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Do Not Speak Against One Another

There are very few sins that are more wicked, hateful, and destructive than the sin of a brother or a sister in Christ who speaks evil against another.  Yet as bad as this sin is, it is only made worse when it is done in a secretive, cowardly way, for the brother or sister who is spoken against does not even have a chance to give a defense, and the message spreads like cancer, destroying those who consume it and repeat it to others.

James condemned such speech in James 4:11-12 – “Do not speak against one another, brethren.  He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it.  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”  This Scripture by James reveals the seriousness of speaking against a brother, for a person who does so is putting himself in the position of God, which he has no right, authority, or power to do.

The truth is that a person who slanders his brother or sister has more in common with Satan that he does with God.  In fact, the Greek word diabolos is translated “devil” and is used to describe Satan thirty-four times in the New Testament.  This same word diabolos is also used to describe men and women who slander others (John 6:70; 1Tim. 3:11; 2Tim. 3:3; Tit. 2:3).  Therefore, a man who slanders his brethren is a type of the devil, for Satan is a slanderer himself.

Slander is a false accusation, and it is often practiced in the form of half-truths and innuendo.  Satan is a slanderer of both God and men.  To men, he has slandered God, saying that God is a liar and that men will not die as the result of sin (Gen. 3:1-5).  To God, he slanders men, constantly accusing them of evil (Job 1:6-11; 2:1-5; Rev. 12:9-10).  Slander is Satan’s business, so when men commit slander, they align themselves with Satan and incur the condemnation that is reserved for him.

Yet some may feel justified to speak against a brother or sister if they believe that the accusation is true.  To this, the commandment of God through James still stands: “Do not speak against one another.”  The Lord gave the proper procedure for handling such situations in Matthew 18:15-17, and this procedure does not include going from person to person, speaking against the brother or sister throughout the brotherhood.  Even if one is not satisfied with the outcome of the procedure prescribed by the Lord, it is not his right or responsibility to defame his brother or sister.

A brother or sister in Christ who slanders or gossips about another is not motivated by the love of God, but rather by hatred and malice.  Paul wrote that love “does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1Cor. 13:5-7).  There is no place in love for slander and gossip, but hatred and malice seek evil against others and rejoice in tearing others down.

Not only do the slanderer and the gossiper tear down a brother or a sister, but they also destroy the church that Christ died to purchase.  Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends;” Proverbs 26:20 says, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.”  The potentially widespread damage caused by the slanderer and the gossiper is why James wrote of the tongue, “Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” (Jas. 3:5).  There may be no intention to destroy the church, but the end result is the same when one sets out to destroy his brother or sister.

Therefore, let us be careful that we do not speak against one another.  Exhortations, admonitions, rebukes, and reproof are appropriate when necessary if they are given from one to another in love according to the Scriptures.  However, slander, backbiting, and gossiping have no place in the brotherhood.  May they never be named among us, but instead may we speak the truth in love and “grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the Head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15).

Stacey E. Durham



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