Slander [noun]: words falsely spoken that damage the reputation of another.
I believe Scripture speaks for itself many times, so most of this blog consists scripture. I will do my best to clear up any questions with more biblical answers. This is an area where I, and probably most of humankind, constantly struggles with.
All sin is evil and results in death, and this particular sin seems to go unnoticed and sometimes justifiable (in our eyes), but God has different standards than that of our wicked hearts.
As I read this verse, it was very clear to me. It almost seemed to shout out to me. If you’re anything like me, you love to talk. You can see that by how long its taking for me to get to the main point (so much for short and simple). But seriously, God made His point clearly and without refraining anything.
“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The 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.” James 4:11
Now, as I read this it was very clear, no doubt, but I had some questions…
Aren’t we supposed to judge righteously, for God commands Christians to be discerning, to rebuke, to exhort? I pulled out my John MacArthur study bible and read this commentary:
“speak evil. This means to slander or defame. James does not forbid confronting those in sin, which is elsewhere commanded in Scripture (Matt. 18:15-17; Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 4:14; Col. 1:28; Titus 1:13; 2:15; 3:10). Rather, he condemns careless, derogatory, critical, slanderous accusations against others (Pss. 50:20; 101:5; 140:11; Prov. 10:18; 11:9; 16:28; 17:9; 26:20; Rom. 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20; Eph. 4:31; 1 Tim. 3:11; 2 Tim 3:3; Titus 2:3; 3:2).
speaks evil of a brother…speaks evil of the law. Those who speak evil of other believers set themselves up as judges and condemn them. They thereby defame and disregard God’s law, which expressly for bids such slanderous condemnation.
judges the law. By refusing to submit to the law, slanderers place themselves above as its judges.”
So, God is not telling us to be blind, to not judge a person’s fruit. We are to be discerning, and rebuking in love. However, when we carelessly butcher up someone’s reputation, or quickly accuse a believer, we set ourselves up as Judges, and condemn.” 1
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my words. What effect they have on people! You have the power to change someone’s attitude and mood by the words you say. That is why we as Christians must not become a slave to sin, a slave to a quick temper (Prov. 14:17). The born-again believer does not anger easily, but humbly turns the other cheeks, or accepts it (Prov. 15:18; 16:32; Eph. 4:31; Jas. 1:20; Gal. 5:22). Let us be quick to listen to slow to speak (James 1:19).
But why? Why does it really matter? Won’t we be judged only by our actions? There are several reasons. Just the chapter before, James addresses the tongue,
“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” James 3:5-12
I do not think there needs to be any explanation. James is very clear to what the tongue can do. And if you noticed, it says in verse 8,
“….but not human being can tame the tongue.”
It is not an act of our own “goodness”, but this control of the tongue only comes from God, for only God, not man can tame such a restless, unruly evil.
Secondly, Matthew tells us that we will give an account for our words,
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37.
Words reveal the state of the heart, and if all that comes out of our mouth is slander, we should ask God to examine our hearts and make it clean before Him. Remember, a good tree bears good fruit.
And thirdly, the Bible tells us to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord. There is no love when we slander each other,
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (NASB).
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 1 John 13:25
If you struggle with this sin, like I do, I earnestly ask you to pray and seek the Lord, that He may grant you freedom from this sin. All we have to do is ask Him (Matt. 21:22). God overcame the world, and he defeated death. We have His spirit dwelling inside us, and because we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness, we overcome temptation and sin.
1. MacArthur, John. “James 4:11.” The MacArthur Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2010. 1882-883. Print.