Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written by James the half brother of Jesus. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the eleventh verse of the fourth chapter and continues through to the sixth verse of the fifth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find hames transitioning from talking and speaking about that which causes fights and quarrels among our members to another subject matter that I am convinced is incredibly difficult to bear. If you read the words which James wrote beginning with her eleventh verse of this fourth chapter you will find him transitioning to a place where he began writing about speaking evil of another individual. This is perhaps one of the most difficult truths within scripture for me personally to handle and bear, for I know myself too well and what is found within my heart. I know that in addition to being an outspoken individual, I am also an incredibly opinionated individual. If I am being honest with you who are reading these words, one of my greatest struggles is allowing myself to be triggered by the words which are spoken by others—not only words which have been spoken unto me, but also words which are spoken around me. I have often likened and compares myself to a rattlesnakes, and while on the surface that might not seem like an appropriate illustration, allow me to explain. If you know anything about a rattle snake, you will notice what they do not and will not attack unless they are threatened and provoked. One of the rattlesnakes most important features is the rattle that is present on its tail. If you study a rattle snakes you will find that they use the rattle on their tail to serve as a warning to those who would encroach upon their territory and privacy. If the sound and warning produce by their rattle is ignored and left not heeded, the rattle snake can and will most likely launch out and attack any predator which it feels threatens it.
The reason I liken myself to a rattlesnake is because I have a similar way of operating in my natural environment and surroundings. What I mean by that, is that I don’t make it a habit of unleashing or unloading with my words immediately and right away. Although I am a very outspoken person, and although I can speak sarcasm fluently and can mince words with the best of them, I do not immediately resort to using my words. Now, when I am driving, that is sometimes different—perhaps because I know the other person can’t hear me, and I perhaps feel justified in their inability to hear the words I speak. What I will say is that there are times when what goes through my head scares me because if I said and spoke a fraction of what went through my mind I know it would not be pleasant. This is particularly and especially true when I feel threatened or when I feel like I am being backed into a corner. Like a rattlesnake, if I feel threatened by any means or in the slightest bit, I will alert you to how I feel. While I don’t have a rattle, I know that if angry enough and pushed to a breaking point, I can feel my body shaking. I know when I’m really angry because the blood will go to my face causing it to become red, and my body will start shaking. Just as recently as yesterday I experienced two events at work which brought me to this point, and the two manifestation of my anger emerged. Please note that I do not justify, nor do I condone this within my own heart, mind and life. Please note that more often than not when I become that angry I immediately look for ways to calm myself down. What I will say, is that if my warning signs are ignored and aren’t paid attention to, I May very well strike and attack with my words. What I know about myself is that my words, my tongue, and my mouth are perhaps my greatest offensive weapon when it comes to defending myself. I know that if I feel like I have to defend myself I usually do it with a plethora and wide variety of words—words which might not be pleasant, nor desirable.
I will admit to you who are reading these words that one of my greatest struggles is learning how to and knowing when to keep my mouth shut. There have only been two occurrences within my entire life when I have been pushed to the breaking point and both unleashed and unloaded with my words. These experiences happened more than ten years ago, and I regret saying that the individual who was at the receiving end of my tirade and attack was my own mother. I know that when it comes to this particular vinegar matter her and I are too much alike, and we know what buttons to push in order to get a rise out of the other person. It had been a long time since I have unleashed and unloaded with my words, and I continually wrestle and struggle with containing words which are in my mind, and even in my heart. More often than not I struggle with keeping what really goes on in my head from coming out for fear that once I start speaking—particularly if I am passionate in that moment, and when I feel threatened—I will either day something stupid, or something I will regret. One of my greatest fears is to say something that I cannot get it take back. Words like time are of such a nature that once they are released and experienced, they can’t be received back. Once time becomes history it is absolutely impossible to get it back. Similarly, once words are spoken and released from our lips and mouths it is impossible to get and take them back. I will admit that I have had two different opportunities over the course of seven days to speak and say what’s on my mind, and I have chosen to keep my mouth shut rather than speak. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the author who declared that we should be slow to speak and slow to anger—two realities which are most difficult for me to give myself to. Choosing to contain my words—particularly and especially when I would love nothing more than to unleash and unload on someone else.
If the word which I am Speaking scare you, or if they resonate with you—please note that these words scare me as well. As quick as I am with the words which I write, I am also incredibly quick with the words which I speak, and which proceed forth from my lips. There are countless times when the thoughts that enter into my mind actually scare me because I know that if I let them slip and proceed from my mouth it would do more damage than anything else. I realize that this might be too honest and too forward for you who are reading these words, however, I am convinced that we ought not to be afraid to confront the skeletons we have in our closets. I am utterly convinced that we dare not and ought not to attempt to hide and conceal those things we have brushed underneath the rugs of our lives in an attempt to ignore them. I fear that more often than not we believe the lie that if we ignore those things within our heart and lives which we despise and detest they are somehow not real, or they will somehow take care of themselves. My experience has proven the exact opposite, and that the more we choose to hide, the more we choose to conceal, the more we choose to ignore that which scares us within and about ourselves, the more we are actually a danger—not only to those around us, but also to ourselves. One of the greatest dangers and tragedies that faces us within and throughout the course of our lives is to try and run from and ignore those things which we should stand and confront, or stand and fight against. More often than we either run away from those things which need to be dealt with, or we retreat—whether we retreat within ourselves, or we retreat away and apart from that which needs to be dealt with. I know that I myself am incredibly good—not only at running from those things which need to be dealt with, but also those things which I need to fight against and combat with everything that’s in me. More often than not I deal with things by running away from that rather than choosing to remain and fight against them with everything we have. With that being said, please note and understand that I am not writing and speaking of standing and fighting against flesh and blood, for the words which the apostle Paul still hold true: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). We have never been justified in fighting against flesh and blood—at least as it pertains to engaging ourselves in conflict with each other. I am not speaking on the subject matter of war in other countries, or our troops that are fighting and giving their lives to sustain and protect our freedom. What I am speaking about is choosing to engage ourselves in open conflict with flesh and blood rather than knowing and understanding that which is truly the issue.
With all of this being said, I am convinced that one of the greatest struggles we have is the struggle we have with ourselves. I am convinced that one of the greatest conflicts we have ever faced and will ever face is the conflict that exists within ourselves. The apostle Paul was no stranger to the conflict and struggle that was found to be present within his own heart and life, and he even allowed us to catch a glimpse of that struggle when he wrote the epistle unto the saints which were at Rome. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the seventh chapter of this New Testament epistle, you will find the apostle Paul was very forthcoming and honest concerning the struggle he had within himself, and I would bring your attention to the words which he spoke. Consider if you will the words the apostle wrote in the seventh chapter beginning with the fourteenth verse:
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God though Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:14-25).
With these words the apostle Paul pulls back the veil that would hide and conceal the struggle which he undoubtedly faced on a continual and consistent basis. If there is one thing we must learn and recognize concerning the apostle Paul, it’s that he wasn’t afraid of honesty, and he wasn’t afraid of opening up concerning his struggles. Paul—this same man who would boast in his infirmities, and this same made who would glory in weakness had absolutely no quarrels or qualms about coming face to face with the inner conflict and struggle he faced on a regular basis. In fact, I am convinced that the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular chapter are true of absolutely each and every one of us in this generation—regardless of whether or not we want to believe, accept, and even admit it. Whether we want to accept and face it or not, there is a continual struggle which we face on a regular basis, and we do ourselves a great disservice and danger by choosing to ignore it. The apostle Paul knew it was not wise to ignore that inner conflict and struggle, and the apostle Paul knew that it was wise and appropriate to deal with it head on. IN the seventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Romans the apostle Paul came face to face with the inner struggle which plagued him on a continual and daily basis—the struggle that existed between that which he knew he ought to do and that which he knew he shouldn’t do. The apostle Paul recognized and was aware of the fact that there was an intense war which was raging inside of him—a war among and a war between his members which would both fight for supremacy. What’s more, is that when you transition to the eighth chapter of the same New Testament epistle, you will find the apostle Paul again writing of a struggle which exists within our hearts, our minds and our inner-most beings. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote beginning with the first verse of the eighth chapter:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritual minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:1-13).
Now you might be wondering what all of this talk about conflict and struggle has to do with what I have been speaking about, and the truth of the matter is that there has always been a tremendous conflict that has existed between what’s in my mind and what comes out of my mouth. There are multiple times when I would love nothing more than to “give a piece of my mind,” or even to “put someone in their place,” and yet the struggle exists to choose to remain silent. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus Himself spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount—words which have long and often been incredibly difficult and challenging to put into practice within my life. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke in the fifth chapter beginning with the twenty-first verse: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the alter, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing” (Matthew 5:21-26). I can’t help be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle which he wrote unto the Ephesian congregation. Beginning with the twenty-fifth verse of the fourth chapter the apostle Paul wrote the following words—words which immediately followed these: “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesian 4:24). Consider if you will the following words which were written by the apostle Paul in this particular chapter beginning with the twenty-fifth verse: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:25-27). When writing unto the Ephesian saints the apostle Paul instructed them to put away lying, and to speak every man truth with his neighbor, and then he immediately transitioned to instruct them to be angry and sin not. The apostle Paul would go on to instruct them to let not the sun go down upon their wrath, nor give place to the devil [within your heart, within your mind, within your life].
I have to admit that the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular chapter have long challenged me, for the apostle Paul almost seems to give permission to be angry, yet the apostle Paul would go on to instruct them to sin not in their anger. Pause for a moment and consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular chapter, for the apostle Paul seems to admit that it’s okay to be angry, but in our anger we are to sin not. These words have a whole new meaning when you consider them in light of the words which Jesus Himself spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount. In the fifth chapter Jesus began speaking about murder and killing another, but then immediately transitioned to words which speak against and toward another individual. If we are honest with ourselves, two of the greatest manifestations of our anger are the words which we allow ourselves to speak concerning another—both the words we speak to their face, as well as the words which we speak behind their back—and violence and murder. If we are honest with ourselves, every violent act within this nation, and every violent act within the world in which we live has at the very heart of it a form of anger, malice, and perhaps even hatred, bitterness and offense. We would be hard pressed to find any form of violence and/or murder that does not have at the very heart of it some form of hatred, anger and malice. Conversely, this same reality could be said concerning those times when we allow ourselves to sin with the words we speak to, and the words which we speak against another. I am utterly and completely convinced that whenever we allow ourselves to speak against another individual, there is a deep, underlying issue within our hearts which must needs be addressed and dealt with. More often than not, we allow ourselves to get in trouble when we choose to ignore the warning sights of our heart. THE WARNING SIGNS OF THE HEART! As I am sitting here right now I can’t help but be completely and utterly captivated with and by this concept of “the warning signs of the heart,” for if you want to know what the warning signs of your heart are, you need only examine the words which proceed forth from you lips and mouth. I have long and often believed that there is perhaps no truer picture of the condition of our heart than the words which we speak—whether they are words we speak in general, words we speak to others, or even words we speak against others. God knows that there have been numerous times when I have been guilty of speaking evil to another individual, and even speaking evil concerning someone behind their backs. I am not afraid—although I am ashamed—to admit that I have been guilty of speaking ill of others within the world I have created in my life. I have been guilty of speaking evil of certain individuals I work with, and even concerning those who I have a difficult time with.
When you come to the eleventh verse of the fourth chapter of the epistle which was written by James the half brother of Jesus, you will find the following words—not only words concerning speaking evil of another, but also concerning judging and bringing judgment against others. Consider the words which James writes int his epistle beginning with the eleventh verse: “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judges another” (James 4:11-12). You will notice in this passage of Scripture that James first begins by instructing us to speak no evil one of another, and then goes on to declare without hesitation and reservation that he who speaks evil of their brother actually judges their brother. What’s more, is James also went on to write and declare that he who speaks evil of his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of what is found and contained within this passage of Scripture, for it must be carefully understood within and throughout the course of our lives. James began by writing and speaking about speaking evil one of another, and this isn’t the only time in Scripture when we are confronted with speaking evil one of another. In the second chapter of the first epistle of the apostle Peter we find the following words concerning the danger of speaking evil against and concerning our brother: “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrites, and envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:1-3). Notice if you will the apostle Peter begins by writing concerning our laying aside malice, and he then transitions to writing and speaking about putting away all guile, hypocrisies, envies, and then writes concerning evil speakings. It’s important for us to recognize and pay close attention to this, for there has always been, and there will always be a deeper issue that surrounds our willingness to speak evil of another individual—regardless of who that individual is. The apostle Peter spoke concerning our laying aside all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrites and envies, and I am convinced that while all of these are present within one’s heart, they lead us to the place where we not only engage ourselves in, but also justify ourselves in speaking evil concerning another individual. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of the second epistle which he wrote unto the Corinthian congregation. Consider if you will the words which the apostle wrote in this epistle beginning with the nineteenth verse:
“Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? We speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wrath’s, strifes, backbitings, whispering, swellings, tumult’s: and lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (2 Corinthians 12:19-21).
When writing unto the Corinthians for the second time, the apostle Paul not only writes about debates, envyings, wraths and strifes, but he also writes about backbitings, whispering, swellings and tumults. It’s imperative and important for us that we recognize that which the apostle Paul is writing here, for within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul is speaking concerning our ability to sin against others through and by the words we speak against them. “Wraths,” “strifes,” “backbitings,” “whisperings,” “swellings,” and “tumults” are all actions of our speaking against, and our speaking evil against another individual, and it is necessary that we recognize and understand the incredible and tremendous danger that surrounds this reality within our hearts and lives. When writing unto the Ephesian saints, the apostle Paul would write the following words concerning behavior toward one another—not only in the fellowship of the saints, but also in our dealings with those among us in the world. Beginning with the thirty-first verse of the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian congregation the apostle Paul writes the following words: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Notice if you will the words the apostle Paul uses in this passage, for the apostle Paul writes concerning bitterness, concerning wrath, concerning anger, concerning clamour, and concerning evil speaking, and then seems to tie them all together by using the word malice. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is what motivates us when we speak—not only when we speak in general, but when we speak to others. What lies at the very heart of the words we speak—whether they be words we speak in the house of the Lord, the words we speak in the privacy of our cars, the words we speak unto others, and the words we speak behind someone’s back. The apostle Paul used words such as bitterness, wrath, anger and malice, and seems to link these words directly to speaking evil of another, and I am convinced that it is not by coincidence the apostle Paul does so. I am convinced that it is by design the apostle Paul uses these words when writing and speaking concerning speaking evil of another, for at the very outset and heart of speaking evil of someone else are emotional responses such as bitterness, wrath, anger, and clamour. As I am sitting here right now I can’t help but ask myself this very important and pressing question: How much noise are you making? How much noise man I making in the world in which I live? How much noise am I making on the job I have been given? How much noise have I been making in the house of the Lord? How much of the noise I have been making is actually appropriate and necessary? I can’t help but think of that individual who has two cymbals in their hands and simply walks up and down the streets, and maybe into peoples’ homes, or into people’s jobs, or into churches and houses of worship, and continually and repeatedly bangs those cymbals together to make loud and distracting noises. I can’t help but wonder how many times I have been nothing more than a clanging cymbal, and have done nothing but make loud and obnoxious noise in my home, at my job, in church, in my car, and various other places.
With all of this being said, it is important that we recognize and consider the fact that each and every time we speak evil of another individual, we are actually putting ourselves in the judgment seat whereby we judge another. In fact, Jesus Himself had something to say about judging others—particularly and especially in His Sermon on the Mount. IN the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus speaking the following words concerning judging and passing judgment upon others. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke beginning with the first verse of the seventh chapter: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5). A similar message if found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the beloved physician Luke, and is found beginning with the thirty-fifth verse: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your Boston. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:35-38). What’s more, is the apostle Paul also has something to say about this concept of judging when writing unto the saints which were at Rome, and I would leave you with his words. I leave you with these words concerning judging and judgment, for each and every time we allow ourselves to speak evil of another individual—regardless of who that individual is—we put ourselves in the judgment seat, and we consider ourselves as somehow being fit to judge them. I leave you with the words of the apostle Paul, for not only does the apostle Paul speak concerning judgment, but he also speaks of the danger of judgment and hypocrisy, and how there is more often than not a fine line between judgment and hypocrisy. I leave you with the following words written by the apostle Paul in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Roman saints:
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judges: for wherein thou judges another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkests thou this, O man, that judgesst them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasure St up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to His deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh Good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law” (Romans 2:1-12).