Yesterday we looked at what it means to speak against others.
Why do we speak evil against others?
We speak against others because we think we know better than God’s law.
“He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law…”
When you slander someone, when you gossip, when you criticize, you are setting yourself up as judge over them. That means you are saying I know enough, or I have the right to say that what you are doing is wrong or not good.
Most of us understand that. That much is obvious.
Think about the last conversation you had where you were criticizing someone.
“I can’t believe they said that. I mean who are they to come in there and look at me like that. They think they are so good. They think they are so much better than me. I wish I could just tell them what I really thought of them.”
What are you really saying? I know the right thing to say. You didn’t say it. I deserve much better than how you treated me. I know what you were thinking. I can read your mind and discern your motives. And I don’t think your motives are good.
You are setting yourself up as judge, jury and executioner.
What most of us don’t realize is that when we speak against others, we are not only speaking against others, and we’re not just judging others.
We are also speaking against God’s law, and we are also judging God’s law.
When you slander someone else, you are disobeying God’s law, you are showing disregard for God’s standards, and you are saying you don’t need to obey it.
You see God is King. And He explains in Scripture how He wants us to speak. Our words are not our own. God has a mission for our mouths. That mission is found all throughout Scripture, but it’s summed up for us in Leviticus 19.
Listen to how Moses puts it, “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord. You shall not hate your fellow countrymen in your heart, you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
God has been so good to us. He’s shown His love to us in amazing ways. But we’re not only to be recipients of God’s love. God is saying here, He wants us to be agents of that love. Which means we’re not free to talk however we want to talk. Our King commands us to speak words that are motivated by love.
And so when we don’t do that, when we speak against our brother or judge our brother, we’re not only saying bad things about him, we’re saying bad things about God’s law. We’re not only saying we are better than our brother, we’re also saying we know better than God. We know more than He does. We don’t have to obey His laws. We don’t have to do things His way. We are excused. God says don’t, I say do, that’s it, end of story. I’m breaking God’s law.
You see, James sums it up at the end of verse 11, “But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.”
If you slander your neighbor, you slander God’s law and if you slander God’s law that means you are not obeying it. And by not obeying God’s law you are making a statement. You are saying, you can live by your own standards. And what’s that? Pure, unabashed pride.
Do you see that?
When you slander others you are not just saying something about them. You are saying something about God’s law. You don’t have to obey it.
Imagine a guy whose driving his car and refuses to stop at red lights. He just keeps driving on the wrong side of the road, and never keeps within the speed limit. That’s guy is dangerous. He will kill someone. He is also utterly contemptuous of the law of the land.
Or think about a soccer-player who picks up the ball in his hands and runs with it ruins the game, and also is despising the rule-book.
Or perhaps think about a soldier who gets up when he feels like and won’t go on maneuvers and says to the sergeant “Well, that’s your opinion.” That guys is going to end up in a cell. He also belittles the army code.
If it’s foolish and dangerous for a motorist…how much more for us to disregard God’s law. Geoffrey Thomas explains, “Now, those are just human laws and codes, but this royal law is the written by the finger of God. So all slander hurts your brother or disparages your neighbour, but also it dismisses the Word of God. In that great day God will say to you, “You sat in judgment on my word, and you condemned it. You spoke against my word.” And you will say “When, Lord? When did I speak against your word and judge it?” And God will say, “When you ran down Bill Jones and Mary Smith. When you sat in your kitchen with that telephone in your hand and said those cruel things against them so harshly, it was then you were sitting in judgment on me and on my words. Depart from me ye cursed into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” When you judge the law the law will judge you. The law is given to us to obey, not to be despised.”
What would you think of a person who went around saying, ‘God’s law is stupid. I don’t have to obey it. I don’t need to waste my time listening to it?’ And what would you think if he called himself a Christian?
Yet that’s just what we are doing when we slander our brothers. We’re saying we know more than God’s law.
So do you see how pitiful you are when you go around gossiping about others? You are going out and you are saying, I can’t believe what so and so did, I mean can’t believe the things they said, and how they acted. And when you do that you are acting like you are so holy, like you have the right to be their judge. When in reality by the very act of slandering while you are criticizing them for breaking God’s law you at the same time are arrogantly breaking God’s law. It’s kind of like a guy who is just drenched in mud pointing at another guy and mocking him because he’s drenched in mud. Doesn’t make sense.
All this nasty talk, this slander, this speaking against others, this hypercritical spirit, it is a symptom. A symptom of what? A symptom of blind and foolish pride. We think we know better than God.
You’d think that be enough.
But we will see tomorrow, James gets even more intense.