Introduction: Two weeks ago, we learned from James what terrible
damage our tongue can create. Have you ever said something that is
judgmental? I know I have. We had an older member of the church who
would bring new people to church and at the same time insult current
church members. It seemed like she was bringing some in and driving
others out. When I discussed the insults with her (I think she was
insulting me at the time), she told me that was just the way she was.
Is that the way we all are? Perhaps this reflects a deeper problem of
thinking that we are superior and everyone should conform to our
views. This week James writes about being judgmental and bragging
about the future. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn
- Read James 4:11. James says that judging a fellow
Christian is like judging the law. Elsewhere ( James 1:25)
James refers to the “perfect law.” Are fellow Christians
perfect? If not, then what is James talking about?
- How is making a judgment about a fellow Christian
like judging the law?
- Read 1 Corinthians 6:2-4. Paul tells us that we will judge
angels. Does this mean that James and Paul disagree?
- Let’s look again at James 4:11 and add James 4:12. Who
does James say is the Judge? (Jesus.)
- If Jesus is the Judge, what does that suggest is the
problem with us judging? (We are usurping the
authority of God.)
- Notice that James says this Judge is also the
“Lawgiver.” What does the fact that God gives us the
law have to do with our judging fellow Christians?
( James 4:11 uses the term “slander,” suggesting that
we are unfairly judging. When James says there is
only one Lawgiver, I think he means that when we
create our own standard for judgment, we usurp God’s
role as lawgiver.)
- We have two points from James: 1)When we judge fellow
Christians we usurp God’s role as Judge; and, 2)When we
create our own standards for judgment, we usurp God’s role
as lawgiver. How do explain Paul’s statement in 1
Corinthians 6:2-4, where he tells us to be judges? (Read 1
Corinthians 6:1. This gives us the context. Paul says that
when it comes to disputes among believers, we can (and
should) have the church appoint judges who will resolve
- Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-3. What is Paul’s view about
judging fellow believers here? (That we have an absolute
obligation to do it. Paul says that he already passed
judgment on this situation, and he criticizes the
believers for not having already judged this man and put
him out of the church.)
- Is this like the prior situation in which a church
member resolves (judges) disputes between church
members? (No. This seems much closer to the kind of
situation that James has been writing about.)
- Are Paul and James hopelessly in conflict over the point
- If not, what important differences do you find in
these Bible texts? (First, James begins describing
the judgment as “slander.” This suggests an improper
judgment. Second, Paul seems to refer to official
church-appointed judges. The church has an obligation
to judge. James is targeting the unofficial judges
who use their own false standards and are thereby
taking the place of God both in their judgment and in
their creation of their own standard.)
- How does your church handle official judging? For example,
when I was an Elder and Lay Pastor in my local church, I
recall getting roped by higher authority into visiting a
member who was involved in adultery (no other sin seemed
to require a visit). I was told by the person I was
visiting that “it was none of my business, who was I to
judge?” I hated these kinds of visits. Our message to the
straying member was reform, resign, or get voted out of
the church. What do you think James would say about this
kind of visit? What would Paul say?
- More recently, the church had a couple of fairly high
profile cases of adultery, and to my knowledge (I was
no longer the Lay Pastor) nothing official was done.
Certainly, no one asked me to visit. Do you think
that approach is better than the visit and threaten
approach? (Frankly, the only difference in the
outcome that I could discern was that a visit made
the spurned spouse feel justified. In the most recent
cases, the spurned spouses promptly divorced and
remarried. That seemed as powerful an object lesson
as imposing church discipline.)
- Look again at 1 Corinthians 5:1-2. What is the most
important problem here? (The church sets a bad
example to the world. Church members are “proud” of
- What does this add to our thinking about official
church discipline? (Considering James and Paul, I
think official church discipline, in the abstract, is
appropriate. At the same time, it seems to be
required only when some in the church encourage the
sin and the sin sets a bad example, or embarrasses
the church in front of the world.)
- Read James 4:13-14. Do you have a plan for tomorrow? How
about for the next year? (I have appointment dates and
deadlines that span at least a year in advance.)
- Is James saying that is wrong?
- Does James win the most disorganized person award?
- Read Luke 13:31-33 and Luke 14:28-30. What do these texts
suggest about organization and plans for tomorrow? (They
support the idea.)
- Read Matthew 6:34. What does this say about tomorrow?
- Let’s re-read James 4:13-14 and add James 4:15. We have
read several statements about tomorrow and being
organized. What common thread of truth can you find in
these texts that supports James? (Planning is fine. But,
we need to trust God. We need to put away worry, and we
need to put away self-trust. Our lives are in God’s hands.
I think James’ point is to avoid being arrogant about what
you will be doing tomorrow.)
- Read James 4:16. What problem does James point out that
goes beyond self-trust? (People are bragging about things
they have not yet done. They boast of accomplishments for
the future. How can we boast about a future that is
entirely in the hands of God? We can boast about our God,
but not about ourselves.)
- One of advantages of studying a book of the Bible is that
the material is presented the way God wants it presented.
James first wrote about slander, and now he is writing
about boasting about the future. What is James
collectively teaching us about the “big picture?” (We use
our tongues to cut others down and to boast about our
future. Both usurp the authority of God. Slandering others
usurps the authority of God as Judge and Lawgiver.
Bragging about the future usurps the authority of God over
- Status Quo Sins?
- Read James 4:17. What kind of sin is this? (It sounds like
the sin of omission – failing to do something you know you
- What connection does it have with our prior
discussion about judging and bragging about tomorrow?
Don’t those seem like affirmative sins, not sins of
- Read James 1:22-24. What is James teaching us here?
(I think James 4:17 repeats the instruction in James
1:22-24. James just gave us the “mirror” in which we
recognized our judgmental attitude about others and
our arrogant attitude about the future. Now he tells
us, do something about these attitudes. Don’t just
forget what you saw.)
- Friend, do you recognize your sins in these warnings? If
you tend to be judgmental, or brag about the future
without recognizing your dependance upon God, why not face
those attitudes right now by confessing them? Ask the Holy
Spirit to keep your eye in the “mirror” so you will
continue to walk the road towards greater righteousness.
- Next week: Weep and Howl!