“Do not speak evil against one another brothers.” James 4:11
I remember watching a story on Dateline about an EMT up in Boston who had only one arm.
It was amazing watching her go about her business, picking up stretchers, getting people into wheelchairs, she did it all; but you know, what was even more amazing was that to her, it wasn’t even a big deal. She was so used to only having one arm that she didn’t even really think about it; she just went about doing her job.
I think that’s the way some of us are with the way we speak. We’ve got a major problem…you might say we are “missing an arm”, but we don’t even notice. We’ve been talking a certain way for years. We’re so used to it, we’re not even aware of we have a problem.
It’s just who we are.
Take this command here in James. This is one of those sins that is such a common sin many of us do it without even realizing we are doing it. We speak against others all the time, but we don’t even think of it as speaking against others because it’s just the way we normally speak.
I thought we might take the next couple blogs to think about exactly how we fail to obey James’ command in the way we speak.
We speak evil against others when we speak words that are intended to hurt, not help.
When you speak against someone your words are like soldiers that you send out to war. The term James uses literally means to speak down on. When you speak down on someone what are you doing? You are speaking to crush them, to hurt them, to punish them, to pummel them, to put them in their place.
When our words are motivated by hatred rather than love, when are words are motivated by a desire to tear others down instead of a desire to build them up, when our words are motivated by a desire to hurt others and nto to help them, we can know for sure, we are doing just what James warns against. We’re speaking against each other.
We speak evil against others when we speak words that are produced by pride not humility.
You’ll notice in the second part of verse 11, James expands his thought…”He who speaks against his brother, or judges his brother…” When we speak against others we are setting ourselves up as judge.
Some people get a little confused here, they use these verses as an excuse. Somebody confronts them in their sin and they say, “who are you to judge me?” But that’s not what James is talking about. It’s not wrong to confront in their sin. We’re commanded to do so. Check out Galatians 6. God doesn’t call us to be spiritual Barneys going around with plastic smiles ignoring reality. It’s not wrong to confront. It’s not even wrong to be passionate about the way we confront. Just listen to John the Baptist speaking to the Pharisees, “You brood of vipers…” Or perhaps Paul, “You foolish Galatians…” Or how about Philippians 3:2, “Beware of the dogs…” Or take Jesus, speaking to Peter, “Get behind me Satan…”
When James talks about not speaking against others or judging others he’s not talking about lovingly dealing with someone’s sin; he’s not talking about closing your eyes to reality; he’s not talking about humbly going to someone and dealing with a sin issue.
Really at a fundamental level, he’s talking about selfish speech, speech that has one purpose, to make you look good and others look bad. He’s talking about speech that flows out of heart filled with pride, speech that comes from a person who is looking down on others, and thinks he has the right to make disparaging comments about them because he is so much better than they are.
I want to get more specific in the next couple days about exactly how we go about doing that, but first we’ve got to start in a more general way and look at what motivates our words. Why am I saying what I am saying? Are my words motivated by pride or humility?