“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”
James now turns from personal and interpersonal conflict to the subject of putting self above others in 4:11-12. Verse 11 begins with a command followed by a reason for the command.
It is one thing to humble ourselves before God (4:10), and it is another to put ourselves above fellow Christians.
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren.
James now returns to the sin of the tongue. We “speak evil of one another” when we disparage or down other Christians. The words “speak evil” mean to defame, to denigrate, to slander. Slander is a division of malice, a desire to hurt someone. In this case, we hurt others with our mouths.
The Greek word for “speak evil” comes from two words: down and to speak. Speaking evil means to speak down about someone, to speak derogatorily about him. The New Testament uses this word only here and in 1 Peter 2:12; 3:16.
Denigration of fellow believers assumes a superior position over them.
When we denigrate others, we assume a superior position over them. We view ourselves higher than they are and protract a low estimate of them. We camouflage this attitude with self-righteousness making it difficult to detect at times, “I will pray for them in their awful state.” In the final analysis, criticizing others elevates us over others. It makes us feel good that we are better than they are.
Finding fault with other Christians is a sin that goes to church because many Christians tolerate it. They do not view it with the insidiousness that it is.
We slander others in several ways:
1) We slander by blatant false accusation. Diotrephes maligned the apostle John. Religious leaders spoke evil of Jesus. The devil is the accuser of Christians (Re 12:10).
2) We slander others by exaggerations of faults that are true of them. We make people worse than they are by these distortions.
3) We can also slander others by the needless repetition of true faults. True love covers the faults of others. As the old adage goes, “if we cannot say something good about someone – say nothing.”
1 Pe 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’.”
We should not elevate ourselves by putting others down because no one has a high opinion of a negative, faultfinding, critical person. This kind of person not only hurts the one spoken about, but also the person spoken to, as well as him (her) self.
Pr 18:8, “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles,
And they go down into the inmost body.”
Eph 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”