter 4, he continues to address speech, in particularly, slander (speaking evil), judging, and standing in the place of the Lawgiver, who is God. The original Greek word in verse 11 for “speak evil” or can mean unjustified speech which taken along with the following word judges or condemns carries the idea of slander. The words can also refer more broadly to any destructive attack, gossip, or accusation – hence there are various ways to translate this word: slander, speaking evil, criticize, or backbite. James exhorts (commands) the brethren “Do not slander one another, brethren.” This is consistent with the command of Leviticus 19:16 which prohibits slander “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.”

James goes further declaring “He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the l aw 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, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? How does one who slanders and condemns others judge the law? Most likely James is pointing to the law summarized by Jesus in Matthew 22:36-39 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When you slander, speak evil, and backbite you do not love the brethren. You are actually condemning your brother or sister and standing in the place of the Lawgiver Himself Jesus Christ.

Lord willing we’ll look closely at reasons that one might slander, speaks evil against another, or judge another, as we open the text. This is a sin that many fall into, some without even realizing they are doing it! There are ways, times, and places to correct a brother or sister who errs in this way; there may even come a time when it becomes necessary remove a person from the church fellowship because of this very sin. But whatever is done to correct, all is to be done in love with the hope of turning the brother or sister around.

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