1. “No New Taxes” Illustration
Who said, “Read my lips. No new taxes”? "Read my lips: no new taxes" is the famous phrase spoken by then presidential candidate George H. W. Bush at the 1988 Republican National Convention as he accepted the nomination on August 18th. Written by speechwriter Peggy Noonan, the line was the most prominent sound bite from the speech. This phrase has been repeated or quoted thousands of times; or variations of it. What part of “no” do you not understand? – We got new taxes, by the way.
2. James 4.11-12
Our text could say, “What part of “do not” do you not understand?”
3. Do not speak evil against – slander; backbite; mud-sling; bad-mouth – speak in a condemning, judgmental way
4. William Cowper (English poet) said, “He that slanders me paints me blacker than I am, and he that flatters me, whiter. They both daub[or blot/smear] me, and when I look in the mirror of conscience, I see myself disguised by both.”
5. Consider James’ practical words:
I. Revelation of Simple Instruction (4.11a)
A. Immediate Tension to Resolve
1. Don’t Judge – Matthew 7.1-2
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
2. Do Judge
a. Sinful behavior within the community of faith – 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5.12-13
b. Confrontation when wronged –
• 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18.15-17;
• “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. Leviticus 19.17
3. Which? – BOTH!
JUDGE – can mean discern; decide a court case; discern
a. “Fruit Inspection” – discernment of outward actions
b. NOT for condemnation or criticism but for construction
c. Learn to give the benefit of the doubt
B. Important Texts to Reflect:
• Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. Proverbs 20.19
• For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
• 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1.28-31
1. Sages Equate Condemnation/criticism/slander to murder – kill reputation and maybe life
2. God’s Standard
a. Hillel’s “Golden Rule”: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn" (Shab. 31a).
b. Yeshua’s (Jesus’) version – Matthew 7.12
c. Based on Leviticus 19.18
d. God is more concerned with how we treat one another than how we treat him!
II. Rationale for Submitting to the Instruction
Being Westerners, we need to have reasons to do what God commands;
A. We are to have Regard for Others – “Family” –
When a newspaper published a false and misleading account about a certain man, the man went to Dr. Edward Everett (American politician and educator from MASS – spoke in excess of an hour at Gettysburg before Lincoln) to ask what action Everett would recommend. After listening patiently to the man’s complaints, Everett said, “My dear sir, do nothing about it. Half the people who buy that paper never saw the article about you. Half the people who did see it failed to read. Half the people who did read it failed to understand it. Half of those who did understand it know you and refused to believe it. Half of those who believed it were people of no consequence anyway.”
• Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12.10
• So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6.10
B. We are to have Regard for the Torah/Instructions/Law
1. James (and the whole Bible) is Hebraic in thought
2. He speaks of the Royal Law (2.8) – Based on Leviticus 19.18 (also Matthew 7.12)
3. Breaking the instructions was “sin” – missing the mark
4. We make OURSELVES above the Law or a Law to Ourselves
Back in October of 2000, an interesting baseball game took place in Cuba. During an exhibition game against Venezuela, 74 year old dictator Fidel Castro grabbed an aluminum bat and walked to the plate. When Castro approached the batter’s box, Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela came to the mound to pitch. After five pitches the two heads of state were locked in a full count. Castro watched as the 3-2 pitched sailed through the middle of the strike zone and listened as the umpire called him out. “No” Castro said, “that was a ball.” He proceeded to walk to first base. No one argued. President Chavez said nothing. The opposing team said nothing. The umpire said nothing. Later Castro joked about President Chavez saying, “Today just wasn’t his day.”
The law of baseball says that when a pitch goes over the middle of plate in the strike zone on a 3-2 count the batter is out. Castro placed himself above the laws of baseball and made up his own rules.
That is exactly what we do when we judge a brother. God’s law tells us not to do it. But we set ourselves above the laws of God and make up our own rules. We judge the law.
C. We are to have Regard for God
1. The Law/Instruction-Giver (2.12)
2. HE is able to Judge
D. We are to have Regard for Ourselves
1. Remember our need for humility
2. With all of my shortcomings, who am I to judge you?
III. Recollections for Spurring on the Instruction
A. Remember That WE will be Judged by Standards
1. God’s – The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. John 12.48
2. Ours –
A practicing lawyer loved to attack his opponents through scathing letters printed in newspapers. In 1842, he ridiculed the wrong man. James Shields did not take kindly to the anonymous writer who lampooned him in the Springfield Journal.
Mr. Shields tracked down the attorney who had publicly embarrassed him and challenged him to a duel. The man was a writer, not a fighter, but he could not get out of the duel without losing his honor. He was given the choice of weapons and chose swords in hopes of using his long arms to his advantage. He trained with a West Point graduate as he prepared to fight to the death.
On the appointed day he met Mr. Shields on a sandbar in the Mississippi River. At the last minute their seconds intervened and convinced the men to stop the duel. The lawyer returned to his practice as a changed man. Never again did he openly criticize anyone. In fact, years later when he heard his wife criticize the southern people of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln said, "Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances."
Do you have a critical spirit? Lincoln did, but he changed. How to Win Friends and influence People, Dale Carnegie, 1981, p9-10
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Matthew 7.1-2;
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6.12
B. Remember That We are Accountable to God
• 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
• 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Romans 14.12-13
C. Remember That God is Merciful to Us
1. So, we should be to one another
Ben Franklin, tactless in his youth, became so good at handling people that he was made American Ambassador to France. His secret, “I will speak ill of no man,. And speak all the good I know of everybody.”
2. [The Sages tell of a Midrash (illustrative story) of the angels rejoicing at the destruction of the Egyptian Army at the Red Sea. God rebukes them for rejoicing over the death of ANY of his children – all are created in his image and likeness.
3. Unforgiving Servant – Matthew 18.21-35
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
1. Two Gun Crowley
On May 7, 1931 the most sensational manhunt in New York City came to a climax. After a two week search “Two gun Crowley- the killer who didn’t smoke or drink was trapped in his girlfriend’s apartment. 150 policeman laid siege to the apartment. They chopped holes in the roof to smoke out the cop killer with tear gas. 10,000 people watched as he fired back at the police from behind an overstuffed chair.
When he was finally captured the police commissioner declared that he was the most dangerous criminal in the history of New York who will kill at the drop of a feather. But how did Crowley regard himself? We know from the letter he wrote while in the apartment under bullet fire. “TO Whom It May Concern, “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one-one that would do nobody any harm”
He was being chased because a policeman came up to the car where he and his girl were parking and asked for his license. With a word he drew his gun and shot the police man.
When he was sentenced to death in the electric chair, did he say, “This is what I get for killing people”? No he said, “This is what I get for defending myself.”
2. Mark Twain, “It takes your enemy and your friend, working together to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.”
3. We all have both friends and foes – better to be a loyal friend than a slandering foe.