The Dangerous Love of Finding Fault
Topic: Sanctification Passage: James 4:11–12
There is something in fallen human nature that loves to speak against other people. In fact, judging others can become like a hobby or a sport. It can almost be like you sit down with your wife at the end of the day and you say, “Honey, what shall we do tonight?”... and your wife says “Let's talk about how bad other people are!” And you say “Yes! That sounds like a great idea”. (Of course you wouldn't say that, but that CAN be kind of what happens). Or you get together with your best friend and you talk about how far off base this person has gotten, then you talk about how wrong that person is....
It is easy to have a continuous stream of critical thoughts about other people, and other families and other groups, running through your mind. And it is easy for a very high percentage of your conversations to be about what is wrong with OTHERS! And yet James gives us a VERY STRONG warning against that in these two short verses.
Phil Newton, a Baptist pastor, said, “Would it be inaccurate for me to suggest that no sin has brought more damage to the body anymore than this sin of speaking against a brother? How many reputations have been ruined, churches split, families divided, and ministries shattered due to this sin? Can we even begin to count it? This kind of sin is so common that we can easily slip into the attitude that it is no big deal. We have grown so accustomed to pride and self-righteousness that denigrating a brother or sister seems to be part of life itself.”
Alfred Plummer, a Bible commentator from the late 1800s, titled this section of James as “The love of Censuring Others”. That title shows me he had a lot of insight about these verses. To censure others means to express strong disapproval. “The love of Censuring Others” communicates the reality that we can actually begin to love expressing strong disapproval of other people. We can love to find fault! But it is SO WRONG! So dangerous! So out of place!
James is passionate about believers getting along, in love and humility and peace. He has addressed several things that do serious damage to our relationships. He addressed favoritism in chapter 2, he addressed taming our tongue in chapter 3, he addressed our passions in chapter 4 and how they become the source of fights and conflicts among us. Now here at the end of chapter 4 James addresses the problem of speaking against each other and judging one another.
Vs 11 “Brothers, do not speak against one another”. The NIV says do not slander one another. The word used here means to speak harshly of. We might say do not speak negatively against one another. James equates this with judging: he goes on to address, “Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him”.
Jesus himself said, in Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you will be judged”. This verse has been twisted to mean that we should NEVER say ANYTHING IS WRONG OR SINFUL. It does NOT mean that! But is does mean that we are not to set ourselves in a high place of looking down on and denouncing, or condemning others. This is a very strong warning by Jesus. Someone said this is the most misunderstood verse in the Bible by NON-Christians and the most disobeyed verse in the Bible by those who ARE Christians.
Let's acknowledge right up front that we must make certain kinds of judgments. Hebrews 5:14 says, the mature, “have their senses trained to discern good and evil”. We ARE to be able to say what is good and what is evil. When the Bible says something is clearly sinful, some Christians will say, well we are not supposed to judge”, AS IF that meant we are not to call evil, evil. That is NOT biblical! Right after Jesus said, “Do not judge”, he said “you will know a false prophet by his fruits”. When you see arrogance, and misuse of funds, and improper sexual behavior, that should tell you there is something false about someone claiming to speak for God.
Galatians 6:1 tells us to restore the one who is caught in a sin. There is a place to correct a brother or sister in the Lord. There is a place for going to our brother who has sinned against us. There is a place for warning a person who has wandered away from the Lord. But it is one thing to recognize that something is wrong or sinful, and seek to help that person; it is another to speak against that person, to be harsh and judgmental about it. It is one thing to recognize a fault in a person. It is another, to be eager to point out and publicize the errors of others.
So we have to make a distinction between making godly evaluation of things and wrongfully judging others.
BUT..... we must be careful, because we CAN, in the name of the Bible, become a very critical, judgmental person. It is SO EASY to justify our tearing down of others, in the name of godly discernment. It is so easy to justify a critical spirit. You see that person isn't measuring up to God's will and you condemn them in your heart for that.
The main point James makes is that to speak against others or judge them is a manifestation of pride. Pride is at the root of this inclination to criticize and to tear down other people. Pride causes a person to think that he is better than others, that he knows more than others, that he has things figured out more than others, that he is more spiritual than others. Pride leads a person to feel that he has the right to label everyone and pronounce judgment on them. Pride manifests itself in this love of finding fault, this love of assuming an attitude of superiority towards others!
BUT the big problem with pride is NOT only that it puffs us up over our brothers, but it exalts itself over the law or God and over God himself.
James goes on, “Anyone who speaks against his brother OR JUDGES HIM, speaks against the law and judges it.” “When you judge the law, you are not keeping it... BUT sitting in judgment on it.” In chapter 2 James said, “If you really keep the royal law found in scripture, “love your neighbor as yourself”, you are doing right.” Jesus taught that loving your neighbor as yourself, ALONG with loving God, is the greatest commandment. This is taken from Leviticus 19, “You shall not take revenge, or bear a grudge against one of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord”. Notice the strength and emphasis behind this commandment.
When you speak against a brother or sister, or judge a brother or sister, you are, you are NOT keeping this law, but you are speaking against the law of scripture. In fact, you are sitting in judgment on this law of scripture. Instead of living in humble submission to this law to love your neighbor as yourself, you are choosing to find fault with your neighbor.
In effect, you are saying this law of love, is NOT important to me, or this law is foolish or impractical, or this law doesn't apply to me, or I know better than this command and I have good reasons for speaking against my brother.
We might SAY we love the Word of God, we might SAY we honor the Word of God but when we speak against our brothers, James says we are really placing our selves ABOVE the Word of God. When we frame others in a bad light, we are guilty NOT ONLY of setting ourselves up as superior to those we judge, but we are making ourselves superior to the LAW ITSELF.
We must never forget, our PRIMARY calling is not to JUDGE your neighbor but to LOVE your neighbor. EVEN where we must go talk to someone about their sin, we should keep this priority in mind.
James goes on to say, towards the end of verse 11, “When you judge the law (ie when you judge your brother) you are NOT a DOER of the law but a JUDGE of it”. NASB. There is a danger of becoming a JUDGE and not a DOER! You can get so busy judging other people and groups that you don't have time to watch over your own life and conduct! Our job is to obediently follow Jesus Christ. If we spend our time speaking against one another, we are not giving enough time to our own obedience.
James goes on in verse 12, “But 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?”. The second argument James uses is, that by speaking against your brother you are usurping God's position, you are injecting yourself into a place that is not really yours at all. You are climbing into the judgment seat, a place that belongs only to God. Alfred Plummer called this “the invasion of the divine prerogative”.
Very bluntly James says there is one judge and that means it is NOT YOU, and it's NOT ME.
Judging others is so dangerous because you are taking the place of God!
You are assuming God's role! When you think about judging another person, it may be that you need to stop and judge your own self for your pride, in assuming a role that is that is WAY above you.
Thomas Constable, “Criticizing our equals is common sport but it is inappropriate for mere mortals”.
Instead of assuming a position of humility with each other, criticizing your brother is exalting yourself to the role of judge. James says, God is judge, we are brothers and neighbors. Life is NOT a courtroom with you as the JUDGE! People are not defendants brought into your court for YOU to speak against them. It is not your place to be judge, jury and executioner of everybody else. Our primary relationship is brothers, and neighbors. We are all on the same plane.
Phil Newton said,
At the heart of the problem is a failure to grasp the nature of the Christian community, the body of Christ. The terms that James uses point to a family relationship or a close tie (thus, brethren, neighbor). The person who is the object of the other's tongue is one who has also been redeemed by the blood of Christ, united to Christ and the church by the Holy Spirit, sealed together in the body by the Spirit, able to enter into the presence of the same Father, and destined to spend eternity together in heaven. They have shared together at the Lord's Table, partaking of Christ's body and blood in that symbolic yet mystical gathering of the church of Jesus Christ. They have entered through the veil of his flesh together into the presence of the Father's throne, there to pray and receive grace together for their needs. They have gone through the same waters of baptism, identifying them as being part of the same body of believers, having been immersed in Jesus Christ and joined to his body. Would the believer dare to raise his voice against another who is so intimately and uniquely joined to him as a brother or sister in Christ?
What are the identifying marks of a judgmental environment? What happens in a home or a church where this problem of judging others is not replaced by the royal law of love?
I think the main one is that you feel like you are walking on eggshells. You feel that instead of primarily being loved..., you are being watched and evaluated, by someone who has it out for you. You are afraid to say or do something that will be unacceptable. You have this feeling that the other person would rather EXPOSE your fault, than COVER IT with love. None of us want to live under that, do we? This morning would be a good time for all of us to decide before God to repent of being a judge and humble ourselves to be a lover of our brothers and neighbors.
We ARE to call one another to godly living, to Biblical thinking, to kingdom values, BUT we are not here to judge one another.
Jerry Bridges wrote a book titled, “Respectable Sins”. In it he said,
The sin of judgmentalism is one of the most subtle of our “respectable” sins because it is often practiced under the guise of being zealous for what is right. It’s obvious that within our conservative evangelical circles there are myriads of opinions on everything from theology to conduct to lifestyle and politics. Not only are there multiple opinions but we usually assume our opinion is correct. That’s where our trouble with judgmentalism begins. We equate our opinions with truth.
What are some ways we judge one another?
*We judge one another when we impose our own personal ideas and convictions on other people. INSTEAD of granting others the liberty that God gives them, we BIND people under our own ideas. Romans 14 talk about the man who eats everything and the man who eats only vegetables. “The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him”. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands of falls. And he WILL stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand”. Later it say, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.” The point is:
There are MANY areas of freedom in the Christian life. Individuals and families can have different ways of doing things and we are not to judge each other about those things.
*We wrongly judge others when we don't first judge our own sin. As Jesus said, so often the person judging his brother has this great big 2 x 4 kind of fault himself and yet he is trying to get this spec of sawdust out of his bother's eye.
*We wrongly judge others when we are hard and harsh with people. It is one thing to recognize that something is wrong in someone's life and to seek to help them with that. It is another thing to be hard and harsh and judgmental about it. Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy; not sacrifice”.
*We wrongly judge others when we judge from things we have read or heard about through gossip without knowing the facts. Jesus said judge with true judgment. Do you really know the whole story. Have you been patient enough to understand that person's heart, OR are you eager to pull out the shotgun and blast away?
*We wrongly judge others when we don't believe the best, when we don't put the best possible light on them. Love is very positive about others. 1 Corinthians 13 says love hopes all things, believes all things. The amplified bible says, love believes all things, looking for the best in each one. We see that in Paul's approach to people.
*We wrongly judge others when our comments are destructive. We are not primarily in the business of tearing down other people or churches or works but in the business of building up. Paul speaks of the authority the Lord gave him for building you up, not tearing you down”. When dealing with problems in Christians at Corinth, he said, “I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you as my dear children”. If we love people as we love ourselves we will take great care to inflict a little pain as possible.
*We wrongly judge others when we confidently pronounce someone is going to hell. James said, There is only One who can save and destroy. Certainly it is clear to us that people are lost. And we can generally tell who are the children of God and who is not. But rarely, if ever, is it our place to say to someone, you are going to hell. It is even worse to say, “Go to hell”. You are putting yourself in the place of God if you say things like that. We have no authority to save and to destroy; only God does. Ultimately he knows those who are his.
*We wrongly judge others if we judge them in our hearts, even if we keep our judgmental thoughts to ourselves and do not share them with others. It probably is BETTER to keep them to yourself but that is NOT the answer! Judgmental words will eventually flow out of a judgmental heart. The answer is to repent of the pride behind our drive to speak against others, and to humbly place ourselves beneath the royal law of love, to love one another just as we love ourselves.
More in James - A Portrait of Living Faith
July 17, 2016The Important Work of Turning a Wandering Brother Back to God
July 3, 2016God's Pathway to Healing
June 26, 2016Healing and the Heart of God