Don’t speak evil against one another
Never before in the history of the world have Christians needed these exhortations as much as they need them right now. Never before has it been so easy to speak evil against each other on Twitter, Facebook, and Whatsapp. Never before has it been so easy to speak evil against each other by phone, SMS, or IM. Never before has the world been so polarized and politicized and religiouscized to speak evil against each other. As it turns out, this is not a surprise to God, and he has given us instruction in how to behave in this era.
Don’t speak evil2635 against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge2635 each other, then you are criticizing and judging2635 God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12 NLT)
- 2635. katalaleó
- (from 2596 /katá, “down, according to,” intensifying 2980 /laléō, “to prattle on”) – properly, speak down to in a hostile, deriding way; to mock (revile), detracting from someone’s reputation by “malice of speech directed against one’s neighbor” (DNTT, 4,4); to defame, slander (backbite).
• Do not slander one another (NIV)
• Do not speak against one another (NASB)
• Do not criticize each other (ISV)
• Anyone who speaks against (NIV)
• or judges his brother (NASB)
Believers, do not speak against or slander2635 one another. He who speaks [self-righteously]2635 against a brother or judges his brother [hypocritically], speaks against2635 the Law and judges the Law. If you judge the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy [the one God who has the absolute power of life and death]; but who are you to [hypocritically or self-righteously] pass judgment on your neighbor? (James 4:11-12 AMP)
What does it mean to speak evil?
Do you have a hard time admitting you are speaking evil of someone else? How about when someone else does it to you? Have any of these ever happened to you?
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong2635, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)
• they speak against you as evildoers (ESV)
• they slander you as evildoers (NASB)
keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously2635 against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:16)
• if people speak against you (NLT)
• when you are slandered (ESV)
Why is it wrong to speak evil?
(11) Speak not evil . . .—Do not “back-bite,” as the same word is translated in Romans 1:30, and 2Corinthians 12:20. The good reason why not is given in the graceful interjection “brothers.” Omit the conjunction in the next phrase, and read as follows:—
He that speaketh evil . . .—Punctuate thus: He that speaketh evil of his brother, judgeth his brother; speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law. In this way the cumulative force of St. James’s remarks is best preserved. Hearken to the echo of his Master’s words. “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). But the apostolic condemnation is in no way meant to condone a vicious life, and leave it unalarmed and self-contented; for boldness in rebuke thereof we have the example of John the Baptist. All that he reproves is the setting up of our own tribunals, in which we are at once prosecutor, witness, law, lawgiver, and judge; not to say executioner as well. Prœjudicium was a merciful provision under Roman law, and often spared the innocent a lengthier after trial; but prejudice—our word taken from it—is its most unhappy opposite. Many worthy people have much sympathy with David, in their effort to hold their tongue and keep “silence, yea even from good words;” truly it is “pain and grief” to them (Psalm 39:3). But “to take the law into one’s own hands” is to break it, and administer inequitably.–Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
Hear, fear, and do not speak evil
This is a serious crime. Consider this application of God’s law…
“If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, then both the accuser and accused must appear before the LORD by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing. You must show no pity for the guilty! Your rule should be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:16-21)
How to not speak evil against someone
The answer to this sin is love…
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
Since you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth, so that you have a genuine love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. (1 Peter 1:22)
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
Hatred stirreth up strifes, but love covereth all sins; (Proverbs 10:12)
1 Peter 4:8-9. Above all things — See that you remember the distinguishing badge of your religion and have, maintain, fervent charity, love, among yourselves — One toward another: for love shall cover a multitude of sins — It will cause us to excuse them in others, and will entitle us, through divine mercy to the expectation of forgiveness for our own numberless failings. See on James 5:20. Love covereth all things, 1 Corinthians 13:7. He that loves another covereth his faults, how many soever they be. He turns away his own eyes from them, and, as far as it is possible, hides them from others. And he continually prays that all the sinner’s iniquities may be forgiven, and his sins covered. Meantime the God of love measures to him with the same measure into his bosom. Use hospitality one to another — Ye that are of different towns or countries; without grudging — The expense which may attend the exercise of a virtue, which in present circumstances is important and necessary. Practise it with all cheerfulness.–Benson Commentary
Does this give us the excuse to live in sin?
Absolutely not, there is a vast difference between speaking evil of someone else and living in sin yourself. I have a responsibility to hear God’s word and do it. You have a responsibility to hear God’s word and do it. But, we don’t have a responsibility to self-righteously and slanderously judge what each other has heard and how they’re doing it. God is the judge. Consider…
And the LORD said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Hear the words of this covenant and do them. (Jeremiah 11:6)
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24)
If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:17)
For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. (Romans 2:13)
My conscience is clear, but that does not vindicate me. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:4)
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. (James 1:22-25)