Don't Slander One Another

Scripture: James 4:11, ‘Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.’


Observations: The Letter of James is full of proverbs about how Christians are to live together. Here he commands us to ‘not slander one another.’ The word ‘slander (katalaleō)’ literally means to ‘speak against,’ which is how the NIV translates the other two times this word appears in this single verse. We are not to speak against our fellow brother and sisters because according to James when we do so we are effectively ‘speaking against the law and judging it.’ James goes on to say that there is only one lawgiver and judge (v12), referring to Jesus Christ, the Judge of the living and the dead. Is James saying we can’t hold one another accountable, that we aren’t to speak against sin in someone’s life? Later James writes, ‘Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (5:20)’ The word to ‘speak against’ is only used here and in 1 Peter where Peter talks about pagans ‘accusing’ us of doing wrong (2:12) and ‘who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ. (3:16)’ To ‘speak against’ someone is to accuse them falsely, to accuse them of doing wrong when in fact they are doing right. For this reason the word ‘slander’ is a good translation. We can speak against sin, what we can’t do is speak against righteousness.


Application: In our culture the tall poppy syndrome encourages us to pull people down to our level and we often do that with our words. Have you ever twisted the truth about a fellow believer? Have you ever spoken against another person, not because they had done something wrong, but for some other reason? When we accuse someone of wrong when they aren’t doing anything wrong we are in fact judging God’s law. Even if for some reason you don’t like someone you are duty bound as a fellow follower of Jesus to love them and speak in a way that builds them up.


Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, even though I am a sinful person You speak of me with grace and love, calling me Your child, declaring me holy and righteous in Christ. Lord, forgive me when I speak ill of people because they rub me up the wrong way. Help me to speak of my fellow brothers and sisters in the same way that You speak of me, with truth, but also with grace and love. Help me to discern the difference between speaking against sin and not speaking against people. Help me to build others up that You may be glorified. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


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