The Book of James, Part 30:
Leave the Judging to God (James 4:11-12)

(These notes are substantially based on teaching notes on the Book of James prepared by Rob Mahon and made available to Connection Class teachers at Hoffmantown Church).


Last week, we focused on what God is really like, as detailed by James. Of course, every book in the Bible adds detail about the reality of God, but James gave us enough to keep us busy last week. Remember that our limited perspective does not change who God is or limit what he does, but it does seem to limit how he works in our lives. So to the extent that our perception of God can come a little closer to his reality, to the extent that we can perceive a powerful, almighty, sovereign God -- we should be able to depend on him and obey him and submit to him easier. That was the goal of last week's study.

Remember what A. W. Tozer said:

"We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God ... Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, 'What comes into your mind when you think about God?' we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man."

...and he said:

"Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image." (A.W. Tozer)
Then remember what Elisabeth Elliot said:

"The will of God is not something you add to your life. It's a course you choose. You either line yourself up with the Son of God ... or you capitulate to the principle which governs the rest of the world." (Elisabeth Elliott)
James said you are a friend of God -- or his enemy. Same message.


Today's Lesson: -- James tells us to line up with God:

    1. Leave The Judging To God - (4:11-12)
    2. Leave The Future To God - (4:13-17)

So let's start with

1. Leave The Judging To God - (4:11-12)

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? --James 4:11-12
God gives us some practical instruction about how we're to relate to one another. But notice that the basis of this teaching has to do with who God is. A.  What we need to not do:   Don't speak against one another.

Brethren - The words "brothers" and "sisters" are used about 18 times in James, depending on the translation (3 times in this verse) This 3-fold use of the word "brother" reminds them of their connection to one another - we shouldn't treat family this way.

Do not speak against - The phrase "speak against" (used 3 times in this verse) are all actually translations of the same Greek word katalaleo. It means literally, "to speak evil of". It is the same as slander, which is in several translations. Slander is defined as saying something false about someone, when they are not present, that is damaging to their character or reputation. That definitely clearly fits within katalaleo.

The phrase, "do not speak against", is in the negative present imperative. This verb tense means "stop doing this". The implication is that this wrong behavior is already going on.

My automatic response is to feel that I'm rarely guilty of slander. - Is that your response as well?

But the Greek word katalaleo has a broader meaning that just slander: "It [katalaleo] actually forbids more than slander. Literally the command is, 'Do not speak down on one another, brothers' or 'Do not speak against one another'. Slander is malicious speech that is untrue. But the command here forbids any speech (whether it is true or false) which runs down another person."

Most of us struggle with having a critical spirit, at least some of the time. This tendency to focus on the negative about one another and then to pass on this information to others seems to be at the heart of what God is forbidding here. Also, this includes both not saying critical things about someone as well as not saying critical things to someone.

Thomas à Kempis was a committed Christian who lived from 1380 to 1471. He wrote, "We condemn small things in others, and pass over greater things in ourselves. Quickly enough we feel and weigh up what we endure from others; but we do not notice how much others bear from us."

Here are 2 verses that stand in contrast to the sin of a critical spirit:

Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions. --Proverbs 10:12

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. --1 Peter 4:8
A critical spirit is not a characteristic of God's love. But these verses show us the opposite attitude. We need to "cover" the sins of others. 

What do you think are some ways we can apply these verses?

Judge - The word "judge" is used six times in these two verses. It's the Greek verb krino. It can also be translated "to condemn, to pass judgment, to try (as in a trial)".

This wrong behavior is very closely connected to "speaking against" others. Being judgmental means that I put myself above others. It means that I take on the role of judge, and remember, God retains that job.

What is the role of a judge?

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was a famous English writer of his day. He once wrote, "God Himself, Sir, does not propose to judge a man until his life is over. Why should you and I?"

What do you think the command, "Don't judge one another", means?

James also condemned the sin of a judgmental spirit in Chapter 2:
Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? --James 2:4

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. --James 2:12
A grocery store checkout clerk once wrote to advice columnist Ann Landers to complain that she had seen people buy "luxury" food items-like birthday cakes-with their food stamps. The writer went on to say that she thought all those people on welfare who treated themselves to such non-necessities were "lazy and wasteful." A few weeks later Lander's column was devoted entirely to people who had responded to the grocery clerk. One woman wrote:  I'm the woman who bought the $17 cake and paid for it with food stamps. I thought the checkout woman in the store would burn a hole through me with her eyes. What she didn't know is the cake was for my little girl's birthday. It will be her last. She has bone cancer and will probably be gone within six to eight months.

That's the problem with being judgmental - you never really have all the facts.

Oswald Chambers wrote: "There is always one fact more in every life of which we know nothing, therefore Jesus says, 'Judge not.'"

Most likely, James learned what he was teaching about not judging others from Jesus:

Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. --Matthew 7:1-2
John Stott wrote: "The secret of our relationships with one another in the Christian Church, especially when we have our differences, is 'Jesus Christ is Lord.' To despise or stand in judgment on a fellow Christian isn't just a breach of fellowship. It is a denial of the Lordship of Jesus. I need to say to myself, Who am I, that I should cast myself in the role of another Christian's lord and judge? I must be willing for Jesus Christ to be not only my Lord and Judge, but also my fellow Christians' Lord and Judge. ... I must not interfere with Christ's Lordship over other Christians."

Here's a funny little children's poem that shows the attitudes God wants us to avoid:

We have the nicest garbage man;
    He empties out our garbage can.
He's just as nice as he can be.
    He always stops and talks to me.
My mother doesn't like his smell,
    But mother doesn't know him well.

One final thought about judging from Paul:
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. --Romans 14:4
B.   What we need to know:    Only God is our Lawgiver.
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? --James 4:12
The Greek word for "lawgiver" nom·oth·et·ace is used only here in the New Testament. Yet it's an important, very important, truth for us to understand. Who sets the laws that we must live by? The answer: God. Our country is a democracy. Therefore, we get to vote on both laws and the people who determine laws. But the universe is not a democracy. God, and God alone, determines the laws by which we must live.

Do you know how many times the words "law" and "laws" are found in the Bible? Over 375 times. What does this tell us about God? That He is a God of justice.

Maybe the bottom line is this: We need to understand that God makes the rules that we are to live by, the rules (laws) that we will be judged by. We don't get a vote. It doesn't matter whether we agree or not. Reality is that God makes the rules. Only God is our Judge.

Someone posed this question: "Do you believe in Divine judgment? By which I mean, do you believe in a God who acts as our Judge? Many, it seems do not. Speak to them of God as a Father, a friend, a helper, one who loves us despite all our weaknesses and folly and sin, and their faces light up ... But speak to them of God as Judge, and they frown and shake their heads. Their minds recoil from such an idea ... But there are few things [about God] stressed more strongly in the Bible than the reality of God's work as Judge."

What are some reasons that we should be glad that God is the Judge of all people?

There are many verses that emphasize the judgment of God. Here are just a few from the New Testament:

Next week: - we will continue with:

     2. Leave The Future To God - (James 4:13-17), a discussion of God's sovereignty.