James 4:11-12 – Judging Others

James 4:11-12

11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

This is another passage that is taken out of context or rather our understanding of judgment places it out of context.  The idea here is not that we do not have the right to uphold God’s laws.  If God has said that something is sinful, we have every right to call it sinful.  And God will judge these actions as sinful regardless whether they are judged on earth or not.

The problem is that we have a way of adding to God’s laws.  Usually this is with only the best of intentions but the end result isn’t good.  The Pharisees did the same thing as today as they judged people not according to God’s laws but to standards that they had made.  Jesus frequently came into conflict with the Pharisees not because He had broken God’s law but because He had broken the laws that the Pharisees had created.

It is proper for us to judge others according to God’s law because we’re going to be held to the same standard.  Obviously it is hypocritical to sit in judgment of someone doing something that we are likewise guilty of but that does not add to our judgment.  However, if we place a higher standard of justice upon a person than what God has put in place, we can expect to be held to this higher standard ourselves.

The slander that James is speaking of has to do with judgment.  It is not slander to call a sinner a sinner.  If someone is acting in disobedience to God, it is proper to call them on the sin.  Slander occurs when a person is judged for something when they have not broken God’s law but rather man’s law that has been placed as a burden over and above the law of God.

Ultimately we must remember that it is God’s right to judge.  We are free to make a determination of right and wrong based upon God’s law.  What we are not free to do is seek revenge or vengeance because someone has wronged us.  We can call an action wrong but we are to trust in the Lord to ultimately punish the action.  This doesn’t mean that sin and crime should be overlooked or unpunished.

God has placed men and women in positions of authority and government and we have laws and punishments for breaking those laws.  Crime should be punished according to the laws we have.  We should not personally seek out revenge, however, when we are wronged.  We should let the system in place handle punishment.  And even if the system is unfair or does not punish in a way that we feel is right, we must remember that God will judge perfectly and fairly.

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