Part 11 – Is This How We Are To Be?
This is part 11 of a 15 part Bible Study on the book of James .
Compiled and written by Norma Becker – a true woman of God and God’s word.
*The Index, with links, to all 15 parts is at the bottom of each page.
Is This How We Are To Be?
Some have imagined that the attitude expressed in verse 9 (James 4) is to be the constant characteristic of a Christian. Such an interpretation, however, overlooks the situation that gave rise to these commands. It was the desire for pleasures that led James to give this call to all-out repentance.
In verse 10 James says,
With the words “humble yourselves,” James returns to the text quoted from the Old Testament in verse 6. God graciously gives aid to the humble; therefore we need to humble ourselves. The Greek for this “humble” means an act of repentance for the sin of transferring affections from God to pleasures of the world. We are to humble ourselves and He will lift us up. We will be comforted, restored, and brought near to Him.
What Keeps us From Humbling Ourselves Before God?
Pride – “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbour?” (James 4:11-12)
The NASB has a better translation of
“Do not speak against one another.”
There are two thoughts on this section. One is that it is connected to verse 10 about humbling ourselves. To slander or judge another Christians is totally against the humble spirit God desires. Isn’t it true that those who run down their neighbours or a fellow member of their church often do so because by doing it they are implying that they are better than the ones they are running down. Backbiting others is, in fact, a subtle form of self-exaltation.
Is Judgement Ever Good?
We have judges in the courts that pass judgement all the time – how do they go about it? First they hear the charges and after all the facts that can be discovered are presented, they weigh both sides of the question and then pass judgement. How is someone who speaks against another different? Because he is passing judgement without hearing both sides or maybe without even wanting to know the truth of what he is saying.
To slander or judge a brother is to criticize and judge God’s Law. Why is this so? Read James 2:8. To speak against your neighbour is to violate this law. The person who does it places himself above the law and, by his action, he declares the law to be a bad or unnecessary statute. Rather than submitting to it and “keeping it,” he passes judgment on its validity and sets it aside.
In verse 12, when we find fault or criticize, we are taking authority over something that is reserved for God. Since he gave the law, he is qualified to enforce it and reward those who keep it and punish those who violate it. This doesn’t rule out civil courts and judges.
Back to verse 10 – humble yourself before the Lord. A humble attitude and just actions are essential for spiritual growth and maturity.
Another Example of Pride is Boasting
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:13-17).
Does this sound like a good business plan? What four things is he going to do?
- go to a city
- spend time there
- carry on business
- make money
What is wrong with a plan like this is God doesn’t come into the picture. They have been planning like they have power over the future. What makes them think they can boast when their knowledge is limited and even their future life is uncertain?
James uses another illustration from nature to point out the transitory nature of life: “You are a mist.” In the morning it covers the countryside; before noon it is gone. Some of James’s readers seemed to think they would were going to be here forever.
Plan like the Lord is not coming for a long time but live like He is coming today. Be prudent but be sure the Lord is guiding it.
Verse 13 says,
“You who say, ‘Such and such”
now he says in verse 15
“instead, you ought to say.”
A Christian person ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will.” For a believer to leave God out of his plans is an arrogant assumption of self-sufficiency, a declaration of independence from God.
How often have you heard people say, “The Lord willing,” or “If it’s the Lord’s will?”
Is saying this about every plan a guarantee that we have the right attitude? We need an attitude of complete submission. These words aren’t to be used like some charm but a realistic attitude that affects all of one’s being and behaviour. Some of his readers, however, made it a practice to ‘boast and brag’ rather than subjecting their plans to God’s will.
The Greek is saying, “You are boasting in your arrogant pretensions.” In other words they were proud of their assumption that they would foresee and control the future. James says this boasting is evil.
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:17).
Do you see this verse as referring just to the idea of boasting or is it referring to all that he has said so far? Translating “then” to “therefore” as the NASB does seems to bring out the idea of it referring to all that has been said so far. Perhaps he is saying,
“Now that I have pointed all these matters out to you, you have no excuse. Knowing what should be done obligates you to do it.”
Again the whole letter is how to attain spiritual maturity so as believers they must do the good they now know. Let’s go over again what he has said. A believer must:
Stand confidently on God’s Word even in trials and temptations.
He must compassionately serve fellow believers without favouritism but with practical faith.
He must speak carefully with a controlled tongue and wise thought.
He must submit to his all-powerful Father, Lawgiver and Judge with a humble spirit, just actions and trusting heart.
He must be what God wants him to be, do what God wants him to do and speak what God wants him to speak.
To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge.
To do the will of God is the greatest achievement.
Part 12: What About My Plans?
Index of James Bible Study
Part 1 Who is James?
Part 2 When and to Whom Was James Written?
Part 3 How to Welcome Trials with an Attitude of Joy?
Part 4 What Does ‘Tempt’ Mean?
Part 5 What is the Key to Responding to Trials?
Part 6 Those with True Religion Should Serve
Part 7 Expression of the Character and Will of God Himself
Part 8 Spiritual Maturity
Part 9 Spiritual Maturity continued…
Part 10 What Causes Fights and Quarrels Among You?
Part 11 Is This How We Are To Be?
Part 12 What About My Plans?
Part 13 Let God be the Judge
Part 14 The Power of Prayer & Praise
Part 15 Summary and last part