Playing God

James 4:11-12 (ESV)
"Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?"

When James refers to speaking evil, he generally is referring to a judgment that results in putting someone down. This was something Paul also wrote about as well (see Romans 14:10). As we look at our study verse, it’s important to remember that this is not a call for acceptance or tolerance of behavior that is un-Scriptural, but rather a call to exercise discernment between good and evil. Jesus called on His disciples to do exactly that (Luke 12:57).

The same mercy that God bestows on us every single day is what He expects from us towards our fellow man. I’ll repeat here my oft-quoted Jonathan Edwards quote because it is so important for our study today:

“The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.”

As sinners, God has the right to kill us where we stand right now; yet His infinite compassion and mercy restrains such righteous judgment. This is the point of what James is saying here: that we should recognize we have no right to indulge in self-righteousness, unforgiving, and judgmental behavior towards our brothers. Further, Paul reminds us that it is not our place as members of the body of Christ to judge unbelievers (1 Corinthians 5:12).

Therefore we must learn the difference between discerning sinful behavior and judging sinful behavior. It must begin with self-reflection on our own sins we carry, so we can then approach a fellow believer with a spirit of humility (Matthew 7:1-5).

We must also be careful to not go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6) and bind an individual where Scripture does not bind. Just because they may look, act, talk, and behave different from you does not mean they are automatically deserving of rebuke. We MUST remain silent where Scripture is silent.

God’s Word reminds us that only He can read the hearts of men (1 Kings 8:39; 1 Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 21:2). Therefore judgment, or better yet condemnation, is reserved for the Lord. When He comes, He will bring to light what has been hidden in darkness (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Come, Lord Jesus, come.