Summary: A judgemental attitude can only be described as arrogant. It is an affront to Holy God. James warns against such attitudes, calling us to holiness.
JAMES 4:11, 12
JUDGING THE SAINTS
“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 neighbour?”
Canadian Christianity is in crisis. The reaction to this statement among most professing Christians in Canada likely would be immediate and decidedly hostile. Nevertheless, an honest appraisal of the state of the pulpit and the condition of the membership compels such a negative assessment. The pulpit is, for the most part, uninspiring and lacking in courage. Pastors are unwilling or incapable of adhering to biblical truth, fearing a board or committee more than they do God. Those occupying the pews are uncomfortable when confronted by bold prophetic preaching or with authenticity from the pulpit.
Modern Christians, priding themselves on their tolerance, are often the most judgemental people within contemporary society. Few events are more detrimental to the cause of Christ or more destructive to the work He has assigned His people than the slander and evil speech of Christians against their brothers. We haven’t changed much in the past two millennia. The Christians to whom James wrote were apparently resorting to destroying one another with their tongues. James turned from excoriating those to whom he wrote to appealing to their reason in this portion of his letter. Join me in a sobering study of James’ admonition in order to discover what pleases the Master and to equip ourselves for His good work.
THE DIVINE COMMAND — “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.” James had excoriated the believers to whom he wrote. Earlier, he had said they were adulterous [verse 4], implied they were proud [verse 6] and had called them “sinners” and “double-minded” [verse 8]. Now, his language is somewhat more conciliatory, addressing them as “brothers.” He is shifting from calls for repentance to exhortations to perform specific actions that are pleasing to God.
The first action, avoiding slanderous speech, is the focus of the message this day. Other exhortations will follow in James’ letter, and we will consider each admonition in its turn. The ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION translates the Greek term James uses by the English concept of speaking evil. The CHRISTIAN STANDARD VERSION translates the concept by our English term “criticise.” The translators for the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION rendered the Greek word as “slander.” Kenneth Wuest felt the word was best conveyed by the concept of defamation. No doubt, each of these thoughts is communicated by James’ choice of words.
Today, slander is a legal term that implies a falsehood that damages the reputation of another individual. The term James uses is broader than that, including gossip that injures another as well as demeaning someone or talking down to them! One can speak the truth about another and still put them down. Scripture requires our words to reflect love as well as truth.