James 4:11“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…”
James 4:13 “Come now, you who say…”
James seems to be particularly interested in what the Christian has to say. In the last chapter, he spent a great deal of time talking about the tongue. In this chapter, he comes back to the topic of what we are saying. He refers to at least two kinds of evil speaking. The first would be critical or judgmental speech.
James 4:11 “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 judges.”
Jesus warned us not to judge one another, and James explains why; God alone is the Judge. We have been given the Word in order to obey it. It is the Word of God that must determine our behavior. The person who sets aside the Word of God, and decides for himself how he will live, is guilty of judging the law. To him James would say, “There is one Lawgiver who is able to save or destroy . . .” (James 4:12).
Christians are often accused of being judgmental, when it is really a persons own sin that judges them. Someone might be invited to church, be welcomed, be encouraged in prayer, and fed. Yet, when they leave, they claim they felt judged by Christians because they said it is wrong to party, do drugs or live in an adulterous relationship. The Christian did not judge them, the law did. The reason the law judges us, is so we might respond to Christ’s offer to forgive us. Jesus said, He did not come to condemn but to save (John 3:17). It is after the law of God convicts us, that we realize we need to be saved. Do not be a lawgiver, but a law abider, by surrendering yourself to Christ and living according to His Word.
Another type of speech that is warned against, is making life plans without seeking God. James refers to it as boasting. In this case, James is not teaching us how to speak, as much as how to live. We need to be those who seek to find the mind of God, or the will of God, for our lives. God has a plan for your life. He cares where you live, where you work, who you marry. If we will spend time with Him, He will make His will known to us. Sometimes, His will is progressive, meaning, we are not given step two until we have taken step one. It was like that for Paul. When he asked the Lord what to do, Jesus responded, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). Once God makes His will clear to us, it is sin to disobey.
His will seems to fit into two categories. We might refer to them as the general, and specific will of God. The general will of God is true for all of us, and is clearly presented in the pages of the Bible. The specific will of God refers to the plans that God has for you as an individual. Those things are only found when you spend time seeking God. It is the specific will of God which James refers to in this passage. You will not find a chapter and verse telling you who to marry. But you will find much in Scripture about the character of whom to marry. You will not find the answer to what job to take, but you will find direction on how to work. You will not find what college to go to, but you will find what are the most important matters to pursue in life, and what pitfalls to avoid.
Instead of trying to navigate through life on our own, let’s be sure we spend time seeking the Lord in His Word, in order to find His will for our lives.
Questions for James 4
1. James tells us that our desires for more (i.e.: more money, more possessions, more recognition, etc.) come from evil desires that war within us. When we don’t get what we want we fight in order to possess it. So in order to get rid of selfish desires we must submit to God and trust Him to give us what we really need. Are you finding yourself aggressively pursuing the things that God says won’t make you happy?
2. In verse 4, James is as straight forward as he can be. You are either living in the Kingdom of God and the Lord rules your life or you’re living in the Kingdom of darkness and Satan rules your life….You choose!
3. In verses 7-10, James gives us five ways to draw near to God and He will draw near to you. What are the five ways?
4. Verses 11-12 deal with judging others. Jesus said that Christians are to love God and their neighbor. So consequently when we fail to love we are actually breaking God’s Law. If you began to examine your attitude what would you find? Are you critical of somebody? Ask God to help you say something loving instead.
5. No matter how many years we may think we have left to live, the reality is…life is so short. The future is in God’s hands and He should be included in all our plans. Are you seeking his guidance in your planning? If not, how will you react if God steps in and rearranges those plans? Seek His will and you will never be disappointed.
6. We know that doing wrong is sin but James tell us in verse 17 that not doing what is right is sin. These are commonly called sins of commission and sins of omission. God tells us that lying is a sin. It can also be a sin to know the truth and not tell it. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Are you regularly asking the Holy Spirit to help you share the Lord with people? The Lord Jesus is the truth!