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Preached at Straightway Bible Church on July 28, 2013.  Below you will find the study notes I handed out. James warns us about how incredibly evil slander and criticism is, violating God’s law of love. A must-listen message for anyone who struggles with speaking ill of other people, or being a criticizer, gossip or fault finder.

(Click here to see the entire series of “The Book of James – Practical Faith”)

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Here are the study notes:

James 4:11-12 – Speaking Evil & Slander

Brent Riggs –

  • We show our love by refusing to speak evil, even if it is merited and deserved.
  • Speaking evil can take many forms and it may even be the truth. Unkindness, gossip, questioning of their authority, undermining them, nullifying their good work etc.
  • Slander is a sin of the tongue, and sins of the tongue can be committed any time, anywhere, against any person.

Do not speak evil…

  • “do not speak evil against” means to slander or defame
  • Evil here is the idea of badmouthing, unfairly criticizing, being derogatory or slanderous.

… of one another… brethren.

  • James is giving specific instructions to Christians.

He who speaks evil and judges his brother…

  • When you speak evil in this manner, you are putting yourself in God’s place, setting yourself up as the Judge.
  • Speaking evil of others attempts to lessen their dignity, defendant character, and destroyed the reputation and standings in the eyes of others
  • Slander began in the Garden of Eden by none other than Satan himself whose common title “devil” accurately means “slander”.
  • Satan slandered God’s character and motives by insinuating that God was lying, and was hiding things that Adam and Eve had the right to know, and that what God said would happen really wouldn’t have.
  • So speaking evil against someone which is tantamount to condemning them and is a complete violation of God’s law of love which is revealed in each of the 10 Commandments:
    “you shall have no other gods” shows that love is single-minded dedicated and loyal; “you shall not make an idol” demonstrates that love is loyal to its target; “you shall not take the name of  God in vain” shows that love is respectful and reverent; “remember the Sabbath” shows that love is routine, intimate and devoted; “honor father and mother” shows love to be submissive and humble; “you shall not murder” teaches that love honors the sanctity of life and acknowledges inherent value in others based on who they are in God’s eyes; “you shall not commit adultery” expresses love is pure, something that would never defile another person or break a covenant of love; “you shall not steal” shows the nature of love as being unselfish, preferring others; “you shall not bear lie” shows that love is truthful and would never lie but wants most of all for the truth to be known; “you shall not covet” teaches us that love is unselfish and contented.
  • You are placing yourself above God’s law which is tantamount to making yourself the judge of God and man.  That is why slandering another person, especially a Believer, is so BAD.

and judges his brother…

  • The word James uses here for judge does not speak of evaluation compared to God’s word, but rather condemnation of the person
  • That kind of evil speak is truly JUDGMENTAL, the kind of judging condemned repeatedly in Scripture.

… speaks evil of the law and judges the law.

  • God’s law is the ultimate law that brings both condemnation and freedom but either way this law will be obeyed every person whether they agree with it or not, or knowledge it.
  • When you speak evil of another Christian, you set yourself up as The Law thereby insulting and diminishing God’s Law.

But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

  • Again, if you set yourself up as judge by speaking evil of your brethren, you aren’t not obeying God’s law;

There is one Lawgiver…

  • There is only one lawgiver pointing out the fact that there is only one true judge and that is God.  We use God’s standard to judge not our own; “One Lawgiver” excludes all others but God

…who is able to save and to destroy.

  • He alone can forgive and show mercy to those who have broken His Law. Or punish those who do not repent.
  • You have no right to be judge, lawgiver, or forgiver in the sense of taking God’s place.

Who are you to judge another?

  • “But who are you” is a rhetorical question. “You” is emphatic and anticipatory.  We would say “who do you think you are?”
  • God is both the source and the enforcer of his own law.
  • Do you build people up or tear them down? Do you speak words of blessing or always find the negative about people?
  • Reasons a Believer can be an evil speaker or a criticizer: Undealt with negativeness in their life; Insecurity; Immaturity; An Unrenewed Mind; Satan’s Influence
  • Train your mind to remember this: when you read you criticize someone think about God’s law of love and think of something good to say instead. Cultivating a habit of edifying others will cure you of being critical and a “fault finder”… AND it will give you the satisfaction of being good fellowship with God and obeying his law of love.