Facing “Your Outside World”

James 4:11-17

Here’s where rubber meets road, in three spheres of existence. Basically covers all of life. Expectation that believer will demonstrate practical godliness / holiness at all times, in all circumstances. Earlier portions of epistle dealt in principles (with particular examples given to help understanding) but never intended to stay theoretical. Was well-laid foundation to enable those serious about pursuing holiness to achieve the goal.

In each of areas, get to deal with trials already mentioned. So questions become: how do we interact with various people we encounter? (4:11-17) What do we broadcast for personal identity in ups and downs of life? (5:1-11) How do we respond to series of events that make up circumstances each day? (5:12-18) James hasn’t cut his readers any slack up ’til this point, doesn’t start now: standard still the same – achieve objective of God’s redemptive plan, practical godliness.

A. your brother v.11-12

Injunction against Judging (11a)

καταλαλέω – 3x: “Do not speakagainst one another”; “He who speaksagainst a brother …speaksagainst the law”

κρίνω – 4x: to judge, to assume censorial (correcting public morals) power over, to call to account” Perschbacher, Analytical Greek Lexicon

speak against (forbidden)


without God-given mandate to do so

so as to tear down (rather than build up)

directly stated or implied / insinuated

may be factual but not fit biblical standard for truth: “that which is dependable, steadfast, and lifegiving.” Krabbendam

speak for (expected)

tongue must be fountain of life (Prov. 18:21)

must build up, give grace to hearers (Eph. 4:29)

have positive aim, serve as positive influence

what it doesn’t exclude:

dealing with offenses – there’s a prescribed biblical method for that

warning against error and true danger

“reproof, correction, training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

“is God’s truth, delivered in God’s way, through God’s means, with God’s purpose.” Krabbendam

who are covered

one another – brothers – neighbors

in the church and out

family and community

local pastor, cult scholar – “I’ve never been treated so kindly by someone who disagreed so strongly.”

Nature of Judging (11b)

James puts “speaking against” and judging (of negative sort) in same category, even inseparable

circumstances for proper judging

right judgment commanded by Jesus – John 7:24“Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.” HCSB

false teachers (Gal. 1:9; 1 John 4:1) false doctrine (1 Thess. 5:21; 2 John 9), the persistently sinful (2 Thess. 3:11-12, 14-15; Rev. 22:15)

only on issues / in circumstances where Bible forbids or commands

only in absence of hypocrisy, in spirit of meekness, with diligent intercession for offender: godly motivation, method and objective

wrong judging

evaluates individual, determines they don’t measure up to standard, reach conclusion

expressed by speech that tears down, not builds up

implicitly declares that law falls short – “My analysis, my assessment, my disparagement, my defamation, my condemnation, or for that matter in the opposite kind of context, my counsel, my advice, my input, my commendation, is superior to whatever God may contribute in his law.” Krabbendam

turns relationship between believer and God’s law upside down

believer to be a doer, subject to law

one who speaks against brother puts himself above law

substitutes man’s word for God’s word

Gravity of Judging (12)

it’s a big deal – it’s God’s territory

he is only one with authority to pronounce final verdict – life or death

for believer to take position above the law, administering the law, assumes place reserved for God

isn’t that a big leap? to speak so harshly against this particular sin? how do you get there?

think about all biblical teaching – how to treat brother/sister

to speak against them – treat / judge them to not be a brother

B. your future v.13-17

Injunction against Presumption (13)

to make substantive progress in pursuit of holiness, must start from position of humility; judging and presumption both contrary to humility

not planning that’s the problem

it’s attitude that minimizes or discounts Providence

actions described: planning, engaging in business, profitmaking – all commendable biblically if

principles learned on Sunday inform activities Mon-Sat

presumption and worry have same fault at root: over-confidence in self

primary directive here targets businessmen – principles apply to all believers

planning our steps must have

right motivation: please God by faithful obedience

right standard: according to biblical principles and to meet God’s approval

right goal: further God’s kingdom – cause it to grow in size, strength, effectiveness

means we shouldn’t live life on auto-pilot; need to think about what we do, why, how, etc.

Solution to Presumption (14-15)

First – acknowledge can’t know future, only God can and does

are stuck in present with memory / record of the past

even in present, our knowledge is limited; pretty small sphere

Second – acknowledge our lives and times are in God’s hands

no guarantee of tomorrow, even next moment

not to be cause for fear, discouragement, defeatism

should be spur to intensity, diligence, urgency and away from presumption

reminder of total dependence

Third – plan and act relying on God’s providential governing

“I will do this unless God….” – prevents, redirects

decisions informed by / based on

delight in God

delight in his Law / Word

creative use of gifts he has given – intellect, skills, etc.

expectation God will make clear whatever we need to know (if anything) in addition to his revealed will

when faced with need to make plans, answer these questions:

is it pleasing to God, will I please him in doing it?

will it move me along in my pursuit of holiness?

will it enable me to be most useful to God?

Nature of Presumption (16-17)

presumption (like judging) has pride for its root

arrogance that places self above God, points to self instead of God

cure for boasting

focus on the good we know we should be doing

constant awareness of remaining tasks eliminates basis for boasting

inspires in us holy discontent

with personal spiritual state

with spiritual condition of: family, neighborhood, town, world

So what must we do, where must we be that we treat brothers/sisters as such? plan and progress in holiness without becoming presumptuous? develop and nurture a holy discontent with status quo? It’s the cross that answers our need. Reminds of dependence, removes opportunity for boasting, its message fuels our desires / directs our priorities.


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