Let’s read 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, who is able to save and destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (NASB)

James has much to say throughout this letter about the TONGUE and the evil it can cause. I would encourage you to read 3:1-9 to see that the tongue, though it is a little member of our body, can be one of the most destructive forces on earth. One has said, “No sin among Christians is more common than that of speaking evil of their brethren.” Another has suggested that there are three questions we should answer before we criticize others: What good does it do your brother? What good does it do yourself? What glory for God is in it?

In the first verse of this letter we see that James is writing to “the twelves tribes” of Israel. They were known for their knowledge of the law and held each commandment in high regard. In Leviticus 19:16 they were told, “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD.” In every law that was given that pertained to their brother or neighbor they were to show LOVE to them. The Lord Jesus was once approached by a man with this question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). He responded in verses 37-40 with these powerful words: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” The apostle Paul echoes the Lord’s words in Galatians 5:14, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (NKJV). Paul was addressing the same problem as James, for he goes on in verse 15 to say, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.”

I conclude from these passages that “the law” that James is speaking of is “the LAW OF LOVE.” When we speak evil against our brother we are not only guilty of breaking the law of love, we are also speaking evil of God’s law and condemning it. We are basically saying, “I don’t agree with this law and I’m not going to obey it!” Instead of respecting God, Who gave the Law and Who alone has the right to judge, we set ourselves up as the lawgiver and the judge.

Before we close, this passage is NOT teaching us that we are never to judge another. If actual sin breaks out among us, we MUST JUDGE that sin. A good example of this is found in 1st Corinthians 5 where the apostle Paul rebuked the saints at Corinth for not judging the sin of fornication that was committed by a brother in the assembly. In verse 1 Paul wrote, “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you.” He goes on to say in verse 3, “For I indeed….have already judged…him who has so done this deed.” He then exhorts them to judge this sin too, “Therefore ‘put away from yourselves the evil person’” (verse 13). So, sin that is manifested must be judged. But James is not speaking of judging a brother’s sin, but of judging a brother’s character and speaking evil of him to make him look bad in the eyes of others. We call this SLANDER and if we are guilty of this, we are also guilty of speaking evil of God’s law. (233.9) (DO)