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Summary: James answers the question: Is it wrong to be critical or judgmental of other Christians if what you say is true? If so, what’s wrong with it?

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James answers the question: Is it wrong to be critical or judgmental of other Christians if what you say is true? If so, what’s wrong with it?

“Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another” (James 4:11, 12)?

A man once wrote, I overheard my mother passing along to my father a newsy tidbit, concerning a neighbor. “You know you shouldn’t repeat stories about others,” I said with mock seriousness. “That makes you a gossip.” “I’m not a gossip!” she snapped back. “I’m a news analyst.” (James J. Saunders in Reader’s Digest)

Katalaleo = “Do not speak down on one another,” or “do not speak against one another.” James is forbidding any speech (whether it is true of false) which runs down another person. Many people think it is okay to tell negative information if it is TRUE. Passing on damaging truth seems like a moral duty.

To help believers control their tongues and avoid slander, James exposes four errors of talking about people.

1. What we say about our brother demonstrates our thoughts of others.

2. What we say about our brother demonstrates our thoughts of the law.

3. What we say about our brother demonstrates our thoughts of the law giver.

4. What we say about our brother demonstrates our thoughts of ourselves.

What we say about our brother demonstrates our thoughts of others

James 4:11a “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother. . .”

The threefold repetition brethren. . . brother. . . brother reminds us of the family relationship we share with other Christians. Slander is the antithesis of what is expected and acceptable in a family whose members are to love, support, and protect each other. While Christians are to expect slander from outside the church, slander within the church is unacceptable. “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal 5:15).

Closely associated with the sin of slander is that of being judgmental. Thus, after cautioning his readers not to speak against one another, James commandingly warns the one who is judging his brother to stop. Krinô (judges) does not refer to evaluation , but to condemnation.

The first step in avoiding the sin of slander is not keeping one’s lips sealed, but in keeping one’s thoughts about others right.

We will never become a church that effectively reaches out to those who are missing out if we shoot our wounded and major on the minuses. Instead of being fishers of men, as Christ has called us, we will be keepers of an ever-shrinking aquarium. Next fall when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying along in V formation, you might be interested in knowing what science has discovered about why they fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. (Christians who share a common direction and a sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.)

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. (If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed the same way we are going.) When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. (It pays to take turns doing hard jobs—with people at church or with geese flying south.) The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. (What do we say when we honk from behind?) Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by a shot and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly, or until he is dead, and then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with their original group. (If people knew we would stand by them like that in church, they would push down these walls to get in.) You see, all we have to do in order to attract those who are missing back to church is to demonstrate to the world that we have as much sense as geese here at church. That seems little enough price to pay to win the lost and minister to one another. Even geese have sense enough to know it works every time. —James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 125-126.

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