July 21st, 2013
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” — John 7:24
It is surely not difficult to link this section directly on to what has gone before. After all, James has been writing about pride and humility and so often it is with our words that we betray the presence of one and the absence of the other. We justify ourselves by judging others; we seek to lift our reputation by lowering theirs and to promote ourselves by demoting them. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 302)
(v. 11) The grammatical construction used here . . . usually forbids the continuation of a practice already in progress. James’ readers had fallen into the habit of criticizing one another, and so he says, “Stop speaking against one another.” (Frank E. Gaebelien, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12, 196)
In the original, the noun diabolos (devil) means “slanderer.” (Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary–James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude, 143)
(v. 11) The Greek word (for slander) literally means “speak against” another. It might either mean to speak against someone truly or to speak evil falsely. To gossip is to take a true story where it should not go. To slander is to create and spread false stories. (Daniel M. Doriani, James, 156)
(v. 11) The Greek term translated “speak against” comes from a combination of two words meaning “to talk down.” It’s the idea of talking about one person to another with the goal of lowering your listener’s estimate of that third person. (Charles R. Swindoll, James–Practical and Authentic Living, 153)
(v. 11) The form of James’ prohibition (me with a present imperative) implies that his readers were speaking against each other in one or more of these ways, and needed to stop doing so. (Douglas J. Moo, James, 151)
(v. 11) So serious and unfamily-like is the matter that James used “brother” or “brethren” three times in this one verse (Gk & KJV). (Vernon Doerksen, James, 107)
Other side of the issue to consider:
Jesus does not forbid judgment. Rather, he forbids flagrant sinners from exercising it while refusing to deal with the sin in their own lives. In point of fact, it is the Christian’s duty to exercise judgment. For example, we are to beware of false prophets (Mt 7:15). How can we determine a false prophet except by judging him against the standard of the Word of God? Likewise we are told, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Mt 7:16). Recognition hinges on careful judgment. We are to judge adultery, murder, lying, and theft as sins, and if anyone does these things, we must judge them as being sinful! Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment” (Jn 7:24). What the Scriptures forbid is judgmentalism, a critical and censorious spirit that judges everyone and everything, seeking to run others down. (R. Kent Hughes, James–Faith That Works, 196)
The biblical injunctions against slander do not, as many in the church today erroneously believe, prohibit rebuking those who persist in unrepentant sin. On the contrary, such public exposure of sin is commanded in Scripture. In Mt 18:15-17, Jesus set forth the parameters for dealing with sinning Christians. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 221)
Paul repeated the Lord’s command in Tt 3:10, telling Titus to “reject a factious man after a first and second warning,” and he himself publicly rebuked such a person (1 Cor 5:1-5). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 221)
This charge shows that James is not prohibiting the proper, and necessary, discrimination that every Christian should exercise. Nor is he forbidding the right of the community 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). (Douglas J. Moo, James, 152)
In America we do not defer to kings, cardinals, or aristocrats; we rely instead on the people’s capacity to make reasonable judgments based on moral principles.
Those who constantly invoke the sentiment of “who are we to judge?” should consider the anarchy that would ensue if we adhered to this sentiment in, say, our courtrooms. Should judges judge? What would happen if those sitting on a jury decided to be “nonjudgmental” about rapists and sexual harassers, embezzlers and tax cheats? Without being “judgmental,” Americans would never have put an end to slavery, outlawed child labor, emancipated women, or ushered in the civil rights movement. Nor would we have prevailed against Nazism and Soviet communism, or known how to explain our opposition. (William J. Bennett; The Death of Outrage, 121)
Paul says that the apostles and the church have a responsibility to judge. When confronted with serious sin within the congregation, he wrote: “What business is it of mine to judge outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you” (1 Cor 5:12-13). Elsewhere Christians are commanded to exercise judgment in spiritual matters: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jn 4:1). (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary–James, 254)
To the church God has delegated the task of judging in matters that affects its members. For this reason James and Paul can and do judge. However, they remind us that in judging we are acting in God’s stead, and therefore exceptional care and restraint must be observed. God does not take it lightly when his name and honor are invoked inappropriately. To render judgment in the flippant, arrogant, and harsh fashion that some in his church have been doing, James finds reprehensible and foolhardy. God will defend the cause of those maligned. (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary–James, 255)
In summary, three points are prominent. (1) God alone has the right to judge. He is the lawgiver, the author of justice and righteousness. (2) God at times delegates that responsibility. He delegated it to Jesus, and in certain functions he delegates it to us. When exercising this role, however, we serve not as our own agents, but as the representatives of God. In some areas we are commanded to judge, such as in the case of spiritual discernment. But in all such areas we are to judge not in accordance to our own foibles and proclivities, or even according to personal convictions, but only in concert with the standards of God. This is the only true template. (3) We often judge inappropriately. When we use slander, misinform for ulterior motive, or seek what appears to our eyes to be “the good,” we are doing more than sinning against our neighbor. We are breaking trust with God, and in so doing, we are, in fact, judging ourselves. (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary–James, 255)
Slander is the sin of those who meet in corners and gather in little groups and pass out confidential tidbits of information which destroy the good name of those not present to defend themselves. (Alistair Begg sermon, “Saying No to Slander”)
Slander (as we have said on 1:19) was denounced as “the third tongue” (lishan telitay) because it slew three persons: the speaker, the spoken to, and the spoken of. (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, 176)
Writing in the 1828 edition of his dictionary, Noah Webster defined slander as “a false tale or report maliciously uttered, and tending to injure the reputation of another by lessening him in the esteem of his fellow citizens, by exposing him to impeachment and punishment, or by impairing his means of living.” Slander strikes at people’s dignity, defames their character, and destroys their reputation–their most priceless worldly asset (Prv 22:1; Eccl 7:1). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 217)
The Bible has much to say about slander. The OT denounces the sin of slandering God or men more often than it does any other sin. In Lv 19:16, God commands His people, “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people.” It is the mark of a godly man that “he does not slander with his tongue” (Ps 15:3); it is the mark of the wicked that they do slander others (Ps 50:19-20; Jer 6:28; 9:4; Rom 1:30). The seriousness of slander caused David to vow, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy” (Ps 101:5), and to pray, “May a slanderer not be established in the earth” (Ps 140:11). Solomon wisely counseled against associating with a slanderer (Prv 20:19). The NT also condemns slander. The Lord Jesus Christ identified its source as an evil heart (Mt 15:19) and taught that it defiles a person (Mt 15:20). Paul feared that he would find slander among the Corinthians when he visited them (2 Cor 12:20), and he commanded the Ephesians (Eph 4:31) and the Colossians (Col 3:8) to avoid it. Peter also exhorted his readers not to slander others (1 Pt 2:1). The Scriptures chronicle the devastating effects of slander. Prv 16:28 and 17:9 note that it destroys friendships. Prv 18:8 and 26:22 speak of the deep wounds inflicted on the one slandered, while Prv 11:9 and Isa 32:7 warn that slander can ultimately destroy people. Slanderers stir up contention (Prv 26:20), spread strife (6:19), and become fools (10:18). Devil fittingly means “slanderer.” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 220)
Slander and judgmentalism are synonymous. (Alistair Begg sermon, “Only One Judge”)
A gossip is a person who can give you all the details without knowing any of the facts.
The questions to be answered are . . . Why does James keep coming back to our speech and what we say? How can James say that to slander or judge is to hold ourselves above the Law and God? What is so damnably evil about slanderous or judgmental speech?
Answer: Our words are the easiest and most reliable way to reveal our heart. Especially those words that are said in a moment of unguarded candor. When we run down our neighbor with our words, we are holding ourselves higher than God’s law that commands us to love our neighbor and above the God who gave the commands. Jesus and His younger brother James both hold this kind of destructive speech as the spirit of murder.
In both Testaments all judgment is assigned to God. Judgment on the part of human beings, therefore, is lodged within the wider context of God’s judgment. (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary–James, 255)
The Word for the Day is . . . Encourage
There is something about faith that tends toward certainty. But certainty can be dangerous when it makes us blind. Jesus, like James, tried strenuously to open the eyes of his contemporaries to see their need for repentance. He implored them, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (Jn 7:24). In no uncertain terms he warned them, “Woe to you, blind guides!” (Mt 23:16). In frustration he said to them, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (Jn 9:41). (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary–James, 259-260)
What is James trying to teach us in these two powerful verses?:
I. Our words reveal our heart. (Ps 5:9; 17:3, 10; 19:14; 49:3; 62:4; Prv 15:14, 28; 16:23; Eccl 5:2; Isa 29:13; Jer 9:8; Mt 12:33-37; Mk 7:20-23; Lk 6:45; Rom 2:1; 10:8-10; 15:6)
(1 Pt 2:1, 2) In passing, notice Peter’s point that even someone relatively young in the faith–‘a newborn babe’–should cut out that kind of behavior. On a human level, quality of speech is one of the marks of a child’s progress; a mother will joyfully announce that ‘Johnny has begun to talk’ or that ‘Mary can now put a whole sentence together,’ with the inference that the baby is making progress. So in Christian terms, the quality of our speech is often an indication of our spirituality–or lack of it. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 303)
Is there not something pathetic about people who act as if they have a personal responsibility to put the world straight? Let us beware of that and remember instead the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged…’ (Mt 7:1, 2). (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 307)
To set oneself up as a critic of other people betrays both arrogance and ignorance. As somebody once very cleverly put it, ‘The critic who starts with himself will have no time to take on outside contracts!’ The Bible’s word to each one of us could not be clearer: ‘Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another’ (Rom 14:13). (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 308)
The NIV’s “But you–who are you?” catches the full force of the Greek construction. With shattering bluntness, James crushes any right his readers may have claimed to sit in judgment over their neighbors. This is not to rule out civil courts and judges. Instead, it is to root out the harsh, unkind, critical spirit that continually finds fault with others. (Frank E. Gaebelien, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12, 196)
One of the most common expressions of our sinful natures is to attempt to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. As many of us have discovered, that approach simply does not work. The ones involved in such behavior find that they are simply torn down as they malign others. (Paul A. Cedar, The Communicator’s Commentary–James, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 86)
It is the pride of sin that motivates a person to think that he is capable of judging another. And so James poses the direct question, “Who are you to judge another?” (v. 12). (Paul A. Cedar, The Communicator’s Commentary–James, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 87)
We imagine that given the chance we could improve the Law. Thus we become like Tolstoy, who said he was God’s older brother. (R. Kent Hughes, James–Faith That Works, 197)
The tendency to excuse ourselves and quickly judge others is proof that pride has gripped our hearts. (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, p. 136)
II. To violate the Law is to hold ourselves above both the Law and the Law-giver. (Lv 19:16; 1 Sm 2:6-7; Job 12:13; 38:2; Isa 40:13; Mt 10:28; Rom 11:34; 1 Cor 4:5)
Only the Creator knows the purpose behind the creation. How can we judge when we are not even aware or privy to the intention of the Creator for a person’s life?
These disputes were apparently conducted, as they usually are, with a notable absence of restraint in the use of the tongue (3:1-12), including perhaps cursings (3:10) and denunciations (4:11-12) of one another. Such behavior is nothing more than a manifestation of a worldly spirit (3:15; 4:1, 4). (Douglas J. Moo, James, 153)
Very well then: to disobey his law is to contradict him. To value our opinions above the law is to value ourselves above him. To take up the position of judge is to elbow him off his throne. Where now is the humility and lowliness before God which is the essence and key to the heavenly wisdom? (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 159)
In life there is one sin which can be said to be the basis of all others; and that is forgetting that we are creatures and that God is creator. When a man realizes his essential creatureliness, he realizes his essential helplessness and goes to the source from which that helplessness can alone be supplied. Such a dependence begets the only real independence; for then a man faces life not in his own strength but in God’s and is given victory. So long as a man regards himself as independent of God he is on the way to ultimate collapse and to defeat. (William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, 110)
Now, if a man breaks a law knowingly, he sets himself above the law. That is to say, he has made himself a judge of the law. But a man’s duty is not to judge the law, but to obey it. So the man who speaks evil of his neighbor has appointed himself a judge of the law and taken to himself the right to break it, and therefore stands condemned. (William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, 111)
As the Psalmist had it, it is to God alone that the issues of life and of death belong (Ps 68:20). To judge another is to take to ourselves a right to do what God alone has the right to do; and he is a reckless man who deliberately infringes the prerogatives of God. We might think that to speak evil of our neighbor is not a very serious sin. But scripture would say that it is one of the worst of all because it is a breach of the royal law and an infringement of the rights of God. (William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, 112)
Since James contrasts ‘judging the law’ with ‘doing the law’, he apparently thinks that failure to do the law involves an implicit denial of the law’s authority. However high and orthodox our view of God’s law might be, a failure actually to do it says to the world that we do not in fact put much store by it. Again we see coming to the surface James’ understanding of Christianity as something whose reality is to be tested by the measure of obedience. (Douglas J. Moo, James, 152)
Speaking of evil of fellow Christians is wrong not only because it involves ‘judging the law’; it is wrong also because it involves ‘judging the neighbor’. And this critical, condemnatory judgment involves both disobedience of the demand that we love the neighbor and an arrogant presumption on the rights of God himself. For he is the one lawgiver and judge who alone has the ability to determine the eternal fate of his creatures (cf. also Mt 10:28). (Douglas J. Moo, James, 152)
The first sins, slander and judgment of others, are clearly acts of pride. For when we judge and condemn others, we appoint ourselves to a position over them. But what gives us the right to promote ourselves to that rank? Indeed, to take the post of judge is to usurp a role that belongs to God himself. (Daniel M. Doriani, James, 154)
When we pick which commands to obey and which to ignore, we insult God’s person. For his commands are not arbitrary decrees. All of God’s commands express his nature, and all suit us perfectly. Each one tells us how to govern ourselves so that we become more like him. To reject God’s law is to reject him and to enthrone ourselves. But God is the one Lawgiver and Judge. He is the one who can save and destroy. (Daniel M. Doriani, James, 158-159)
The man who deliberately breaks a law thereby disparages that law. In effect he sets himself above it and declares that it is a bad law, not worthy to be obeyed. Such a person removes himself from the category of a doer of the law an becomes a judge of the law. (Curtis Vaughan, James: A Study Guide as quoted by Charles R. Swindoll, James–Practical and Authentic Living, 153-54)
The person who reads God’s law of love and then deliberately disobeys it is virtually saying that the law is not worth obeying, that he can break it with impunity. There could hardly be a more devastating condemnation than that! (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 305-06)
God’s law has not been given for our opinion, but for our obedience. The man who does not set himself under the law of God sets himself above it. But James adds another powerful point to his argument: ‘There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.’ James is saying that if a man refuses to submit to the law, he is saying in effect that the law need not have been given and will not be enforced; but the only one with the right to decide what the law is, and to pass judgment on men’s reaction to it, is God, and it is madness to act as if one could seize that prerogative from him. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 306)
God alone is Judge–of this, Scripture is crystal clear (see Jn 8:50; Acts 17:31; Rom 2:16; 2 Tm 4:1; Hebs 10:30). (J. Michael Walters, James–A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 167)
The rabbis taught that judging our neighbor logically leads to the graver sin of judging God: Rabbi Asi declared that the man who begins by disavowing his neighbor will end by denying God. We must be careful to note the far-reaching consequences of James’ teaching here: respect for law and order is necessary (as we are often told) for the health of modern society, but James goes on to remind us (v. 12) that, since God is the source of all law, what is ultimately at stake in a “permissive society” is respect for the authority of God himself. (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, 177)
This command is “the law” referred to in this passage. James points out that anyone who speaks disdainfully of a sister or brother is, in fact, breaking this “royal law” (cf. 2:8). Continuing in such behavior is no trifling matter. It does more than break the law, it treats the law as if it did not matter, as if it were not in force. In short, it judges the law and finds it not worthy of adherence. (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary–James, 249)
Normally we would probably agree that speaking against our brothers and sisters and judging them is a serious sin. But James has set the record straight–it is one of the worst of sins because 1)it is self-exaltation above the Law, and 2)even worse, it is self-exaltation above God. (R. Kent Hughes, James–Faith That Works, 198)
Since slander is a violation of the law of love, a slanderer speaks against the law and condemns the law, thus showing utter disregard for the divine standard. And if you place yourself above God’s law, warns James, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. The unimaginable implication of that is that the one who disregards God’s law in effect claims to be superior to the law of God, not to be bound by it or to be subject to its authority. By such fearful disrespect the sinner judges the law as unworthy of his attention, affection, obedience, submission–all of which is blasphemy against God. Experiencing victory over slander requires us to take our proper place under the law’s authority. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 224)
By placing himself above the law, the slanderer also attempts to place himself above the only true Lawgiver and Judge–God Himself. Such folly places the sinner on a par with Satan, who sought unsuccessfully to usurp God’s throne. His five “I wills” in Isaiah 14:13-14 expressed his desire for the place of supremacy. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 224)
The desire to usurp the place of God has been the essence of every sin ever committed. Sin seeks to dethrone God, to remove Him as supreme Lawgiver and Judge and rule in His place. Because it asserts that the sinner is above God’s law, as noted in the previous point, sin strikes a murderous blow at the very person of God Himself. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 224)
Every sin is ultimately against God because every sin in effect belittles and condemns His law, as well as usurps His authority. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 225)
God, and God alone, insists James, is both lawgiver and law-applier (cf. Isa 33:22); He gave the law and will judge men by His law. Only He, because He knows the hearts and motives of men (1 Sm 16:7; 1 Kgs 8:39; Prv 15:11), can perfectly apply the law He has given. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 225)
English Puritan Ralph Venning wrote the following sobering words in his book The Sinfulness of Sin:
The sinfulness of sin not only appears from, but consists in this, that it is contrary to God. Indeed, it is contrariety and enmity itself. Carnal men, or sinners are called by the name of enemies to God (Rom 5:8 with 10; Col 1:21); but the carnal mind or sin is called enmity itself (Rom 8:7). Accordingly, it and its acts are expressed by names of enmity and acts of hostility, such as, walking contrary to God (Lv 26:21), rebelling against God (Isa 1:2), rising up against him as an enemy (Mic 2:8), striving and contending with God (Isa 45:9), and despising God (Num 11:20). It makes men haters of God (Rom 1:30), resisters of God (Acts 7:51), fighters against God (Acts 5:39 and 23:9), even blasphemers of God, and in short very atheists, who say there is no God (Psa 14:1). It goes about to ungod God, and is by some of the ancients called Deicidium, God-murder or God-killing. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1993; 29-30)
(John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–James, 225-26)
The fall of man involved the entirety of man; all aspects of his personality were corrupted by sin. As a result, reason is not the judge of truth; only God can act as such a judge. Moreover, sin has so affected mankind that even rational abilities are not neutral. Christians seek to use their reason in dependence on God. Non-Christians seek to be independent in their thinking; there is no neutral ground on which to deal with unbelief. Human reason can be as much a hindrance as a help to faith in Christ. As St. Augustine once said, “Believe that you may understand.” To rest our faith on independent reason is to rebel against God. Reason must rest on our faith commitment to Christ and our faith must rest on God alone. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 74)
Biblical authority must never depend on human verification for it is the unquestionable Word of God.
The problem with much of the popular tactics used by many defenders of the faith today may be summed up as a problem of authority. The apologist must see clearly that the non–Christian is in need of forsaking his commitment to independence and should turn in faith to the authority of Christ. If however, trust in Christ is founded on logical consistency, historical evidence, scientific arguments, etc., then Christ is yet to be received as the ultimate authority. The various foundations are more authoritative than Christ himself. . . . if beliefs in Christian truth comes only after the claims of Christ are run through the verification machine of independent human judgment, then human judgment is still thought to be the ultimate authority. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 79-80)
God’s message, (in the book of Job) expressed in gorgeous poetry, boils down to something like this: Until you know a little more about running the physical universe, Job, don’t tell me how to run the moral universe. By describing the wonders of nature, relishing especially its wildness, God hints at some of the inherent limitations of natural law and of his preference not to intervene. God criticizes Job for only one thing, his limited point of view. Job has based his judgments on incomplete evidence—an insight that those of us in the “audience” have seen all along. (Philip Yancey; The Bible Jesus Read, 61-62)
Our conformity to the will of God should extend to our natural defects, mental ones, included. We should not, for example, complain or feel grieved at not being so clever or so witty or not having such a good memory as other people. Why should we complain of the little that has fallen to our lot when we have deserved nothing of what God has given us? Is not all a free gift of His generosity for which we are greatly indebted to him? What services has He received from us that He should have made us a human being rather than some lower animal? Have we done anything to oblige him to give us existence itself?
But it is not enough just not to complain. We ought to be content with what we have been given and desire nothing more. What we have is sufficient because God has judged it so. Just as a workman uses the shape and size of tool best suited to the job in hand, so God gives us those qualities which are in accordance with the designs He has for us. The important thing is to use well what He has given us. It may be added that it is very fortunate for some people to have only mediocre qualities or limited talents. The measure of them that God has given will save them, while they might be ruined if they had more. Superiority of talent very often only serves to engender pride and vanity and so become a means of perdition. (Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender To Divine Providence, 65-66)
Many today say that they cannot have faith in Christ because it is not “reasonable”. But what do they mean by reasonable? Do they mean that faith in Christ is inherently irrational and therefore does not make logical sense? Or do they mean that in their value system, faith in Christ doesn’t make sense?
You see it is impossible to have reason without a value system by which to judge your reasons for thinking. Hitler thought and acted completely within reasons when he killed 6 million in the gas chambers during WWII. He earnestly believed that Jews and resisters were less than human and so in his mind killing them was the only reasonable thing to do. Reason is based on a value system. It is the value system that determines the reasonableness of one’s actions. But if we do not share the same value system, then it is impossible for us to determine the actions of another with a different value system, to be reasonable.
So again, I come back to those who say faith in Christ is unreasonable. Of course it is. They are working with a different values system. They are going to think that a person of faith is unreasonable, just as a person from FL thinks it is unreasonable for a person from Michigan to root for U of M and a person from Michigan thinks it is unreasonable for a person from FL to root for FL. It is the value system that sets the standard for reasonableness. No wonder Jesus said, “I am the way , the truth and the life. No one can come to the father except through me.”, Why? Because HE (Christ) IS the value system. If we don’t accept that, then we will be totally unreasonable in our behaviors and judgments. We have adopted the wrong value system. — Keith Porter
III. Slanderous and/or judgmental speech is murder. (Mt 5:21-22; Gal 5:15)
You can be certain that whoever gossips to you will gossip about you. (Alistair Begg sermon, “Saying No to Slander”)
We should never report what may hurt another person unless to conceal it would hurt worse. (Alistair Begg sermon, “Saying No to Slander”)
James says that Christians should not be characterized by a judging spirit, a judgmental spirit. I cannot tell you how important this is.
. . . First of all , we have to see that slander and judging is not falsehood. A lot of people will think, “OK, here is this word slander.” well, James is saying, “Don’t tell lies about people.”
No, there is another Greek word for a lie. That is not the word being used here. What James is saying is not, “Don’t tell lies about each other. Of course you’re not supposed to tell lies about each other. That’s not what he’s talking about here. In 4:11 he is saying, “You can tell something that is absolutely true, absolutely accurate and still be slandering and judging someone with it”.
James is not talking here about telling falsehoods. He is forbidding using the truth in a certain way. Now, what is that?
Now, let me give you another qualification. . . . Being a Christian in your communication, entails more than just telling the truth. What is your purpose in telling the truth? How are you using the truth in the conversation? (Tim Keller message, “Communication”)
Slander and judging is telling the truth to punish rather than redeem. People say, “I want to tell the truth, I went and gave criticism.
James says, “That tells me nothing about whether you have done that as a Christian.”
Well, shouldn’t a Christian tell the truth?
James says, “Sure. But, why did you tell the truth? And, how did you tell the truth?”
Slander and judging is using the truth to punish. A judge is not a parent or a brother or sister. A judge’s job is to get rid of somebody. A judge’s job is to repay. A judge’s job is an eye for an eye. That’s a judge’s job. . . .
Slander and judging is to speak from a morally superior position. To talk down. To belittle. Rather than as an equal.
Let me put it to you one more way.
Slander and judging is telling the truth to push a person away rather than pull them in. Push them away rather than get them closer. (Tim Keller message, “Communication”)
How do you avoid this? See our sin for what it really is.
You know the place where Jesus says, “you’ve heard it said, ‘Thou shalt not murder.’ But, I say, ‘If you call someone a fool, if you call someone, ‘Raca’, (which means no one), if you slander, if you accuse, if you swell with anger, if you try to defame that person, you are also guilt of judgment.
Do you realize what Jesus is saying? He is saying slander is not a subheading under lying. It is a subheading under murder.
How is it possible for the Nazis to kill the Jews? Well, they were able to kill the Jews because for many years they called them “no ones”. They looked down at them. They thought of these people as sort of sub-mes until they could kill them.
Jesus says, “When you are able to assume any position of moral superiority to condemn people, to write them off, to give up on them, to demonize them; that is the seed of murder. It is murder.” (Tim Keller message, “Communication”)
The Bible states very clearly that ‘the accuser of our brothers’ (Rv 12:10) is one of the names attributed to the devil himself. This means that when a Christian passes on gossip or rumor about a fellow believer, or speaks about him in a way calculated to cause harm, he is guilty of nothing less than doing the devil’s work for him. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 304)
If they continue to slander each other in the church, they will eventually destroy the fellowship of the Christian community. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary–James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude, 143)
I once attended the funeral of a man who had committed suicide. As I sat there, I thought about this man and how I had wronged him. He had come to me for the truth, and I had told him he wasn’t that bad. This man was involved in some terrible sins, and I smoothed them over like it wasn’t that much, not wanting to judge him. Later on, this man judged himself, and his judgment for his sins was suicide. You see, if I had been truthful with him, I could have shown him God’s justice and also God’s grace. This man hadn’t heard about the grace part, so the only solution in his eyes was death. (Steve Brown broadcast, 2-16-99)
Running people down is bad business, whether you are a motorist or a gossip.
Prevention magazine reports new research that should be useful to leaders everywhere. It provides fresh ammunition in the battle to squelch water cooler gossip, head off rumors, and disconnect the grapevine.
John Skowronshi, a psychology professor at Ohio State University, was the lead author of a study that assessed the effects of gossip. His group discovered that people who hear gossip will actually associate the message with the message bearer. So, leaders may note, when busybodies spread rumors about, say, someone being dishonest, they risk having the people who hear that gossip associating the message with them.
Skowronshi says, “It’s a memory mistake. You listen to descriptions of others’ actions without thinking much about it. Later, when you search your thoughts about the person who told you, you subconsciously associate them with their description of someone else.”
Turnabout is fair play. For leaders who practice the principles of correcting in private and praising publicly, there’s a satisfying corollary to the findings of the gossip researchers: While negative chatter tarnishes, the bearers of good news about others are likewise bathed in the light of the reflected glory. (Leadership 2/6/01, 3-4)
CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What does this message have to do with Christ and me?:
A- Only Christ can give you a heart that is not murderous by nature. (2 Cor 5:17)
I cannot pray, except I sin; I cannot preach, but I sin; I cannot administer, nor receive the holy sacraments, but I sin. My very repentance needs to be repented of; and the tears I shed need washing in the blood of Christ. —William Beveridge (Kent Hughes; Preaching the Word Series, John: That You May Believe, 151)
‘The law’ says we should love one another, that is act and speak in a way which aims at each other’s blessing and welfare. But slander, gossip and negative criticism are all calculated to bring about the exact opposite and in engaging in these things we smash the principle the law of God lays down. The clear remedy is this: ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen’ (Eph 4:29). (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 305)
A person whose life is characterized by habitual slander and condemnation of others betrays an evil, unloving, unregenerate heart (1 Jn 2:9-10; 4:20). Their mouths become tunnels through which depravity exits their hearts. On the other hand, sanctified speech marks believers (Eph 4:25, 29; Col 4:6). The issue of slander, then, becomes a test of genuine salvation, and for believers, a measure of spiritual maturity. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary–James, 221)
If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humor or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason. (G. K. Chesterton; Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith, 19)
Come on son, come on daughter, be what you are . . . The Devil is a slanderer. You shouldn’t slander. Be who you are. (Alistair Begg sermon, “Saying No To Slander”)
The realignment of power is fundamental to the cause of justice because much of the twisted soul of injustice is the abuse of power. Whether the injustice is poverty, bonded slavery, land grabbing, forced prostitution, hunger, rape or racism, we find the abuse of power. Likewise, an abuse of power is at play even in more mundane examples of injustice: gossip, manipulation, coercion, lying, deception or libel. At the core of it all lies an abuse of power. Nothing thwarts God’s purposes more than twisted power; nothing renews God’s purposes more than redeeming power. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 109)
We will never possess true discernment until we crucify our instincts to judge. Realistically, this can take months or even years of uprooting old thought-systems that have not been planted in the divine soil of faith and love for people. To appropriate the discernment which is in the “mind of Christ” (see 1 Cor 2:16), we must first find the heart of Christ. The heart and love of Jesus is summed up in His own words: “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (Jn 12:47). (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 73-74)
Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (Jn 7:24). Righteous judgment is the direct result of love. If you cannot pray in love for a person or the church, do not presume you have true discernment. Love precedes peace, and peace precedes perception. Without love and peace in your heart, your judgment will be overly harsh. Regardless of the smile upon your face, your heart will have too much anger. False discernment is always slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 81)
Curiosity kills our souls. It leads us to listen to gossip and then to pass that gossip on. Pascal warned, “We usually only want to know something so that we can talk about it.” When we dive unnecessarily and uninvited into the lives of others, we lose our own inner grounding. “Stay away from what does not concern you,” Climacus urged, “for curiosity can defile stillness as nothing else can.” (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 113)
B- We will never come to Christ until we see the extent of our need for Christ. (Mt 7:1-5)
Signs you have a judgmental or Slanderous spirit:
1- When you criticize another they are ALWAYS crushed and destroyed. You are never able to redeem when you criticize.
2- If you have a fault finding habit of mind. You judge before you have all the facts.
3- You enjoy hearing about other people’s faults. Why do you enjoy hearing bout the faults or problems of others? Because you have a judgmental, slanderous spirit.
4- When you go beyond the facts and impute motives to people all the time. (Tim Keller message, “Communication”)
Anyone who knows God’s standards well enough to judge another by them also knows them well enough to be judged by them (Rom 2:1-3). When we violate the standards we enforce, we are without excuse. If we hope to receive mercy, we ought to show mercy. (Daniel M. Doriani, James, 158)
Our enemies come nearer the truth in the judgments they form of us, than we do in our judgments of ourselves. — La Rochefoucauld
When we’re honest, we have to recognize that every day in a thousand different ways we are all tempted to make ourselves the center of the universe. (Alistair Begg in a sermon entitled Saying No To Slander)
The knowledge of our failings makes us more and more hesitant about expressing any form of criticism of others. The man who knows himself learns an increasing silence before other people’s faults. -Derek Prime
I observe it to happen in the church today with particular frequency in three areas: judging the motives behind others’ words or actions in church business, judging how others spend money and judging how others are rearing their children. Judgmentalism needs to be confronted in specific areas such as these, so that we can see how we are doing it. We make judgments about others when we have listened and understood too little about them. James wrote earlier in the epistle, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (George M. Stulac, James, 155)
We are in no position to judge because we ourselves are in need of the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Let us help each other by directing our attention to Jesus. Do we, then, close our eyes when we see a brother falling into sin? Certainly not! James ends his epistle with advice that is to the point: “Whoever turns a sinner away from his error will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins” (5:20). (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary–James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude, 145)
Let me give so much time to the improvement of myself that I shall have not time to criticize others.
Worship point: How can we fail to worship when we see what murderous sinners we are and God’s unbelievable grace to us in spite of our sinfulness?
Spiritual Challenge: Watch your tongue (Both the words you do and don’t say). They reveal your heart. Plead with God to give you a new, clean, pure, encouraging heart that seeks to build up and encourage rather than tear down and destroy.
God Himself does not propose to judge a man until he is dead. So why should we?
In John 8, Jesus refuses condemn the woman caught in adultery. Are you going to do what Jesus Himself refused to do?
We have so much reason to be humble that it really should be an easy command to heed. Vanity and pride lead to foolish deeds. (Daniel M. Doriani, James, 153)
If you wouldn’t write it and sign it, don’t say it.
Charles Simeon (19th century believer) had these words about judgementalism:
1- To hear as little as possible what is to the prejudice of others
2- To believe nothing of the kind until I am absolutely forced to it.
3- Never to drink into the spirit of one who circulates an ill report.
4- Always to moderate as far as I can the unkindness which is expressed towards others.
5- Always to believe, that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter. (Alistair Begg quoting Charles Simeon in a sermon, “Only One Judge”)
Someone has suggested that there are three questions we should answer before indulging in criticism of others–What good does it to your brother? What good does it to yourself? What glory for God is in it? Beth Day has expressed it as follows in her poem “Three Gates of Gold.”
…Make it pass
Before you speak, three gates of gold:
These narrow gates. First “Is it true?”
Then “Is it needful?” In your mind
Give truthful answer. And the next
Is last and narrowest, “Is it kind?”
And if to reach your lips at last
It passed through these gateways three,
Then you may tell the tale, nor fear
What the result of speech may be.
(William MacDonald, The Epistle of James, 73)
Perhaps like me you’ve received a phone call from someone who says, “I want to tell you about so-and-so.”
And I say, “Wait a minute. May I quote you?”
There is usually a long pause. And then they’ll say, “Well, I’m not sure that would be a good idea.”
Invariably my answer would be, “then I’m not interested in hearing what you have to say. If you’re not interested in putting your name on it, if you’re not interested in being there when we confront the individual, I’m not interested in listening to what you’ve got to say.”
Gossip and rumor have ruined many a soul, haven’t they? – Churck Swindoll, The Tale of the Oxcart, 575)
Quotes to Note:
What ensures the honesty and integrity of our faith and practice is, in part, a healthy biblical self-critique. Paul says that, in a flash, he came to realize that his trust in the law was actually a form of idolatry that had prevented him from seeing the light (Rom 10:1-4; 2 Cor 3:7-4:6). Peter persisted to maintain a practice of separation from Gentiles until the vision recorded in Acts 10. Both were open to self-critique against the standards of Scripture and the Spirit. Such critique involves the courage and integrity to attempt to discern the wisdom of other positions. Above all, it means to test our own convictions, as well as those of others, on the anvil of the biblical witness. (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary–James, 260)
I have at times slipped into the sin of judgementalism. I disagree so strongly with what they are teaching that I sometimes demonize them. I don’t think that I am alone in this sin. (Alistair Begg sermon, “Only One Judge,” quoting Jerry Bridges)