James returns to his fatherly admonitions to the churhes. He re-introduces the topic of judging others, but this time in a gentler, reasoning tone. Instead of chiding them, he begins to urge them and entreat them. To those who won’t respond to his reprimands, maybe they will respond to his entreaties.
By using the word “brothers”, James is reminding them that they are family. Not only that, they are “immediate family”, children of the same Heavenly Father through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. James uses the Greek word “katalaleite”, which literally means “to speak against”. It can also mean “to slander”, “to revile”, “to gossip”. “It is not only an expression of arrogance and disregard for one’s brother, it is also a slight to God’s law, and God is the Lawgiver”. (Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words).
As a child, can you remember hearing the words, “Wait until your father gets home!” If you can remember hearing those words, you knew what it meant, didn’t you? It meant that this act of disobedience was serious enough that the chastening was not over yet. You were going to hear some more about it later from your father, and the punishment might be even more severe! In a similar way, James is saying, in effect, “You had better take my advice and make things right so that you might not have to reckon with our Heavenly FATHER about this issue!
The second Greek word, which is found in verses 11 and 12, is “krinon”. It means to judge others in the sense of condemning them. A person with such a critical attitude can always find something or someone to criticize, whether their criticism is grounded or not. What an expression of defiance against God and His Word! It would be like standing in a courtroom in front of the judge and trying to pass judgment on another person. The gavel would come down in a hurry. BAM!!!!!! “OUT OF ORDER! I MAKE THE JUDGMENTS IN THIS COURTROOM!” Do you get the point I am trying to make? God is our Judge, and we are always in His presence. When we pass judgment on another believer, we are always “OUT OF ORDER”! I found the following caption at the bottom of a Daily Bread devotion on the topic of judging others: “If Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, that’s probably not our mission either.”
Do you sometimes have a tendency to criticize others and make judgments about others? Have you come up with reasons to justify your critical attitude and behavior? An Our Daily Bread Devotional uses a popular comic strip, “Peanuts”, by Charles Schulz, to illustrate our tendency to justify our criticism of others.
Linus had his security blanket in place and his thumb resting safely in his mouth, but he was troubled. Turning to Lucy, who was sitting next to him, he asked, “Why are you always so anxious to criticize me? Her response was typical: “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.” Exasperated, Linus threw his hands up and asked, “What about your own faults?” Without hesitation, Lucy explained, “I have a knack for overlooking them.”
We smile, but do we sometimes think that it’s our God-ordained responsibility to dish out negative criticism? Do we see it as a knack or a “spiritual gift”? And are we short-sighted when it comes to our own faults? There are many passages of Scripture, both in the Old Testament and New Testament, that speak against this attitude. I memorized two passages of Scripture on stewardship of speach to convict me and redirect me when I fall into this attitude and behavior. They are Proverbs 25:11,12 and Ephesians 4:29. You may want to look them up if you are not familiar with them.
Slander and negative criticism don’t just affect those we are talking to, or talking about. There are much more far-reaching consequences. For example, there may be children or younger Christians who may look up to us as a role model, and who are mimicking our words and actions. And, of course, there may be non-Christians observing us who might become turned off to the Gospel of Jesus Christ because of our attitude, words, and actions. Please consider all these consequences and ask God to change your attitude and enable you confess your sins to one another and become a lover of the brethren in Christ. You will be happier, they will be happier, God will be happier, and unbelievers will be saying, “See how they love one another!”.
Love is a fruit of the Spirit, and a result of being controlled by the Spirit of God. Are you ready to turn the control of your life over to God, and let Him have His way in your life? You’ll be glad you did; and so will everybody you know!