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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lenschow

Don't Judge Me!

James 4:11-12

1. Recognize the Context: Previous context-James 4:7-10 God's response to the humble in verse 6 is followed by a series of ten imperatives for living a humble life. 1. Submit-To be subject to another.

This first command sets the stage for the following imperatives. The concept of submission was (and is) essential to the Christian life. However, in our 21st-century Western world, submission is counterintuitive and violates the modern “virtues” of autonomy and individualism.

2. Resist-To set oneself against.

There is a real enemy against the believer, the devil, who must be resisted (Eph 6:11-12, 1 Pet 5:8-9). When he is opposed, he will flee (Matt. 4:1-11).

There is a 2nd-century church document entitled the Shepherd of Hermas. Reflecting on this verse, the author writes, “He (the devil) cannot overmaster the servants of God, who set their hope on Him with their whole heart. The devil can wrestle with them, but he cannot overthrow them. If then you resist him, he will be vanquished, and will flee from you disgraced.”

3. Come near

Verse 8 states, “Come near to God, and he will come near to you.” The concept of God drawing near those who draw near to him is found in the Old Testament (Zech. 1:3, Mal. 3:7) and the New Testament (Heb. 4:16). See also the famous Parable of the “Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32). (Perhaps a better title is the Parable of “The Two Lost Sons and the Merciful Father.”)

4. Wash “The washing of one’s hands” was a term used in preparation for worship in the Old Testament (Ex. 30:19-21, Isa. 1:16-17). This physical exterior act became a symbol of moral purity in one’s actions. Those instructed to wash are identified as “sinners.” This is another strong term, much like “adulterous people” (4:4).

5. Purify Purification was also mentioned in preparation for worship (Num 8:21). It came to symbolize the cleansing of the inner thoughts and motives. Psalm 24:4 mentions both “clean hands and pure heart," as in verse 8 above. See also in the New Testament (Matt. 5:8, Matt. 23:25-28, John 11:55, 1 Pet 1:22).

Calling them double-minded is another strong reference. He used this term in 1:8, but here it has a slightly different usage. Here it refers to those struggling between living for God and living for the world versus those wavering between faith and unbelief (1:6-8).

6. Grieve- To be miserable

New Testament writer Peter Davids calls this the "What have I done!" feeling.

7. Mourn-Sadness as the result of a condition or situation. See Matt 5:4.

8. Wail-weeping, an outward expression of grief.

See Psalm 69:10-11. Mourn and wail are used together in Luke 6:25.

9. Change Verse 9 states, “Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” This command is not to be taken as an instruction for daily Christian life as if joy is contrary to living as a believer. Rather, the verse must be taken within the context of repentance. See James 1:2, Luke 6:21, Phil. 4:4.

10. Humble We have come full circle back to the need for humility before God, and he will lift the humble up (James 4:6, Matt. 23:12, 1 Pet 5:5-6).

2. Read the Scripture: James 4:11-12

11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

3. Reflect on the Scripture:

In verse 11, James returns to the idea of guarding one’s speech. He specifically addresses speaking against a brother or sister in Christ. Criticizing and condemning a fellow Christian is equated with speaking against and condemning the law. Here James is probably referring to Leviticus 19:18, “love your neighbor as yourself.” A person who speaks against another is setting the law aside and putting themselves over the law.

In verse 12, James clarifies God is the one who has given the law and is the only one who can judge. He alone brings salvation or destruction in his role as judge. James concludes this verse with a sarcastic rhetorical question, “But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” The obvious answer, you have no right to this position, only God.

4. Relate to life:

Now it's time to get specific and respond today. Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message. To pray:

Today, prayerfully consider if there are any brothers and sisters you have spoken against or judged recently. Ask God for forgiveness and a change of heart.

Today, pray for the person you have slandered or judged.

To do: (work produced by faith with the Holy Spirit’s help) Given the prayer suggestions above, how do you need to respond today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers. Keep a list of people you find yourself speaking against and turn it into a prayer list. If you are able, ask the person how specifically you can pray for them.

Prepare in advance-Before you begin your day, think through it. Are there conversations you need to avoid or prepare for? Ask for God’s help. How can you make sure they don’t lead to criticism and judgment?

To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passages).

Read and study the passages listed above. Read and study the passages these passages on slander and judgment.

Judgment-Matt 7:1-2

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