Summary: The real tragedy of talking trash is that it hurts people and damages our relationship with God. How we treat (speak of) others not only affects them, but it affects our own closeness with God.
The Tragedy of Trash Talk
James 4:11-12 11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 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?
Intro: Previously in James 4, we talked about sins of pride and selfishness taking the form of evil desires and coveting, fighting and even resorting to destroying another person to get what we want. There is more than one way to destroy a person. Certainly murder, as some of the Zealots were guilty of, destroys life. But malicious words can also destroy another person’s reputation and cause other harm in their lives.
ILL: How often do we make judgments as though we were God when we have little or no understanding of people’s motives or circumstances. A grocery store clerk once wrote to Ann Landers to complain about the people buying luxury food items with food stamps. She said these people were lazy and wasteful.
In a later column, Landers printed the response of a woman who wrote in answer to the judgmental grocery clerk.
-I’m the woman who bought the $17 cake and paid for it with food stamps. I thought the check-out woman in the store would burn a hole through me with her eyes. What she didn’t know is the cake was for my little girl’s birthday. It will be her last. She has bone cancer and will probably be gone within six to eight months. [Kelly Randolph, sermoncentral.com]
Prop: The real tragedy of talking trash is that it hurts people and damages our relationship with God.
How we treat (speak of) others not only affects them, but it affects our own closeness with God. Let’s go ahead and look at some reasons to avoid trash talk as well as some alternatives for when we are tempted to do so.
I. Reasons to avoid trash talk
1. It is taking God’s chair - an attempt to take God’s seat as Judge- it puts the other person in a place of answering to you as the Judge over them. But we can’t be judge because we cannot save them. Neither then, should we try to sentence them to rejection from others due to our dislike of them.
-Whenever we expend effort to flavor someone’s opinion of another person with bad taste, we are committing a wrong. Just to be clear, it is a sin to tarnish someone else’s reputation – even if we are only saying what it true about them. It usually is not necessary to highlight the faults and failures of another person. There might be times when you might want to steer a friend away from another person due to their dishonesty or bad business practices, but be careful how you do it. Also, make a practice of speaking directly to the person before believing everything you’ve heard about him or her! Even if it’s all true, it is possible to give a word of caution without smearing someone’s name or reputation. Be kind, sensitive, forgiving, and yes, wise. But quit taking the Judge’s seat! It is reserved for God alone!
2. It messes with your obedience (v.11- there is a sense in which it removes you from the moral obligations you have, putting you above the law.) Your job is to obey God’s truth, not be a judge over it. We can get so busy policing and judging others that we fail to obey God ourselves.
3. It damages relationships (w/ people and with God – Matthew 25- they are related- How we treat or fail to treat others is equated with how we treat God.)
4. It tarnishes a person’s name/reputation – If someone makes a mistake or even a series of mistakes in their business dealings, people will usually find out and avoid doing business with them in the future. However, you are not called to advertise against them by speaking evil against them. James refers to brothers (fellow believers) here, but he also speaks of neighbors. Jesus showed that a neighbor is anyone who needs our help, or one who gives help to the one in need.
5. It can harm a person’s sense of value- Sometimes we justify speaking evil against others because they seem to deserve it. Perhaps we think they earned it by the poor choices they made. I think the Lord would want us to ask ourselves a simple question before tearing apart another person’s character. “Does God value them?” If He does, then we should too! How do we show value and honor? By the way we speak and how we treat others. They were made in God’s image just as we were!