Last week in our James study, we talked about the importance of humility as we approach God. As we finish chapter four this week, we will look at our relationship with other believers; and the importance of depending upon God.
James 4:11-12 TLV “Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the Torah and judges the Torah. But if you judge the Torah, you are not a doer of the Torah, but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge—the One who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you who judges your neighbor?”
Just as we approach God in humility out of honor, we should speak well of our brothers out of love. Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, and we find his response in Matthew 22:37-40 TLV “And He said to him, “‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” In chapter two, James tells us that the royal law is to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We are not walking in love towards others if we speak evil of them. The Legacy Standard Bible says, “do not slander”, and the Christian Standard Bible says, ” do not criticize”, this is not about the biblical responsibility of calling an erring Christian to repent but refers to speaking against them. The Greek meaning of the word slander means to speak mindlessly, critically, or with no regard to the other person.
In Matthew 12:36, Jesus said we would give an account for every idle, or careless word we speak. Paul said in Ephesians 4:29 TLV “ Let no harmful word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for building others up according to the need, so that it gives grace to those who hear it.”
When we speak evil of one another, we elevate ourselves above the command of God, we are not submitted to the Scripture, and we take the place of God. God is the giver of the law and the judge of us all. The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We are to walk in love and speak encouragingly to others.
Just as God is a lawgiver and judge, He is also the ruler of the universe. We should not question nor presume upon Him. In our last portion of this week’s study, James addresses those who presume upon God.
James 4:13-17 TLV “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore whoever knows the right thing to do and does not do it—for him it is sin.”
The individuals that James addressed had no regard for the will of God. They had no regard for the timing of the Lord, His direction, or His placement for their lives. They were content with planning their destinies. Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” As James says, we don’t know what will happen today or tomorrow. No fortune teller, no modern-day prophet knows what will happen tomorrow; that is reserved in God’s knowledge. As Christians, we should seek the will of God in our lives. We should pray about where we are to live and what job we should take; a promotion may not always be the will of God.
We can tend to be arrogant as we plan our lives. Those are James’s words, not mine. Ecclesiastes 7:14 is one of those verses that every time I think about it, I stop. It says, “in the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider, that God has appointed both of them so that man cannot discover anything about his future.” We are mere creatures. God is the potter, and we are the clay. When we go about our lives seeking to find the way, we get in trouble. When we know to do good and we don’t do it, we are violating the law of God.
We need to examine our actions and our thoughts. Are we walking in love towards others? Are we trusting God or trying to make our way? As we learned last week, the posture of the Christian is one of humility, bring that together with walking in love towards others and trust with God, and you have directions for success in what you do. Joshua 1:8 in the New Living Translation says, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” If we want to succeed, we have to do things God’s way.
As we will see next week, those who are rich in wealth without righteousness will ultimately lose any success they thought they had. Success is not as the world defines it. Biblical success looks like what we talked about today; walking in love and trusting God. Take a look at your life. Are there changes you need to make? Start making them today. Dedicate yourself to obeying God’s Word, and watch the Lord direct your path.