11Brothers, 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. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)
James returns to the issue of the tongue, our speech. He spent one whole chapter (ch 3) talking about the destructiveness of our words and now he returns to the topic here. Obviously this was an issue among believers in James’ day. Things haven’t changed much in 2000 years!
Death and life are in the power of the tongue… (Proverbs 18:21).
It is our mouth that often gets us into trouble…and ruins relationships.
Brothers, do not slander one another. Even though we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we can still do damage to one another with our words. The word “slander” is the Greek word, katalaleo (laleo, to speak + kata, against), and it refers to any kind of attacking, critiquing, or blaming speech.
Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. Interesting. James’ basic argument is that as soon as we start critiquing another person, we set ourselves above them (as their judge) and also above the law. God tells us to guard our tongue, love our brother, and speak blessing not cursing (1 Peter 3:9). And we say, “But Lord, in this case, I personally have an exemption. Your law does not apply to me here. I see this one clearly. I know that I am righteous and objective and have the right to pass judgment on this other person.”
You know what drives us crazy? When someone thinks that they are above the law. When they think that the rules do not apply to them. Ever stand behind someone in the 10 Item Express Lane who has 25 objects in their basket? And they casually unload them on the conveyor belt as if to say, “I know I am over the limit but I don’t care. And just to show you I don’t care, I am going to go slow too.”
Well, James says that whenever you critique/blame/attack another person, “Thou art the man (or the woman)!” We are not only breaking the law but we are acting as if we stand above it too.
But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? Our words show our arrogance. We are not the judge…nor the lawgiver. We do not stand above the law…nor above others.
I think that is why James will say later on, Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (5:16a). It is only when I realize that I am a sinner, that I fall short, that I blow it, that I mistreat others, that I fail to love as Christ loves, that I need forgiveness…it is only when I live in that awareness that I will truly encourage and love my brother in Christ and bring healing to my relationships.
Ironically it is the broken man or woman who brings wholeness to others.
Lord, forgive me when I am quick to criticize, quick to judge, quick to justify myself and blame others. May my words bring life to those I meet today.