Church! Church! Be careful who and how you judge. God is listening!
As we continue our study of the book of James, we see another example of First Church’s inability to control their tongues. James addresses this problem by instructing, “Believers, do not speak against or slander one another” (James 4:11a Amplified Bible). Slander is making false or damaging statements defaming someone’s reputation.
These first-generation Christians who were scattered from their homeland because of persecution and the threat of death had so many problems with controlling their speech. Many twenty-first century Christians who have several bibles in their homes and multiple translations on their electronic devices are seemly unaware of the power of their tongues and the penalty for its misuse.
Two gigantic mistakes some Christians make are: (1) to make false and damaging statements about fellow brothers and sisters in the church, and (2) to allow unbelievers or new believers to hear them do it. The unbeliever’s notion that the church is hypocritical is validated, and the new believer becomes disillusioned because he thought that church folk were “saints.” Pastors can tell when they have been ill spoken of at the home of a member because the children’s behavior changes. They used to run into the church and give the pastor a hug, now they give him a look of defiance or dislike.
James explained, “He who speaks [self-righteously] against a brother or judges his brother [hypocritically], speaks against the Law and judges the Law. If you judge the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge of it” (James 4:11b, Amplified Bible).
This does not mean Christians should stop using the Bible to discern right from wrong and morality from immorality. Legitimate acts of judgment and church discipline are commanded in the Bible. For example, Paul instructed the Corinthian church to perform an act of righteous judgement against a fellow Christian who was sleeping with his father’s wife by putting him out of the church. He also instructed that they “must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people” (1 Cor. 5:11, NIV).
So, James is not saying never judge, he is stressing we should abolish a “harsh, unkind, critical spirit that continually finds fault with others” (The Expository Bible Commentary). When you decide to be judge and jury over others, your act speaks against the law. What law? This law.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).
If you love God with all your being, you will not unjustly speak against the household of faith because you love them with a godly love.
Remember, you are not God.
- There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy [the one God who has the absolute power of life and death]; but who are you to [hypocritically or self-righteously] pass judgment on your neighbor? (James 4:12, Amplified Bible).
- “You shall not take revenge nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor (acquaintance, associate, companion) as yourself; I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18, Amplified Bible).
Unless the person is violating a kingdom law and you are mandated by the Bible to address the issue – leave people alone! Their clothes, hairstyles, car, house, salary, self-care, finances, church membership, and friends are none of your business. If you are not going to be a part of the solution to their problem, be quiet.
Be careful, Church! God is listening. The self-righteous, hypocritical judgement you give others will be given back to you:
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:37-38, NIV).
Join the conversation. Share your thoughts on unrighteous judgment.