16 James 4v11-12 Judging One Another

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The Structure of the Book
Introduction and Trials in the Christian Life (1: 1-8)
Happiness in our Circumstances(1: 9-11)
Trial, Temptation and Gift (1: 12-18)
Hindrances to Fruitfulness(1: 19-21)
Doers and Hearers (1: 22-25)
True Religion (1: 26-27)
Favouritism (2: 1-7)
The Royal Law (2: 8-12a)
Showing Mercy (2.12b-13]
Faith and Works (2:14-26)
Teachers and the Tongue (3: 1-12)
True and False Wisdom, (3: 13-17)
Peacemakers (3: 18)
Defeat Through Lack of Submission(4: 1-6)
Victory Through Submission(4: 7—10)
Judging One Another (4: 11-12)
Boasting of Tomorrow (4: 13-17)
The Misuse of Wealth(5: 1-6)
The Need of Patience (5: 7-12)
Appropriate Responses (5:13-16)
Restoring the Wanderer (5:17-20)
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James turns our attention to how we
speak about one another. “Brothers do
not slander one another”. To call them
‘brothers’ is a reminder of the family
bonds that exist within the church. In
ordinary family life its members to stick
together and defend one another from
the criticism heaped on them by
outsiders. This caring family solidarity
should also be true of church members.
Christians should expect slander from
outside the church (1Pet.2v12), but the
problem James identifies is, that instead
of supporting one another, church
members were engaged in internal
character assassination.
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The Greek word katalaleo translated as
‘slander’ has a wider meaning. Slander means:
“a false tale or report maliciously uttered,
designed to injure the reputation of another by
lessening him in esteem of his fellows, by
exposing him to impeachment and punishment,
or by impairing his means of living”.
The word ‘slander’ is used 5 times in the NT and
3 times in this verse. The verb tense used is an
active imperative, stressing that slander is an
action we must constantly avoid.
Slander is often motivated by envy, a chief
characteristic of ‘Satan,’ [whose name means
‘slanderer’ Rev. 12:10], who envied God. Note
that the first temptation put to Eve, slandered
and misrepresented God. Gen 3v1-5
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The Impact of Slander
James is dealing here with something that
strikes at people’s dignity, defames their
character and destroys their reputation.
Significantly, the OT denounces the sin of
slandering God or men more often than it
does about any other sin. In Lev 19v16 God
says “You shall not go about as a slanderer
among your people”.
It was an identifying mark of the godly
that they did not slander while it was a
mark of the ungodly that they slandered.
In NT the slanderer is regularly and
publicly condemned. Jesus identified its
source as an ‘evil heart’ and taught that it
defiles a person (Matt 15v19-20).
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The Impact of Slander
An illustration of the disaster that slander causes is found in 1Sam 10.
David chose to act kindly towards the son of the Ammonite king.
However, this son’s advisers poisoned his mind
with slander concerning David. David’s
envoy was publicly humiliated and the
Ammonites hired mercenaries in
preparation for war. David upon hearing
of this mobilisation of armed forces,
moved against the Ammonites in battle.
The result was over 40,000 dead and
many cities destroyed.
All of this resulted from the words of
Slanderous advisors who had bad
mouthed David and his motives.
(1Sam 10v3).
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The Impact of Slander
To speak against a brother is to ‘judge
him’. The Greek word ‘krino’ translated
as ‘judges’ does not refer to the act of
evaluating or assessing someone, but
rather to condemning someone.
It is an envious, censorious spirit that is
quick to point out the faults of others in
respect of their real or imagined
It is being judgmental and eager to
publish his views by whatever means
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The Impact of Slander
Gordon MacDonald the Christian author
describes a visit made to Japan. He and
his companion began to speak of a
mutual friend. Gordon spoke unkindly of
this friend. His companion stopped him,
looked him in the eye and said, "Gordon,
a man who says he loves God would not
say a thing like that about a friend.”
Those words of rebuke have
subsequently sealed his lips when
tempted to say something unkind about
a brother or sister. We need friends
lovingly and graciously to tell us when
we begin to slander others and we need
to receive with deep gratitude their
words of rebuke.
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Two Types of Judging
The Bible speaks of two different kinds of judgment. The judgment
James says we are to avoid is when we assume we can do God’s job
better than him. Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you
too will be judged” Matt7v1. These words are
often misunderstood. Tolstoy thought we were
being told to reject the whole judicial process.
Others think Jesus wants us to suspend all of our
critical faculties thereby refusing to distinguish
between good and evil behaviour. And so these
words are used to defend or even justify sinful
behaviour. For example, suppose you rebuke
someone who is having an adulterous affair.
That person may say “Do not judge, or you
too will be judged”, and then add “Who
do you think you are to judge me?”
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Two Types of Judging
What do Jesus’ words mean? Quite simply we are
forbidden to play God and pass final judgement on
another. God is the only competent authority to
judge. We dare not put ourselves his place for
we do not possess all the facts to judge
another. We cannot read men’s hearts or
assess their motives. Only God can! The
censorious critic judges harshly. He is a
faultfinder, who tends to be negative and
destructive in his criticisms. He puts the
worst possible construction on the
motives of others. We are not told to
sweep the sin of others under the carpet
nor are we asked to suspend our critical
powers but to show generosity towards
the sinner.
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Two Types of Judging
Nor is James talking about the judging that comes
as a result of confronting of sin; Scripture
commands us to do so. (Matt. 18:15-17; Acts
20:31; 1 Cor. 4:14; Col. 1:28; Tit. 1:3; 2:15; 3:10).
Nor is James forbidding the right of the Christian
church to exclude from its fellowship those it
deems to be in flagrant disobedience to the
standards of the faith, or to determine right and
wrong among its members (1 Cor. 5 and 6).
Instead, James is talking about speaking
evil against our brothers and sisters.
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Two Types of Judging
This kind of evil speech can take many
forms, such as: gossip, improper criticism,
false accusations, and censorious speech
by which we condemn others as being
wrong in the sight of God.
Indeed, slander is a means of committing
murder against a person, as it involves
tearing down a person's character and
reputation in the eyes of others.
This may have been the "murder" that is
spoken of in v2. Slander can lead to
murder, whether it be physical or verbal.
Scripture has much to say on this subject:
Ex. 23:1; Ps. 50:20; Rom. 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20;
Eph. 4:3; 2 Tim 3:3.
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Two Types of Judging
When the two types of judgment are
confused people are reluctant to speak out
against what is wrong lest they be accused
of judging others.
When we are determined to see everyone as
a ‘nice’ person we are being unrealistic. The
difference between wise and evil judgment is
the motive behind it. What James is exposing
is the harsh and uncharitable man who is
always finding fault with others.
What is the slander’s motive? Often people
want to point the searchlight at their faults
so that they might deflect it from their own.
It is a way of covering up their own sin and
spiritual barrenness.
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Two Types of Judging
We read in Gal. 6. 1ff: ‘Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who
are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also
may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this
way you will fulfil the law of Christ’.
The word translated ‘restore’ was used in antiquity for setting
a broken bone. And so, we are to deal with the faults of
others with the care of a medical practitioner. In
contrast with the harsh, censorious, spirit of the
slanderer. If we have experienced corrective soul
surgery and know its pain we will surely be kind
in our correction of others.
Some say, ‘I care for my friends too much to
confront them with their sin.’ But is that care or
cowardice? To leave the sin in place, is
inconsistent with brotherly love.
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Judging God’s Law
We learn from v11 that the slanderer is
guilty of speaking against and judging the
Law of God. What does this mean? It
means that this person is so blinkered in
his determination to commit verbal
murder that he no longer takes into
account the Law of God.
The law teaches us to love our neighbour
just as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).
Since loving is the fulfilment of the Law
(Rom 13v8) slander constitute a failure to
love others and is then a breach of the
Law. If we slander our brother, then we
are ignoring the command to love one
another, thus judging the law.
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Judging God’s Law
In what way is such a person judging the law? We
are saying that the laws of God are not adequate and
we know better.
We are either above the law or subject to it; and by
disobeying it, we are telling ourselves and God that
we are above it.
God gave his law to regulate people’s love
towards him and others. Therefore slander is a
violation of this Law. It shows utter disregard for the
divine standard because the slanderer places himself
above God’s Law. By doing so he is making himself its
Judge. To gain victory over slander requires us to take
our proper place which is under the law’s authority.
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Only One Lawgiver
It is clear from v 12 that there is only one
Lawgiver and Judge, God Himself.
What does that mean? It means that God
is the only one that is not subject to the
Law because He is the creator of it. No
one else in the universe is able to make
this claim, not even the angels in heaven.
As a result of his status as Lawgiver and
Judge, God is the only one who is able to
determine the eternal state of men, and
women whether heaven or hell.
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Only One Lawgiver
God is also the only qualified Judge because only he alone is in full
possession of the facts about our lives. Only he can read the
thoughts of a man’s mind and the intent of his heart.
We do not have the qualifications
to be judges in any absolute sense.
Our assessment of others can only
ever be provisional – we do not
have God’s knowledge of the
Human heart. It is not our place to
play God in the lives of others. By
judging, we are assuming to
ourselves God’s sovereign role with our
extremely limited insights and lack of
understanding, mercy, or the ability to
chastise or judge righteously.
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Only One Lawgiver
Since God is the only Lawgiver, the slanderer
also attempts to place himself above the
only true Lawgiver and Judge. This desire to
usurp the place of God and grasp his throne
has been the essence of every sin
committed from the time of Adam.
The slanderer has an exaggerated view of
his own importance v12b. This is the
opposite of the humility that should be ours
as children of God. The chief characteristic
of a Christian should be humility! It is pride
that persuades us that we can judge others
effectively and better than God. Those who
habitually engage in slanderous behaviour
cast doubt on the genuineness of their faith.
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Only One Lawgiver
Our critical behaviour can disguise itself
as well intentioned kindness. ‘Let me
help you with this speck in your eye’
To exalt ourselves by disparaging others
is a very cheap way of claiming moral
superiority… ‘Lord I thank you that I am
not as other men...’ Lk.18v11.
The least we should do is apply to
ourselves the same strict standard that
we apply to others. ‘But if we judged
ourselves, we would not come under
judgement.’ 1Cor 11.31
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When we judge others we are saying I am a
better judge than God!
Clearly we are unfit to be judges, not simply
because we are fallible human beings who
do not possess all the facts but because we
are fallen human beings who often view
things with a very distorted perspective.
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