James 4:11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren.
James 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.
Almost 20 years ago my wife and I attended a national meeting of church leaders and pastors in conflict. We were disturbed by what we heard and saw. Pastors made derogatory remarks about one another. Leaders unashamedly ridiculed brothers and sisters with differing views. The spirit and manner of the comments grieved us.
But to be honest… I find myself doing that at times. Saying or thinking something about someone in my spiritual family that James says is “evil”. Why is it wrong?
We must increasingly view ourselves as one body. My brother or sister in Christ is part of me. When one hurts, I should hurt. When one is blessed, I should feel a part of the blessing too. We enjoy a union in Christ that is intimate and real.
Why is it wrong to “speak evil of” or “grumble against” a brother? What I do to them… I am doing to myself. How absurd! I might as well stand in front of a mirror and call myself names as to tear down a born again brother or sister in Christ.
James stresses that to “speak evil” is really a judging activity that belongs to God. When I reach a conclusion about a brother’s character, actions or motives and then repeat that conclusion to whoever will listen — I am assuming the role of judge. I am taking God’s place.
How much better to leave judgement in the hands of our Father!
What can we positively do today to turn the tide in the church?
- Determine to build up and bless everyone you talk to and talk about;
- Set your heart against a complaining, critical spirit; and
- Graciously refuse to listen or tolerate “evil speaking” about others.
Romans 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
I use to have a penny jar at home… not any more. Let me tell you what happened. Day by day I used to empty my pocket change into my penny jar, but as my kids got older, I noticed the level of saved change began going down! While I was adding to the jar regularly, someone else (I will not name names) was taking my contributions away — the result? No more change for emergency Big Mac attacks!
That really captures what Paul is dealing with in Romans 14. God is building a bride for His Son and we are very much a part of the process. In the church we are called to “edify” or build each other up — not to tear each other down. The way we speak to each other and the way we treat each other adds to what God is doing or detracts from it.
So pretend the church today is like a great, big penny jar for God. Every day He adds to our lives as we read His Word and spend time alone with Him in prayer. With a deep affection, He encourages us, guides us, corrects us — whatever it takes to build us up into a mature, godly lover of Jesus Christ. The level in the penny jar is raised daily as we walk with Him.
And as we come to interact with other members of His family, He intends that the building continue. But does it? Or do we take away from what God is doing in others? In every conversation I have a decision to make: will I add to this person’s life or not? Worse yet: am I going to pilfer what God has stored up in this person? Sound like an odd concept? Consider the range of decisions we can consciously make when we encounter a brother or sister in Christ. Some quick examples…
- In general conversation: am I going to speak about my needs or focus on encouraging someone else?
- When I hear of a brother’s failure or weakness: am I going to spread damaging information about him or be graciously silent?
- When we disagree: am I going to argue my position or listen to your heart?
Every member of my family needs my contribution to his or her life. God made us that way — and I need your contribution too!
Let’s stop pilfering from the “penny jar of God” in the hearts of others. Let’s start emptying pockets of kindness into each other’s lives. Let’s do it today!