Peninsula Community Church
June 9, 2013
James – Speaking Evil Against One Another
James 4:11-12 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?
As we look at this passage, we see that James deals with a serious issue in the church. As in the church today, James was dealing with the subject of speaking evil against one another. This is the one sin that does nor receive much attention in the church and yet it is so rampant. Let me begin by asking you a few questions. How has critical, accusing, hostile and defaming words effected you? What about when someone has used the truth but used it in such a way that defames or lessens the view of another? When this occurred what happened to your heart? What happened to the relationship?
Slander is an issue that effects personal relationships and the unity of the church. The fact is critical judgement and slander brings division and broken fellowship. Slander and evil speaking results in division and broken fellowship in our lives and in the church. It has the unintended consequence of giving the enemy of our souls a doorway to bring division and destruction. This issue is a relational and it is an unity issue.
Notice the words used here. James uses the words “one another,” “brothers,” and “neighbor.” Would you underline these words this morning? Notice that these are relational terms. The fact is when one speaks evil of another the impact is felt in the relationships we have.
James uses two words to define this issue. They are slander and speak against. To understand these terms let’s take a moment to define them. The term “slander” not only means to say something that is untrue but it also means to speak a truth in a way that belittles or puts another down. James notes here that it is not so much a fact of speaking as it is the fact of judging another’s motives. That s the real issue here.
Listen to what the Psalmist had to say about this matter. Psalm 50:19-21 “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
And then the writer of Proverbs says in Proverbs 11:12-13. Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
The second term “speak against” is a compound word that means to speak of a person in a manner that the impression of the person is less than when you began to speak. The term means to accuse another. It is to speak with hostility. This can be subtle but its goal is to always position another lower than the one speaking. The idea of this term notes a lack of morality and of ethicalness in its usage. The idea is that while some things may be true it does not mean that there are to be discussed with anyone but the party who is in question. To do so is otherwise considered gossip. The fact is that sharing even the truth with another does not allow an opportunity for one to resolve the issues presented.
James addresses the issue of slanderous speech. Slanderous speech is that speech which has an intent to hurt and harm others. It is a deliberate attempt to call attention to the fault of others while minimizing the virtues of others. One writer stated that slanderous speech is aimed at eroding the character of our brother or sister through thoughtless, careless, critical derogatory speech against another.
Jesus was clear about the fact that by the judgement we give we will also be judged by that same judgement. The balancer of our lives is found in the promise that we will be judged by our actions and our lifestyle. Too often when we are critical and judgmental toward others God is placing his finger on the pulse of our hearts to let us know that we are wrong and have issues that need to be addressed. The Pharisees were know for their incessant appetite to judge others while hiding their own sin and shortcomings from the populace.
There are three gates through which we ought to require an evil tale to pass before we pass it on. In the first place, Is it true? In the second place, Is it necessary? In the third place, Is it kind? There are few evil reports which can stand the test of those three gates: Is it true? Is it necessary that it be repeated? Is it kind? Christ says that in the day of judgment we shall all give an account of the words that we have spoken. How careful, then, we ought to be, and how we ought to take heed to our ways, that we sin not with our tongue. Who wants to know, in the day of judgment, that instead of helping another he hurt him and wounded him?
Chip Ingram says that he believes that there are three degrees of slanderous speech that take place: casual conversation, prayer request and counseling or information gathering. First degree slander is slander and judgement that takes place in causal conversation. It is often an unconscious act on our part. We do this without thinking. It happens something like this. Can you believe the outfit “Justine” had on last Sunday? I would not be caught dead in that outfit. Can you believe the tattoos on that young man? That looks hideous. Why does she have to sleep during the service? That is so rude. If I were the teacher I would do things a lot different. If I were the boss I would not let that happen. All of these are in reality comments that serve to put others down while elevating ourselves. It is also the comments made without the insight to one’s motive. For example, perhaps the young woman who is sleeping in church just got off of the late shift and felt she wanted to be in service that Sunday rather than go home and sleep.
Ingram suggests that second degree slander comes in the form of prayer requests. We share a prayer request with someone but in the process we share much more information than we need to and then we add our personal commentary to the request. Sometimes these conversations begin with “I shouldn’t say anything but…” If you begin a conversation with that statement or have that thought in your mind, then you probably should not say anything at all. When we add commentary to a prayer request, we usually do not know the truth so what we add is based on surmising and false reasoning.
He suggests that third degree slander comes in the form of needing counsel or for the purpose of information gathering. In this state, we tend to frame the issues from our perspective. We use the opportunity to get ahead of the problem particularly if you know that you will be uncovered or you will not like the outcome of the results. This is a means to control. We begin by defining the problem and the person and often we do so in a way that we present ourselves as the victim and in the process we uncover the other person.
In addition, we often slander others because we are not taking responsibility for our lives. This internal conversation may go something like this. If they were a better person then my life would be better. If the pastor, my spouse, my boss, my friends, my children and so on would do more for me then my life would be better and I would be in the place I need to be. It is a form of shifting blame away from our own shortcomings to point put the issues in others.
To slander, speak against or judge another we purport to know the motive, the heart and the reason behind what another might do. We are in essence presenting a case where we act as if we know more than we should or that is possible for us to know. I have know cases where people have judged others and when the truth was revealed they were embarrassed because they were speaking falsehoods and half truths.
The problem with slander is that we build ourselves up and put another down. Let me say this. It may get someone angry with me. There are people who say I can’t talk to a particular person so I will talk with you because they will not listen or what other excuse may be given. The fact is that this action is contrary to scripture in that the bible says that if have a fault against someone we are to go to that person. It doesn’t say go to someone else if you think they will not listen or you do not want to hurt that person. You are surmising the outcome and in fact those things may be true but the Bible also provides a remedy for such action.
Matthew 18:15-20 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
As we close this let us remember that we need to guard our tongues and guard what we say because of the nature of slander to wound others, bring division and bring destruction.