Summary: This section warns against self-centered planning. Worldly living is not displayed only by a disbelief in God, sometimes it’s apparent in the disregarding of God as we plan our life & our daily activities.
It is too easy for Christians to make plans and set goals, expecting God to fall in line behind them. It is easy to plan our lives as if we controlled the future and had unlimited authority over the factors that affect our life. And so, in reality we do plan our lives as if God does not exist.
This section warns against self-centered planning. Worldly living is not displayed only by a disbelief in God, sometimes it’s apparent in the disregarding of God as we plan our life and our daily activities. We so want things our way that we harshly criticize and strike out at any one or thing that seems to be standing in our way. This leads to a life of self-will instead of God’s will. Life should be lived in seeking and submitting to God’s will (CIT).
I. TODAY’S PREJUDICES, 11-12.
II. TOMORROW’S PLANS, 13-14.
III. TOMORROW’S PERILS, 15-17.
If we don’t humble ourselves and repent toward God as verses 7-10 command, we grow in stubborn pride which is revealed in the denouncing of others. So verse 11 prohibits belittling and insulting language. 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.
Is not judging and criticizing others always easier than to judge oneself and repent? The unrepentant Christians James addressed, calling them brethren, spent far too much time criticizing others than critiquing themselves. To speak against (evil to) one another reflects fault finding, harsh criticism and attacking behind backs that too often has characterized some Christian people. Slander is critical speech intended to inflame others against the person being criticized. For Christians to malign other believers is a living contradiction of the close family ties which should bind us together. Peter taught Christians that when the truth about a brother is harmful, one should cover it in love rather than repeat it in criticism (I Peter 4:8).
James gave two compelling reasons to refrain from harshness toward other believers. First, to disparage a brother finds fault with God’s law. The royal law insists that believers love one another (2:8). To slander a brother is to attack the king of all laws which insists that we are to love our brother as we love ourselves. This person says they know more than God and places his judgment above the law, judging it instead of following it.
In one of the CHARLIE BROWN’S cartoons depicted little Linus with 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."
Some people think it is their God-ordained responsibility to dish out criticism. They see it as their knack. Some even consider it their spiritual gift. But these people are often blind to their own weaknesses. Because it is easy to commit, slander is widespread, almost inescapable. As Hamlet warned Ophelia, "Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny [slander]" (Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 3, scene 1).
The words of James offers a solution to this critical spirit. Verses 7 and 8 encourage us to recognize our faults and humbly submit to God. We must draw near to God, cleanse our hands, and purify our hearts (vs.8). This will help us take a realistic view of ourselves so that we will not "speak evil of one another" (vs.11).
When we follow the pattern that James prescribed, we will learn to recognize and confess our sins, rather than develop the knack of seeing the faults of others and overlooking our own. The more we correct ourselves the less we’ll criticize others.
The second argument for refraining fault finding speech is given in verse 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?
Only God has the sovereign right to make His laws and carry out His judgments. He allows no human being to share this role. A slanderous judging Christian attempts to usurp God’s place. God is the only one who knows the heart, perfectly understands the situation, and stands equipped to correctly decide. How can finite, sinful individuals attempt to play the role of God.
As Christians we can easily conclude that we are free to show critical attitudes. The Bible warns us to leave this judgment with God. Examine your attitude and actions toward others (Mt. 7:1-5). Do you build people up or tear them down? When you’re ready to criticize someone, remember God’s law of love and say something good instead. Saying something beneficial to others will cure you of finding fault and increase your ability to obey God’s law of love.