* *You can get in a lot of trouble over what you say about other people.
A young man had just got a job in the produce department when he was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce.
He replied, “Half a head?
Are you serious?
God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!”
“You mean,” she persisted, “that after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-a-head of lettuce?”
“Look,” he said, “If you like I’ll ask the manager.”
So the young man marches to the front of the store and says to the manager “You won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.”
At this point out of the corner of his eye, he notices she’s standing right behind him, so he adds “and this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half.”
Later in the day the manager corners the young man and said, “That was the finest example of thinking on your feet I’ve ever seen!
Where did you learn that?”
“I grew up in Grand Rapids, a city known for its beautiful hockey teams and its ugly women.”
The manager’s face flushed, and he says, “My wife is from Grand Rapids!” “And which hockey team did she play for, sir?” [i]
You have to be careful about what you say about other people, not just because you may get in trouble with them, but because you may get in trouble with God.
One of the most repeated commands in the Bible deals with how we speak about others.
*Le 19:16* /You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people…/
*Ps 101:5* /Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy…/
*Pr 10:18* /…whoever spreads slander is a fool./
Yet it is perhaps one of the most ignored commands.
How much of our conversations would be significantly shortened if any and all criticism or bad-mouthing of others were edited out?
One important passage that specifically deals with the serious sin of slander is found in *James 4:11-12*.
In these verses, God warns us to be careful of what we say about each other.
Chances are, your mother warned you about the danger of slander many times.
Remember what she said?
/If you can’t say anything good about somebody, don’t say anything at all./
Once upon a time, a woman overheard a man’s conversation in which he called her a pig.
She sued him for defamation of character and won her case, and the man was ordered to pay a fine.
The man reached into his pocket and forked over the money, and then asks the judge, “So this means I cannot call Mrs. Jones a pig?”
The judge says, “That’s right.”
The defendant replied, “Does this mean I cannot call a pig Mrs. Jones?”
The judge replied no.
The man looks directly at his opponent and smiles, and says, “Good afternoon, Mrs. Jones.”
* *Other people are a popular topic of conversation, whether it’s people we know personally or people we just know about.
But when you talk about people, James warns us, you must keep in mind a very important command of God, which shows up in the first sentence.
/Do not speak evil of one another.
/ /The word James uses here which is translated /speak evil=lit., to speak against.
/It can describe literal slander, which is falsely spreading lies about someone else, or it can refer to saying something true in a harsh or unkind way.
To speak evil of your neighbor is to say anything, true or false, in an unloving way or from an unloving heart.
James goes on to elaborate in this same verse: /He who speaks evil of a brother ///*/and judges/*/ his brother… /The word /judges/ doesn’t refer to /evaluation/, but /condemnation/.
Speaking evil is speaking unloving, condemning, malicious words about a brother~/sister.
The idea here is not that you should never say anything negative about anybody.
There are times when problems must be confronted honestly, which include legitimate criticism.
One example would be in marriage, where honesty may require that you communicate your negative feelings about your spouse in order to deal with your problems.
But even then, there should be no behind the back badmouthing.
Even negative words can be said in a loving way.
But it is true that this kind of evil speech including harsh criticism, derogatory statements mean to put somebody down, or just spreading gossip that may or may not be true is wrong.
At some time, to some degree, all of us are guilty of speaking evil about somebody else, sometimes without realizing it.
It is so commonplace to be critical instead of complimentary.
There is something satisfying to our depraved nature about picking somebody apart with our words, especially if we feel threatened by them.
It is so easy to indulge in a kind of secret revenge to get together with somebody who is on “my side” and badmouth the people we don’t like.
There is a certain sinful pleasure in saying freely what we wouldn’t dare have the courage to speak to their face.
How do you know when you’ve crossed the line?
Maybe the best way to be sure is to err on the side of caution.
Somebody once came up with 3 questions to ask yourself before you say anything about someone else:
/Is it true?
/Not /This sounds true.
/Not /I heard from a reliable source.
/But do you /know /what you are about to say about your brother~/sister is true?
/Is it kind?
/Is it kind to the person being spoken about?
Is it kind to the person you are speaking to? / /
/Is it necessary?
/Will this help the person I’m talking about?
Will it help the person I’m speaking to?
What good will it do to say this about this person?
/ /That’s a good place to start!
Slander is something we should all be ashamed.
Through James’ words, the Lord is telling us very specifically */stop/*/.
Stop speaking evil of others, stop being unloving, malicious, harsh, condemning when you speak about one another.
That’s what we all ought to do with slander—get out of the habit of speaking evil of others.
Well the Lord knows we need some extra motivation, so He speaks through James to explain /why /we should take the sin of slander seriously.
He begins by telling us that whoever speaks evil of and judges your brother~/sister, also /speaks evil of the law and judges the law /(*vs.
What law is James talking about here?
The answer is found in *James 2:8* in what he calls /the royal law/.
James says that slander is an attempt to undermine God’s law and God’s authority.
/Love your neighbor as you love yourself / is God’s ultimate law governing human relationships.
It is a law that is true for all people, at all times, in all situations, as universal as the laws of physics, or the law of mathematics.
Disobeying this law is like trying to pretend 2 + 2 = 10.
When you refuse to obey this law, you can expect chaos and confusion.
Relationships won’t work the way they were intended to.
You are trying to usurp an authority that doesn’t belong to you.
But James also says that slander is an attempt to undermine God’s authority.
Who is the Authority over this Law?
/There is only One Lawgiver, Who is able to save or destroy.
/Who do you suppose He’s talking about?
*Jn 5:22-23 */22//For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father… /Jesus Christ is the Judge.
He alone has the authority to acquit or condemn.
He alone sits on the judge’s bench, holding the verdict for every one of us.
When you disobey this law, you are trying to place yourself in the place of God.
This is why James drives his point home a little deeper when he asks /But you!
Who are you to judge your neighbor?
/(*NIV*) James is saying /your job is to love other people, not condemn them.
James is not saying we are /never /to judge but only that we are not /the /Judge.
James cannot be saying we are never to judge people by their behavior.
I know that because James himself makes some pretty pointed judgments in his letter (cf.
In fact, one of the main themes of this epistle is your faith is proven by your works—works which not only God sees, but which everybody else can see, too.