The Three Wise Monkeys remind us to “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.” It may be difficult for us to guard what we hear; sounds are everywhere. And it also may be hard to shield our eyes from everything we don’t want to see. However, we have complete control over what comes out of our mouths. James 4:11-12 tells us, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (NKJ)
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the New Testament explains the meaning of these verses and how we may well be guilty.
We are cautioned against the sin of evil-speaking: Speak not evil one of another, brethren, v. 11. The Greek word, katalaleite, signifies speaking any thing that may hurt or injure another; we must not speak evil things of others, though they be true, unless we be called to it, and there be some necessary occasion for it; much less must we report evil things when they are false, or, for aught we know, may be so. Our lips must be guided by the law of kindness, as well as truth and justice.
The commentary goes on to give us the three reasons why we are not to engage in this practice:
- Because you are brethren: Since Christians are brethren, they should not defile nor defame one another. It is required of us that we be tender of the good name of our brethren; where we cannot speak well, we had better say nothing than speak evil; we must not take pleasure in making known the faults of others, divulging things that are secret, merely to expose them, nor in making more of their known faults than really they deserve, and, least of all, in making false stories, and spreading things concerning them of which they are altogether innocent.
- Because this is to judge the law: The law of Moses says, Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people (Leviticus 9:16). The law of Christ is, Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1). The sum and substance of both is that men should love one another. A detracting tongue therefore condemns the law of God, and the commandment of Christ, when it is defaming its neighbour. To break God’s commandments is in effect to speak evil of them, and to judge them, as if they were too strict, and laid too great a restraint upon us.
- Because God, the Lawgiver, has reserved the power of passing the final sentence on men wholly to himself.
Let’s be more mindful of how we speak of our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we know a negative thing to be true, it’s not our place to spread that around. Would we want them spreading negative things around about us? And especially if we have only suspicions about some negativity, our place is not to “speak evil” of them, spreading those damnable suspicious and infecting the minds of others against them. If we must talk to anyone, let’s take our concerns to God, and then discipline ourselves to think only the best, speak only edifying words, and picture others living in God’s favor.
©2016 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.
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