James 4:11-17: Slander and Boasting

Devotionals > New Testament > James > James 4:11-17: Slander and Boasting

James 4:11-17: Slander and Boasting

October 9, 2023


Jeremiah 19-22Ecclesiastes 7:1-14John 3:16-21James 4:11-17

James 4:11-17:

James now addresses the power of the tongue and its misuse in two further ways. First with regard to slander, and then second with regard to boasting.

With regard to slander, James is at first simply straightforward. “Do not slander one another.” What could be more clear? And yet how often we find this instruction ignored. Slander is an oral statement about another person that is false and that damages that other person. It would be easy to make a case against slander purely on the fact that it is damaging to other people. But James goes further: when you slander another brother or sister, you are judging that other person. And when you judge that other person, you are acting as if you were the judge. We have no right to judge our neighbor – rather we are to love our neighbor. In essence, James is saying, slander is putting yourself in the position of God over another person’s life and behavior. “Who are you to judge your neighbor?”

With regard to boasting, James has in mind the particular kind of boasting that is related to the future. Instead of boasting about what you will do in the future – go to this or that city and make money there, for instance – we are to think of the future as in God’s hands. This does not mean that we fail to plan for the future. But it does mean that we must not act as if we control the future. James does not say have no vision or plan for the future. He says that we are to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” Basically, boasting about the future comes from an arrogant attitude. We are merely a mist that is here for a little while and then is gone. And therefore we should plan with humility, knowing that the future is in God’s hands, not ours. Instead of this boastful focus on the future, our attention is to be taken up with our present responsibilities. When we have a knowledge of what good we are to do right now, then do that; for if we know the good we should do right now and don’t do it, then that is sin for us – for we are disobeying what we know God wants us to do. Instead of being boastful about the future, therefore, be faithful in the present.


Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.


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