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Slander Comes from Self-Centeredness

11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

As we have seen throughout this chapter so far, self-centeredness is very destructive, especially when dealing with relationships. In these two verses, James warns about one of the negative actions that such prideful individuals tend to do, slander others: “Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. Criticism can be positive, but in this case, the Greek word used here means inflammatory speech used intentionally to attack an individual, usually behind their back, slander. In the case of James’ letter, he was hearing that Christians were slandering other Christians!

There were two charges that James lists due to slanderous language. First, that individual is charged with speaking against the law: “Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames…the law.” One law in particular that these individuals clearly spoke against was the law of love, found in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” These slanderers were destroying relationships instead of loving other believers.

Second, they were charged with judging the law: “If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” Anders summarizes the mindset of a slanderer, “With a fault-finding attitude I set myself up as a judge. I neglect God’s law, thus declaring that it is a bad law and worthy of being removed.” Therefore, when a believer is slandering others, they are stating that they are above the law and do not need to abide by it, especially the call to love your neighbor as yourself.

Finally, in verse 12, James reminds the believers who they are in direct opposition against when going against His Word, “There is One Lawgiver and Judge who is able to save and to destroy.” God is the only One who sets the rules and enforces them, with blessings and curses. No human shares that role at all. Yet, due to the pride in their heart, a slanderous Christian believes they can take such a role. Anders warns, “Christians can easily come to the conclusion that we are free to show critical attitudes toward those who do wrong.” James’ rhetorical question at the end shows that such an attitude is wrong, “But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

We are all sinners deserving judgment, but by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, if you have accepted the gift of salvation, you are saved by grace. In light of that, you should humble yourself before God who poured out His judgment upon His own Son to show you mercy. We are to abide by His law and not push one another down with slanderous words. Instead, build one another up with love.


Isaac De Guzman


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