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God’s Word for You

James 4:11-12 Do not judge

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

11 Stop speaking evil against each another, brothers! Someone 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 someone who obeys the law, but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Earlier, James warned about the way we use the tongue. Now he exposes a specific sin, which is coveting, usurping and stealing God’s authority to judge. God surely appoints judges and rulers over the people of the world; this is the realm of all government. The authority to govern is given by God (Romans 13:1), and he uses such tools as he finds to carry out government. All leaders and rulers are flawed in some way. When a leader’s people fail to see his flaws, they become fanatics. When the leader himself fails to see or admit his flaws, he becomes a megalomaniac. Rome had its Nero and its Caligula and many other freaks in power, and all nations suffer through such times. But we should not think that James is only speaking to leaders, since in a sense he isn’t speaking to leaders at all. Leaders are given the authority to judge by God. No, it is to the common, ordinary people James is speaking. We do not have the authority to judge each other.

See how James coaches us through this point: Someone who either speaks against a brother or judges a brother is really speaking against and judging the law. How? He is behaving as if the law does not protect his brother. By placing himself above or alongside the law, he fails to obey the law, and then he speaks against and judges the One who gave the law, who is God himself. Jesus warned, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2). Paul shed light on this from another direction: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls” (Romans 14:4). Therefore, if God will judge my brother, who am I to cast judgment on him myself? Shouldn’t I rather gently point out his fault privately so that he might repent, if he has any fault? Shouldn’t I really judge whether my judgment comes from envy or jealousy or some other sinful motive? Isn’t it possible that a man who has an opinion that I do not share might in fact be correct? This, too, is part of humbling myself (James 4:10). Boaz even encouraged his workers, like an ancient Coach James, about the foreign woman working in his field: “Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her” (Ruth 2:15). His thoughtfulness gained him the trust of the woman who, later on, boldly proposed marriage to him! What, O judging man, has your judgyness done for you? Do not judge, but encourage.

Someone might ask: Then why do preachers judge sins? This is because preachers are called by God to proclaim the law and to condemn sins. This is what the prophet Nathan did when David sinned (2 Samuel 12:7). And this is also what a preacher does when he condemns a sin that emerges in his congregation, or in his community, and it is something he wants his flock to beware. Jesus did this when he pointed out the yeast of the Pharisees, which was hypocrisy (Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1) and the greed of the scribes (Luke 20:46-47). It is really only when someone rejects the idea of sin that they begin to object that preachers preach against sin. Or they feel that preachers should preach about other sins and not theirs. This is precisely the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, where a man will say, “You should preach about adultery and hate and cursing, but don’t be so hard on my ‘sharp’ business practices or the loopholes I use to avoid my taxes or accuse me of greed.”

For those times when any of us have run down a brother, whether a brother from the body of our mother or a brother from the body of the church, may God forgive us. May we be so comforted by the forgiveness we have in Jesus that we are able to turn around and make positive changes in our lives toward all men, women and children. May we always desire to build one another up in Christ, for the success of his gospel and to the glory of his name.

  May the mind of Christ my Savior
  Live in me from day to day,
  By his love and pow’r inspiring
  All I do or say.

  May the love of Jesus fill me
  As the waters fill the sea,
  Him exalting, self abasing—
  This is victory.

  May his spirit live within me
  As I seek the lost to win.
  And may they forget the channel,
  Seeing only him. (Christian Worship 467:1,4,6)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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