Devotional Thoughts for Today
James 4.11-12 (NASB)
Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?
In a podcast series I recently finished (Serial, season 3) that investigated the judicial and prison system of Ohio, there was one law held by every person interviewed. No matter how unjust or unreasonable their situation was, no one broke this rule: you don’t snitch on anyone. And these young men would go to such great lengths to uphold this law—a law that isn’t even recognized by the judicial system. You may have differing opinions on this issue, and that’s fair; but one thing for sure: All of them understood that no one is above this law.
Whether it’s in Christian leadership or in the corporate setting, when someone begins to think that they are above the law—certain rules apply to some but not to me—it signals a grave danger ahead. The arrogance of this thinking is morally reprehensible, but more importantly, it is disdainful in the eyes of God. The tricky realization is that all us do commit this offense. We have areas in our lives that we know go against God’s heart, but we choose to disregard them.
We need to closely follow the argument here in this short passage. The teaching is to not speak against one another, especially about those within the community of faith. For when we do, three things occur: we (1) speak against the law, (2) judge the law, and (3) are not doers of the law. For James, when we disobey God’s commands, we are judging the commands by saying they are not applicable to us. This is judgment of, that is, rejecting, the validity of the law itself. And one example of this pattern is when we believe the command to love our neighbor as ourselves does not apply to us, and thus, speak out against our brothers/sisters.
The question we must ask ourselves is when we cast judgment on others, do we recognize that it’s not just “having a hard time with this person”? The seriousness of the indictment is that we have made ourselves above the One Lawgiver and Judge. There is no minor command that the Lord gives us, especially when it involves loving others. We cannot pick and choose lest we become judges of the law.
As was said yesterday, as we honestly reflect upon our character and heart, I pray that this would lead all of us to greater humility. I pray that the Word of God would peel back the deception that we have come to accept and be freed of the arrogance of our hearts.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that Your word is sharper than a double-edged sword. Thank You that it pierces us deeply so that we may be refined and become more like You. Send Your Holy Spirit so that we may love our neighbors as ourselves. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 11
Lunch Break Study
Read Luke 18:9-14: And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Questions to Consider
- What are the reasons for which the Pharisee felt that he stood right before the Lord? Was he wrong? What does this reveal about God?
- If you were to put these characters in your current context, who would be like the Pharisee and who would be like the tax collector? Who are you more like?
- What are the thoughts and feelings you experience when you find out that it is the tax collector that goes home justified? Why?
- The Pharisee religiously did/did not do what he was supposed to: he doesn’t swindle, is not unjust, does not commit adultery, and, unlike the tax collector, doesn’t cheat his own people. He fasts and pays his tithes. In one sense, he’s not wrong that he is more righteous than the tax collector. But God’s standards of righteousness are far different from ours. Scripture teaches us that even the most righteous person is no better than anyone else in regard to His standards.
- Perhaps the Pharisees are like church-goers. They do the “right” things. But ultimately what’s revealed is that they expect God to act in a certain way because they are not like the other people. The tax collectors are ones who truly understand that apart from the grace of God, we are hopeless and forlorn (and deservedly so).
- Personal response. You may find yourself experiencing a mixture of feelings. Perhaps you feel relieved that God’s mercy is so great. But others, you might feel slighted. You may feel like there’s something unfair about the situation. Bring these feelings before the Lord and ask Him to reveal what this reveals about your heart.
As you close today, meditate on James 4:12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy… what does it mean to you that this one Lawgiver and Judge provided the way of salvation for you through His Son? What do you feel when you reflect on the fact that the Judge has also shown you mercy, and no one else can bring anything against you? Spend some time thanking and praising the Lord for this truth.