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? (...) Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
History and Context:
There were many James' in the Bible. The two most prominent were James, the brother of Jesus (also known as the leader of the church) and James, the apostle, the son of Zebedee and brother of John. the book of James is commonly attributed to the former. James writes that he is writing to the "twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (James 1:1). The Jews began to be scattered across the Middle East in 722 BC when the Assyrians conquered Israel. The scattering (known as the diaspora) continued through Babylonian captivity when three distinct groups became known, one in Egypt, one in Babylon, and one that returned to Judea later under Persian rule. These Jews which were scattered about (in Acts we see that they also extended into Europe) are the ones to whom James writes in this letter.
The book of James is famous for it's talk on the tongue in chapter 3. "...the tongue is a little member and boasts great things..." (3:5) "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so." (3:10). In this passage he again begins by mentioning how we use our tongue. He the nrelates speaking evil of your brother with judging him. When we judge we attempt to be the 'lawgiver' but as we know the law comes only from one source. In other words when we begin judging we attempt to put ourselves into God's place; you may even go as far to say, we attempt to be God. Then he ends the discussion of judging and speaking evil of our brother with: "to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." Our judgements can keep us from doing good.
How often have we stopped ourselves from doing good due to our judgements of another person? "I can't give him money because he's just going to buy booze." "Don't help him because he will just take advantage of you." "Look at how she's dressed! Don't go near her." I could probably go on and on. The challenge is obvious. Stop judging and simply do good. How they respond to the good you do is not your responsibility. You are responsible for what you do with what God gives you. Of course we need to use wisdom in everything, and we shouldn't let people walk over us, but we cannot let these statements be an excuse to not do good for one another. The challenge today, and every day, is to ignore those first thoughts that you may have and to look for an opportunity to do good. As always, it would be great to hear from you how God gave you that opportunity.
Lord, help me to see people with your eyes. Help me to see people with love. Let me see their hurts and pains, and let me see what I can do to help them. Give me wisdom on how to reach out to those around me. Help me to touch their lives without judgement but instead with love. Thank you Lord.