James 4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
James reminds us there is a need for sober examination in the true child of God. True saints need God to examine them and then humbly submit to His assessment. Those who are truly saved, but not obedient to the Lord do not need pampering. They need to see their wickedness as God sees it and they need to repent. That is what James is talking about in verse 9. Many people are looking for a church where they can feel good about themselves, regardless of how they live. A godly pastor does not seek to keep the sinner comfortable. James was directed by God to speak clearly and plainly and boldly about the needs facing the brethren of his day. As we have noted in other posts, what James wrote is for all people in every generation. The needs are the same today as they were then.
There is a time to be afflicted, to mourn and to weep. There is a time when laughter should cease and when joy should be replaced with heaviness. When a disobedient saint hears God’s assessment of their sin and deals with it properly, there will be joy when the heart is cleansed. However, there will be sorrow in recognizing the evil that has been done. There must be a recognition of the wickedness of sin if there is going to be a genuine confession and desiring to forsake the sin. Whitewashing sin does not fix the problem.
In verse 10 we see further, the need for true humility. Notice here that we need to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. Jesus taught of the Pharisee who came in pride before the Lord and boasted of his assumed righteousness. He despised that publican who would not even lift up his eyes to heaven. The Pharisee certainly did not humble himself in the sight of the Lord. The publican was not putting on a show. He was truly repentant and he was truly humble. He acknowledged that he was unworthy to even come before a holy and righteous God. Yet he pleaded for mercy to be able to be heard and to be forgiven and cleansed.
I read of some school children in Ontario who walked out of classes this week, claiming that they were not being properly educated. Some of the teachers were refusing to teach because they claimed there was a core group of students that were violent and disrespectful to the teachers. The students complained about these teachers. The students stated that education was a right. The problem there, is that it is the students who are trying to tell the teachers what qualifies as an education.
It would be one thing if those students actually wanted a real education. If that were the case, they would not be outside of that school protesting. I call the public schools the devil’s playground and the buses the devil’s taxis. No God-fearing parent would send their child into that awful environment.
James is not speaking here of the many false religions of his day. God is certainly not including false religion in His declarations here. There is a danger that when God’s people become careless, they are in fact guilty of spreading false religion.
We are further reminded in verse 10 that when a true saint humbles himself before a holy God, He will lift that saint up. When God lifts up a saint, it is in the fact that the saint is forgiven and able to serve God in truth. There is a weight that has been removed due to a genuine turning to God, seeking His forgiveness and cleansing.
In verse 11 James again spoke of the tongue. The true child of God cannot speak evil of another brother. Speaking evil is slandering a brother. It is not speaking evil to address sin with a brother and encouraging a brother to deal with the sin. It is evil to gossip and back-bite. It is evil to try to put others down just to try to make one’s self look better.
We used the illustration of the self-righteous Pharisee earlier. That person was speaking evil. He was discrediting the true humility of the publican. He was not seeking to help that person to be forgiven and saved. He wanted to continue to trample on that person to try to get higher up himself.
That never works, but many people think it does. James reminds us that the person that speaks evil of a brother and judges him wrongly, is in reality speaking evil of the law and judging the law. This is not a good thing. James further stated that the one who judges the law is not a doer of the law. He has elevated himself to be a judge and to be above the law.
Judges are supposed to be those who uphold the law. They are not above the law, but they are to live in accordance to the law so that they can rightly help the law-breaker to deal with his lawlessness.
In verse 12 we are reminded that there is one lawgiver. That lawgiver is God. He has the power to save and He has the power to destroy. God always sees every situation as it truly is. God is not a hypocrite. God has no sin in Him. We need to keep the context in mind when we look at any verse. The prohibition to judging here is in the context of hypocrisy.
We already know that Jesus taught us that we need to judge righteous judgment.
John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
God never contradicts Himself. He does not tell us to go to one portion of Scripture and teach one thing and then try to get people to ignore that passage and teach something contrary somewhere else. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. It all fits together. It is all beneficial to the soul. We need to be careful in our attitude and actions toward others. The faithful and humble servant of the Lord will want to walk circumspectly himself, and then also seek to help others to be able to do the same. There will be a genuine care for the soul of each person.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invited the needy to come to Him. He offered rest to the weary. He offered them a yoke that was fitted for them and where they would walk together with Him. That is the loving nature of our Great and Glorious Saviour. He provides forgiveness and He provides wise counsel all the time. Those who are saved, such as James in our text, will seek to do the same. He will seek to point the errant brother to the place of help — the Lord Jesus Christ. When the person turns to the Lord in humility, he will find the help needed to be lifted up in a godly manner.