A Kind Word

James 4:11-17

 

Warning against Judging Another

11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

 

Boasting about Tomorrow

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
 
 

I can honestly say that I never remember hearing my father say a negative word about anyone. Now my dad was not one who said much of anything. In fact, his greatest fear when he got married was, “What are we going to talk about for the next 50 years?” He really didn’t have to worry too much about that because my mother picked up the slack!

 

But, I am serious when I say that I do not recall my father speaking evil about anyone. Could it be that I wasn’t paying much attention? Possibly.

 

The message from James is a hefty one – who are you to judge your neighbor?

 

And later in the passage, the shift changes from others to focus on ourselves – anyone who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it commits sin.

 

The law is given to us as a mirror, not a microscope or a telescope. The law is given to be a tool that causes us to look at the things we have done and left undone, and then strive to correct the error of our ways.

 

But let me remind you, once again, that it is not by keeping the law that we are saved or made right in the eyes of God. Our relationship is founded on God’s actions, not ours.

 

You have heard me say it before, and here it is again. Our relationship with God is not an “if-then” relationship. If you do this, then God will reward you, save you, forgive you.

 

No.

 

God’s gift to us is giving us a “because-therefore” relationship.

 

  • Because God so loved us…
  • Because even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…
  • Because God sent his son to the world not to condemn but to save…

 

BECAUSE of this, we therefore are forgiven and set free.

 

Once we realize this good news, we can look in that mirror and see what we can do in response to receiving such a wonderful gift.

 

We are not called to judge. We are not the gatekeepers, determining who is in and who is out. Our role is to serve on the hospitality committee and share with others the good news of what God has given us.
 
 

Let Us Pray

Almighty God, forgive us for trying to do your job for you. Put us in our place, and remind us that we are loved and forgiven. Use us to be like the shepherds, sharing with all what we have heard and seen in you. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 

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