The Rebuild: Judging and Boasting

The Rebuild: Judging and Boasting sermon notes

Judging and Boasting

Passages: James 4:11-17

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand that there are enemies to our rebuild. (Feel) Feel compelled to fight for our relationship with God. (Do) Obey the commands of James 4.

 

Introduction: Have you ever heard of akrasia? It is a philosophical word that describes something that we often do. Take Sue, for example. In January she started a diet in order to lose a few pounds. At work she is confronted with a double chocolate birthday cake brought in by a co-worker. She immediately finds herself drawn to the rich, dark, velvety cake and although she tries to resist, knowing that it will destroy all of her hard work, she eats not one slice but two. Ever been there? Philosophers since before Christ have been fascinated by this behavior. Sue chose to eat two pieces of cake knowing full well that she ought not to eat even one. Ancient Greek philosophers called this akrasia, which literally means a lack of control over one’s self.[1] In order for an action to be akratic, the person has to know what they ought to do and then purposefully choose to do otherwise.

 

This morning James is going to help us rebuild our lives by pointing out how we can be dangerously akratic. Let’s read the passage together and get our bearings, then we will look at what I mean.

 

James 4:11–17[2]

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. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

In our passage this morning, James grapples with arrogance, specifically in us—even though we know we are not God, we act like we are. We do this is two ways. The first, in verses 11-12, is speaking evil of and judging people; the second, in verses 13-17, is presuming upon the future. At first blush, these two issues may not seem like a big deal. But if we look a little closer, we will find that both spring from a deep-rooted arrogance that is antithetical to the gospel.

 

Everyone knows arrogance is dangerous. We have all heard Proverbs 16:18. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Yet even though we know arrogance and pride lead to falls, often we still purposely choose to act in arrogant ways. Classic akrasia. The problem with this is how destructive pride can be. We talk about a “fall” like it is no big deal, when in fact the falls of arrogance are usually devastating. Why? Because arrogance always seems to have a “plus one.”

Arrogance plus: another woman

Arrogance plus: alcohol

Arrogance plus: laziness

Arrogance plus: prescription pain medication

Arrogance plus: zero accountability

 

Let’s look at the “plus ones” James warns us of.

 

Arrogance plus:  Slander and judgment (v11-12)

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. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

 

One of the most important biblical truths about God is that he will judge. He is the creator, the law giver, the determiner of right and wrong, and he will judge every single person after death. Hebrews 9:27…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. In 2 Tim 4:1 we are told specifically that it will be Jesus who judges, as the Father has given him all authority (John 5:26-27). This is critical for us to understand. There is no person you have ever met who will not be judged. Every one of us will humbly stand before the Lord and give an account.

 

Enter arrogance. When a person begins judging another person—and the idea here is separating or evaluating (this person is a believer/good/holy and this person is not)—they first must sit down on God’s throne. In their mind, a judgmental person has determined that they omnisciently know a person’s heart, motives, and actions. An arrogant person knows that they are not God, yet they willfully choose to sit on his throne and judge the world.

 

Instead, James warns us to refuse to “katalaleo.” Do not speak evil against one another. The Greek word for “speak evil” is katalaleo; it is hostile and malicious speech directed at or against one’s neighbor,[3] with its goal being to bring someone down. Arrogant people are known for this. From their lofty perch they look for the faults and flaws in others so that they can bring them down. This is the opposite posture that Jesus wants us to have. In John 8, a woman who was caught in an adulterous act was brought before Jesus. The Pharisees said, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” Jesus could have judged her right there, and his judgment would have been perfect. But instead he said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Every one of the Pharisees walked away, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned[4] you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

 

Arrogant people are so worried about other people’s sin that they never humbly deal with their own sin. Jesus never condemned that woman, but he did deal with her sin, didn’t he? Humility is looking deeply at the areas in our own life that we need to repent of and not worrying about the faults and failures of others.

 

Arrogance plus: presumption (v13-17)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

As I read this you might be thinking, “What is the big deal here? It’s wrong to make plans for the future?” No, let’s go back to our theology. God is not only the creator of the universe, he is its sustainer and sovereign. In other words, nothing happens in God’s universe outside of his control. Scripture is abundantly clear on this:

·      The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all. (Psalm 103:19)

·      But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

·      For I know that the LORD is great, And that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. (Psalm 135:5-6)

 

If God is sovereign, then we are not. The problem James is addressing is not this man’s plans for the future, but his arrogant assumption that he will make it happen. An arrogant person knows they are not God yet they live as if they have his sovereign authority. They don’t seek the Lord’s will or even acknowledge his presence. They delude themselves into thinking they control their own destiny.

 

Jesus shared a parable that touched on this in Luke 12:16–21. Jesus said, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” This man had big plans; he just wasn’t in control.

 

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was one of the most powerful monarchs in history. While walking on the roof of his royal palace one evening, he said to himself, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” Daniel 4:31-32 goes on. While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

 

One of the most basic lessons to learn in life is: God is God; I am not God! He is sovereign; we are not sovereign. He controls the future; we do not in any way control the future. Humility will naturally flow from a heart that understand this.

 

How should we be different? If arrogance is the problem, what is the solution?

1. Instead of speaking evil: Let us encourage others with our words. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

2. Instead of judging: Let us support the growth of those around us. Galatians 6:1–3 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

 

3. Instead of presuming: Let us affirm the Lord’s sovereignty as often as we can. Deuteronomy 4:39 Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

 1. Read James 4:11-17 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2. Have someone in the group search on the internet “Bible verses judging.” Discuss the different Bible verses/passages listed. Do they add to James’ conversation?

3. List some ways you have seen people “speak evil” of others.

4. Discuss a time when someone judged you.

5. How should believers point out sin that needs to be repented of without being “judgy”?

6. Discuss “presumption;” is that a sin that has been on your radar? Why/why not.

 

[1] Greek, from a- ‘without’ + kratos ‘power, strength.’ The term is used especially with reference to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV

[3] Gerhard Kittel, “Λαλέω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 4.

[4] Same root word as the word “judge” in James 4.