11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (James 4:11–12, NKJV).
God’s prophet gives us a plain warning not to speak evil of one another. “Speak evil” translates the Greek word katalaleo, “to be a traducer, i.e. to slander:–speak against (evil of)” (Strong’s Greek #2635). Words that belittle, defame, and libel other Christians (or anyone, for that matter) are sins against brethren, against God, and His law. James does not negate the accurate, appropriate judging of sin. For example, the apostle Paul said we judge unrepentant Christians (“those who are inside”) by applying corrective discipline and putting away the evil person from ourselves (1 Cor. 5:12-13). James is condemning unrighteous judgments that are void of divine truth. He addresses and exposes the sinful “wars and fights” that arise among Christians in this context (James 4:1). Divisive, factious words and actions are worldly and prideful (James 4:1-6). We “become judges with evil thoughts” when we quickly think the worst, grumble and complain against one another, and show partiality in our treatment of one another (James 2:4, 12-13; 5:9). We become the law or standard by which we judge others. James cautions us to remember God is the Lawgiver to whom we are all answerable. He saves and destroys; therefore, we give place to His judgments. Let us not become judges of one another to our destruction.
13 For I hear the slander of many; Fear is on every side; While they take counsel together against me, they scheme to take away my life. 14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me. 16 Make Your face shine upon Your servant; Save me for Your mercies’ sake. (Psalm 31:13–16, NKJV)
David’s adversaries intended to kill him. Like his descendant Jesus Christ, David’s enemies used slander and malicious schemes to slay him without cause. For instance, King Saul schemed to kill David repeatedly (1 Sam. 18-19). But David did not respond in kind. Instead, he put his trust in the Lord. Even when he could have killed Saul, David refused to lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed king (1 Sam. 24, 26). David relied on the Lord, and God saved him from his adversaries (2 Sam. 22:1-4). Like David, let us trust God’s overriding providence and protection. David said, “My times are in Your hand” (v. 15). May we take counsel from the Lord and walk by faith in Him each day. Our times are in God’s hand. He still delivers His faithful servants from evil for His mercies’ sake (Matt. 6:13; 2 Tim. 4:18).
A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter. (Proverbs 11:13, NKJV)
This proverb does not endorse covering up sin. We are counseled by divine wisdom not to be a rumormonger, slanderously traveling about spreading tales about others. “But, it’s the truth!,” some rationalize as they betray trust and advertise a person’s private struggles. Perhaps it is true. If so, have you gone to that person with meekness to help them in their time of need (Galatians 6:1)? Talebearers do not “bear one another’s burdens,” they bring havoc and heartache by casting a person’s burdens to the wind (Galatians 6:2). Woe to the one who tries to promote themselves by spreading harmful messages that embarrass and hurt others. We must be of “a faithful spirit” (trustworthy disposition) when handling information about others. Don’t be a talebearer. Know when to keep a matter private. Doing so is a mark of wisdom.
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … 3 He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; (Psalm 15:1, 3, NKJV)
The ninth command God spoke to Israel from the mountain forbade them to bear false witness against their neighbor. Yet, it became a common sin in Judah, for which God rejected them (Jer. 6:28-30). The slanderous use of the tongue continues to be a common sin that prevents many souls from entering God’s presence. Backbiting draws a vivid picture of one who approaches unnoticed, from behind, to launch a deadly attack against an unsuspecting soul. Just as God receives the one who “speaks the truth in his heart,” He rejects the one who uses his tongue maliciously (Psa. 15:2-3). Drive out malice from your heart in order to remove backbiting from your tongue, so that kindness and compassion may take its place (Eph. 4:31-32).