Before you accuse

Sam Petitfils 

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against 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 only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:10-11)

The following was taken from Our Daily Bread:

“John was driving home late one night when he picked up a hitchhiker. As they rode along, he began to be suspicious of his passenger. John checked to see if his wallet was safe in the pocket of his coat that was on the seat between them, but it wasn't there! So he slammed on the brakes, ordered the hitchhiker out, and said, ‘Hand over the wallet immediately!’ The frightened hitchhiker handed over a billfold, and John drove off. When he arrived home, he started to tell his wife about the experience, but she interrupted him, saying, ‘Before I forget, John, do you know that you left your wallet at home this morning?’ ”

Wow. Without knowing it, John robbed his hitchhiking passenger. I myself nearly fell into a similar trap many years ago:

I was a young student at Tennessee Temple University and found out I accrued some room demerits I didn’t feel I deserved. Our hall monitor was a nice, soft-spoken individual who, I felt, hadn’t done his job correctly. I set out to find him to set the record straight and give him a piece of my mind. I looked all over campus, but couldn’t locate him. Finally, I went to the dean’s office because those accrued demerits required I report to him. Once I explained the situation, I found out it had all been a mistake coming from the dean’s office. My hall monitor had never reported any infractions on my part and nothing came of it. I walked away thanking God I never found my hall monitor that day, or I would have falsely accused him of something he knew nothing about.

In the verses above, James warns us against slandering one another, which used to be called “evil-speaking.” Earlier he encouraged us to be “slow to speak” (1:19). Then he takes the greater part of Chapter 3 to describe the power of the tongue and how it wields great power, often to destroy someone else. The Bible describes our arch enemy, the devil, as the “accuser” (Revelation 12:10) who accuses God’s people day and night. Do we want to mimic the great accuser? I think not, but we often fall into that trap.

Steps to limit our accusations

1) Always pray before we speak and ask God for His words to be spoken.
We need to begin each day with prayer, asking God to use our tongues to heal, not hurt; lift up, not tear down.

2) Thoroughly investigate the matter before we accuse.
Most matters get cleared up with a little investigation, before they go public. But when we start accusing, it’s already public.

3) Ask ourselves, “Would we like to be treated the way we treat others?”
Asking this question will put the brakes on quick and hasty accusations. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

4) If you must confront, follow the Bible’s teaching in Matthew 18:15-20.
Most people lack the courage to confront others in a private way, and therefore resort to public accusation. Yet Scripture forbids this approach. If we commit ourselves to following biblical guidelines, we will judge less and pray more.

Controlling our tongues is by no means easy. No one perfectly controls the tongue (James 3:2). We need daily strength to speak as God would have us to. We find ourselves slipping into old patterns quickly, and in need of God’s strength continually. Ask for God’s strength and wisdom to speak good and righteous words. If we do that, we will reap a blessed harvest and lift up spirits everywhere we go.

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