This study of James has been putting me in my place over and over. He does not hesitate to lay it all out there and speak sternly, clearly and honestly to his readers.
Today we look at the last seven verses of James 4:11-17. Before we move through this section together let’s pause and pray. In this prayer we will be reflecting on the things James will be instructing us about. I will be pausing from time to time to allow you to offer individual requests, confessions and thanksgivings along the way.
Let’s bow as we pray together:
Holy Heavenly Father, we praise your name and rejoice in your love and grace to us. How deep is your love that you would sacrifice Jesus on that cross for our sins in order to bring us together with you and with one another in Him. How patient you are with us day after day as we stumble and get distracted by all kinds desires and as we listen to all sorts of worldly voices calling us off the path of righteousness. Open our hearts and minds to hear your voice and break us free from the sins that so easily entangle us.
Father, you have created us in your own image and likeness. Help us look upon one another with love, respect and appreciation for that dignity we all possess in you. Your word through your servant James tells us not to speak against or judge one another, because you are the lawgiver and the judge. Teach us, Father, how to love and care for one another and know how to encourage and even rebuke one another according to your word and will without passing judgment or speaking against one another. Make us aware of where we have fallen short in this and cleanse our hearts and lips from sin against our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As I pause now, O Lord, hear our hearts as we each confess to you the sin of words our mouths have spoken…
Now, Holy Father, reveal what you see concerning the desires we have for comforts and material things. Shine the light of your truth within us and convict us by the Holy Spirit about whatever idols any one of us here may have set up in our lives, things that we love and serve, whatever we value that holds a place in our hearts that rightly belongs to You. Show us, Father, what You see in our priorities and our plans. Reveal to us, O Lord, what is our life here on this earth. Help us see it the way you do and fix our hearts where you would have us.
As I pause now, O Lord, hear our prayers for your forgiveness as you convict us of our sins and call us into your Son’s likeness. Reveal any idols in our hearts and hear our confessions and draw us closer to your will and way….
Thank-you, O Lord, our God and Father. Help us long for your appearing and love you above all else. In Jesus name, amen.
Verses 11 and 12 remind us of what James has already said earlier in this letter. In 1:26 and 3:2-12 James has made it clear that the sin of our talk is a much bigger deal than we might think.
Jesus said it too:
Every idle word a man shall speak, he shall give an account on the day of judgement, for by your words you will be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.
The only unpardonable sin in the Bible is something that comes out of your mouth.
Talk may be cheap but it is not without huge consequence. James tells us here not to speak against one another. This is not the same as confronting one another in effort to save from some sin. James 5:19-20 makes that clear.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
This is the kind of talk we do that puts down a brother or sister, not in care and correction, but perhaps in superiority or frustration or some selfish motivation of speech. Some people are simply negative in their talk by negative bent. Some people are positive in their talk by positive bent or temperament. I don’t think this is what James is addressing here. Negative temperamental people may have a harder time with this, but James says specifically, “Do not speak against one another.” To speak against is to blaspheme. Matthew 12:31-32 shows this to be the case.
And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
God wants us to speak words to or about one another that are conditioned by His love and truth. These words may be severe at times, but they must never be seated in selfish purposes, and always for the good of others and the ultimate glory of God. This is what is behind the statement: who are you to judge your brother? We are not on the throne with God… yet. See Revelation 3:21.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
We are not in a position to play God or Judge of anyone while we live on this earth. Yet we ARE called to encourage, reprove, rebuke and admonish one another with the word of God who IS the Judge, yet we must do so with meekness and reverence to God and in love toward one another.
So, what are some examples of speaking against one another that James IS addressing here?
The context of this instruction is the entire letter, but more specifically this chapter. Look again at verse 1-4. Whenever we see conflicts and hear talk against one another in church we are witnessing a kind of hostility toward God. James consistently points to our fleshly desires that wage war in our very bodies. It raises its head in hostility toward one another. Think of Cain and Abel. What was in Cain’s heart when his brother’s sacrifice was accepted and his was not? What did it do to his relationship to his brother? What did God say? Hostility toward God will show itself in hostility among ourselves.
How can we escape this? James makes it clear: His answer to this is to humble ourselves before God, submit to God, draw near to God… in other words, practice love for God.
The final section of James 4 shows us how easy it is to separate our lives into categories where God is not part of the equation. This is SO common and easy to fall prey to. Where in your life is God not ruling as King and Lord? Your talk will reveal it.
Notice James words: Come now you who SAY… Instead you ought to SAY… As it is you BOAST… All of these things come out of your mouth.
As Christians we are called to be confessors of our faith in Jesus Christ. When is it ok NOT to confess our dependence on the Lordship of Christ?
The world would have us stop confessing our faith. But this is not optional for followers of Jesus Christ. We are called to acknowledge His Lordship not just at church or in our homes, but also in our workplace and in our day to day business activities.
Why is this true? We dare not underestimate the power of our words of confession. Have you noticed how language in our world has become more and more perverse and immoral? At the same time confessing faith in Jesus Christ has become less tolerable. That is not a coincidence. The power of our confession is greater than we realize. Silencing it has greater consequences than we realize as well.
Where ever the Lordship of Jesus is not confessed, sin will take over. Pride will replace submission to God, drawing near to God and humility before God. Resistance to the devil will be replaced by blindness to his influence and ruinous workings. Cleanness of hands and hearts will be replaced by excuses for shamefulness and sin. Double mindedness will replace simplicity of devotion and faith in God.
Let us heed the word of God and warnings of James and commit to humbling ourselves before Him and continuing to confess Him before others.