The Matter of Slander - Notes on James 4:11-12
The particular subject of James in James 1:36 and James 3:1-11 is the tongue. He again returns to this subject in James 4:11-12.
Based on our prior studies, it is clear that “what you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45). In James’ imperative to “not slander one another,” the heart of the problem, as one has aptly put it, “is the problem of the heart.”
The term “slander” speaks of having the intent of defaming or of falsely accusing another. Note that in 1 Peter 2:12, the apostle Peter speaks of slander by unbelievers against believers, which is to be expected, since unbelievers speak from a heart that is fallen in Adam. In contrast, James, in 4:11-12, confronts believers who are slandering fellow believers. Ponder on Matthew 7:1-5, which calls for believers to not condemn fellow believers. Rather, believers should love one another, for “by this all people will know” that they belong to Christ (John 13:34-35).
James reasons, quite aptly, that a believer ought not to speak evil of or judge another believer because “[t]he 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?” (4:11b-12 ESV). (With respect to the “law,” see James 2:8 referring to the “royal law.”)
If God, THE one lawgiver and judge, has not condemned the believer He has redeemed, how can we who are recipients of His mercy condemn another? Ponder on Romans 8:1-2.
“Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Eph. 4:25). Consider the numerous verses that call for believers to be kind to, forgive, give preference to, and love “one another.”
For reflection: How are we as believers? Is our love for one another genuine? Is it such a love that others know that we are the disciples of Christ?
For further study: check the Holy Scriptures if there is any context in which a believer is called to judge. Put another way, is judgement wrong at all times or are there instances when we should judge others?
Listen to the sermon here.