In Sunday’s passage, James tells us not to speak evil of or judge a brother. This seems counter-intuitive to many professed Christians today, because the law of God clearly points out evil, and it seems as if it is our duty to apply the law by passing judgment on those who do not keep it. Others point out that we no longer live under or by the law, but rather by grace. Therefore they really don’t focus on the issue of sin, but celebrate the goodness and love of God. These two views represent opposite sides of gospel understanding. James tells us that both are wrong.
James states that speaking evil of or judging a brother is not simply unkind, but is actually a violation of the law. In fact, he says it is “speaking evil of and judging the law.” Why is that? It is helpful to remind ourselves of the purpose of the law. The law was not given as a means of righteousness.That is a common misconception among Christians. Many think that Old Testament children of God were saved by obedience to the law and the New Testament child of God is saved by grace. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one could be saved by obedience to the law because no one was able to keep it. That is why the Bible says that “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” It was not his works, but his faith that evidenced his salvation. It is also the reason that David said: “You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
So the law was given to show us how glorious God is (He is the standard, not the law), and how far short we fall of His glory. The law was also given to show us the scope of our sin, show us our need of a Savior and bring us to repentance. That is why James says that speaking evil of or judging others is so wrong. In doing so we are not only violating the purpose of the law by setting ourselves (rather than God) up as the standard of righteousness, we are also being disobedient to the commandments in the law. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He answered; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” But then He added, “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So speaking evil of and judging someone is breaking the law’s command to love.
All of this is background to Doug's sermon on Sunday. As we look at James 4:10-12, we are going to examine how we are to interact with each other in view of the commands of the law. Pray that God will give us the grace to allow the law’s reflection of God’s character to shine brightly through us.