Speaking to the Soul – September 7

Don’t speak evil against each other

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticise and judge each other, then you are criticising and judging 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. James 4:11-12

Of course, we all know that we shouldn’t speak evil against one another. But it can happen so subtly that we often don’t spot it. Inevitably, within a church or any other community, there will be conversations about people. Those conversations might become slightly critical, because none of us are perfect. But this is when it gets dangerous, however, because such conversations can lull us into making firm judgements about someone – and that just isn’t on.

There are two main problems with judging other people. Firstly, we are commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we were being judged, we would want the opportunity to give a clear account of ourselves. We would want people to know exactly why we had spoken or acted in the way that we did. The danger with secretly gossiping about another person is that often, we don’t know the full facts about a situation. And, in truth, sometimes we’re not all that interested in hearing the facts anyway! William Tyndale translated the phrase “speak evil” as ‘backbiting’. It is a destructive activity and James demands that it must stop.

The second problem with judging other people is that it isn’t our job. It’s God’s role to judge people, and he hasn’t asked us to be involved in the process. In God’s time he will fairly and righteously judge us all.

None of this means that we shouldn’t have opinions about other people, but we need to be alert to those moments when our conversations turn from loving concern and interest to destructive criticism and judgement. It can happen quickly and easily, so we need to be on our toes and guard against it.

What have you found to be the best way of avoiding a judgemental attitude?

Father God, help me always to speak about other people with grace and generosity, and deliberately avoid being judgemental. Amen