When We Judge

James 4:11-12

1. If you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones.

2. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Well, good morning! You survived Snowmageddon and Coldmageddon. And if you’re truly a child of God, you don’t have to worry about Armageddon.

Hey, weren’t these babies that were up here earlier for this family dedication, weren’t they cute? What gifts from God? I have to think knowing human nature that a few of the parents were wondering how their child might behave in front of you all, and ‘If they misbehaved, what would they think?’ ‘Will they judge us?’ ‘Will they think we’re bad parents?’ No, we won’t.

Being self-conscious and fear of being judged is a common insecurity we all face. And that includes those of us who stand up in front of you on a weekly basis.

In his book, Every Moment Holy, Doug McKelvey talks about the insecurity of public speaking and public speakers. He does so in free verse form, and just to be fully disclosing to you, I identify with what he says. I could have said this and here it is.

“What have I to offer here that might sustain

the souls of others?

Alone, I have little more to show beneath this

scrutiny of lights

than my own pride and insecurity,

my craving for praise

and my fear of rejection.” Doug McKelvey

He speaks truth. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I am convinced that insecurity is the root issue behind judging others. If I can put somebody else down, I can feel better about myself.

Today’s message is entitled “When We Judge…,” and please note the ellipsis, the dot, dot, dot. My point is there are implications for judging.

My text is James chapter 4, verses 11 and 12, and I invite you to turn there with me. I want you to note that these two verses are simply an extension of the first 10 verses of this chapter and Pastor Pat’s last two messages. In fact, if we go to the whole of James, this passage gives us more understanding because we see that speaking slanderously is really the result of four sins as outlined in James. What are they?

  1. Arrogant boasting  James 3:5
  2. jealousy – James 3:14-15
  3. self-centered desires – 4:1,3
  4. pride – James 4:6 (the mother of all sin)

Now, let me read our text, and please understand in context, James has been speaking about interpersonal conflict so he gives a prohibition.

James 4:11-12, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. (We could render that brothers and sisters.) 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’re not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only One law giver and judge, He who was able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Admittedly, this isn’t one of those feel good passages… Oowey-gooey kind of passages you find in the Bible. It’s not one that we would etch on the front of our Christian t-shirts, or tattoo on various parts of our body. It’s another hard-hitting salvo from the pen of James. And as I think about it, I think about a quote from Ellen Vaughn, which makes me most smile and squirm at the same time. She writes this,

“Outside of radical revision, the Bible would not make it as a cheerful Hallmark movie.”

Ellen Vaughn

You think? But this is the word of the Lord, so we’re going to preach it. Now I confess when I read these words, they’re a little confusing to me. What in the world does James mean about sitting in judgment of the law? So I tried to rework it in paraphrase form, and this is what I came up with. I’ll just share with you what I wrote. What it means:

“To speak evil of the law by way of slander is just another way of saying that we play the role of judge and jury by setting ourselves up over the law of God. It is playing God by making law as if we are God.” Curt De Graaff

So what is the law to which James refers? Now understand, James wrote this probably by 50 AD to a Jewish audience. He’s thinking Old Testament. So I think he has in mind Leviticus chapter 19, and I wanna read some selections from that chapter right now for you.

Leviticus 19:15-18, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor, or defer to the great, but (and here’s the key word) in righteousness, (remember that) In righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your people. But you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Why?) Because I am the LORD.”

Now this last verse… is referenced by Jesus in Matthew 22:39 is the second great commandment. You’re familiar with that, “…love your neighbor as yourself.” We all know the first and great commandment. Pastor alluded to it from Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 6:4,Hear O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and in all your strength.”

And just for the record, that is reflected in the first four of the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:. They are God-ward in orientation. They’re vertical. The second greatest commandment, “…love your neighbor as yourself,” is captured in the last six of the commandments, because they are man-ward in orientation, they’re horizontal. But back to the ellipses implications I alluded to at the outset. I have two for you, and here’s the first. Really profound stuff, get ready.

If you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones.

That finds its source in Matthew chapter 7, a very familiar text. This is where Jesus warns,

Matthew 7:1-5, “Judge not…” (and let me pause to say, I think we need to interject the word here hypocritically. It’s not saying we can’t judge. Just don’t judge hypocritically.) Judge not (hypocritically) that you be not judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce you will be judged with the same (hypocritical) measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the spec that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the spec out of your eye’ when there’s a log in your own eye? (And here it is,) You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the spec out of your brother’s eye.” (I.e. only then can you judge correctly.)

As you stare at verses three and four, you see that Jesus makes application to our spiritual brothers and sisters. He’s talking about believers. And if we’re honest, we tend to judge other believers the harshest for the sins we most hate in ourselves. Do you agree? That’s why our friend, Brad Bigney, says this. And I love this about family interactions, as we’re discussing ourselves and our sins. Look at this. He says,

“When it comes to judging sin, we should see our own sin first, our own sin as worst and work on our own sin the most.” Brad Bigney

See, at first, worst and judge on it the most. Work on it the most. That’s good, Brad.

The prefab trusses that we see being hoisted into place during rooftop construction, I think, are a good word picture of the log in our own eye. For example, can you imagine an inebriated crane operator trying to swing one of these babies into place while he’s still under the influence? And lets imagine it’s his own house and it’s made out of glass. That would not be a pretty picture! My point… We bring down our own house when we unjustly criticize others, including our own family. When we falsely accuse a fellow Christian, we partner with the Accuser of the brethren, whose name is Satan. Here’s the distinction I want you to get. The devil only condemns God’s people, but the Lord only convicts and corrects his people. There’s the difference.

Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

He will not condemn you. That’s already passed because of the blood of Christ when you trusted Jesus, but He will convict and He will correct you. So let’s follow the Lord’s example.

When folks come in for counseling and they unburden themselves from all their sins, I tell them I’m not here to condemn you! God doesn’t condemn you! He will convict you! He will correct you! As you confess your sins, you can be forgiven!

Galatians 6:1 (KJV), “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

So, if you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones.

Number two, implication. Again, very profound. Don’t judge a book by its cover. You also know what that means. And we need to not judge by appearances. We need to go deeper. When we have all the facts, it’s easy to come up with answers. But getting those facts takes some insight. And this is where we come to another directive from Jesus. This in John 7 and 24, this is what he said.

John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but (rather) judge with right judgment.

…or righteous judgment as per Leviticus 19:15.

[Leviticus 19:15, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”]

So there’s a kind of judgment as reference in Matthew 7:1-5 [referenced above], that is self-righteous. That’s wrong. It’s hypocritical. But there’s also an appropriate kind of judgment and encouraged in the art of moral and theological discernment. Now how do we know the difference? How do we keep this balance? Well, here’s the bottom line. Ask ourselves, ‘What do the Scriptures say?’ And then go no further than the Bible goes! Stand where the Bible stands, but go no further and make sure your motives are pure.

Now, as I poured over this text, I had to ask myself, ‘What was James hitting at in these two verses on judging?’ And you got to look at the context. We’re expository preachers here. We look at the context. So as you go back in James and you’ve heard messages about this, here’s what I determined, what James had in mind for judging.

  • In chapter two, James revealed the superiority complex that wealthy believers often impose upon those who are poor. and
  • in chapter four, James revealed the rivalry between believers that seek to get their own way, often causing fighting between them.

As per chapter four, verse one,

[James 4:1, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?]

…the writer talks about desires that prompt us to fight and quarrel. We’re talking desires on steroids! We think that all of our desires have to be met right now, a kind of immediate gratification!

Last spring, author/speaker Janet Aucoin came to our ladies and spoke, something very profound that stuck with our ladies, and she nailed it when she said, (This is based on James 4)

“We do what we do because we want what we want.” Janet Aucoin

…and truth be known, we want it now! Snap to, we tell people, and this leads to competition and ultimately friendship with the world.

So we put these two passages together and we comprise some questions for introspective activity asking ourselves, ‘How am I doing with what James is exhorting us?’ I want you to try these four questions on for size and make personal application. I’m going to do the same thing.

  1. Do we gravitate to the beautiful and the bountiful, (by that I mean the rich) more than to the plain and the poor? Both are present here in this body as well. Or if you will, do we gravitate more to the young and the popular than to the aged and the infirm? Are we quick to judge each other by external appearances and apparent successes? And…
  2. Do we always have to be right or always have to have our own way? You know the old adage, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’
  3. Are we incessant in comparing ourselves with others and never content with who we are or how we look? Are we quick to jump ship in a kind of parallel to the transfer portal mentality of modern college sports? ‘You know, I need a new team.’ ‘I need a new look.’ ‘I need a new job.’ ‘I need a new spouse.’ ‘I can’t stand it when somebody looks better than me or somebody does better than me.’ ‘I wanna be king of the hill!’ Friends, don’t be deceived. Here it is. Comparison is the thief of joy. Would you say that out loud with me so it sticks? Comparison is the thief of joy. God made you unique! You be you. Bloom where you’re planted. Don’t try to live life off of someone else’s script. Don’t imitate somebody else. Be who God made you to be.
  4. Is our brand of Christianity impressed by associations that reflect misplaced priorities? What are those priorities? The late revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill, made this stark observation.

“The early church was married to poverty, prisons, and persecutions. Today the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”                     Leonard Ravenhill

I contend that much of what drives our American evangelical economy is applause and affluence. It’s as if we’ve fallen prey to what Jesus warned about in Matthew chapter 6, what he called the evil eye, which is a reference to being greedy. And this is what he said.

Matthew 6:23,24b , 23”…If your eye is bad (I.e. greedy) your whole body will be full of darkness…” 24b “You cannot serve God and money.

I want to give you a couple of personal illustrations and this is going to intersect between my physical sight and, figuratively speaking, my spiritual sight, and you’ll see the crossover in a moment. About 18 years ago I suffered from a number of significant eye problems. I was pastoring a church in northern Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati. Among my several problems, I had two torn retinas, one in each eye. I knew my eyes were a problem, so I went to a surgeon at the Cincinnati Eye Institute (a renown place) and opted for laser surgery. And after the surgery, the surgeon confessed to me that during the process of doing a variety of things, he said, “I found scar tissue on both of your eyes, Curt, and I peeled back the scar tissue from your left eye and was successful.” But he says, “As I got into the right eye, trying to peel back your scar tissue, it was very tightly adhering, and I feared that if I went any further than I’d gone, I would rip your eye and I would blind you, so I stopped.” In so doing, from that moment on in my right eye, it’s as if I have a little piece of cellophane tape right in the center, making it extremely difficult for me to read with this eye. So from that point on, I opted out of contact lenses… glasses, I’ve learned to lean on my left eye to help out. And truth be known, I resort to using a rather large font. When I write manuscripts from my messages, or use message notes… Where am I going with this?

I had a friend, a believer, about the same time, he had a very severe eye problem worse than mine. He went, had surgery, it went very badly, and he sued the doctor and he obtained a great sum of money. He resigned, retired at a relatively young age… moved to Florida. But before he went, he said, “Hey, Curt, why don’t you sue your doctor for what happened to your right eye?” I didn’t say anything to him, but these were my thoughts. My doctor did his best. He was trying to help me. His motives were pure. Why would I sue him? I mean, this is a sovereign act of God. We as believers sometimes have things happen to us that we don’t like, but we accept it from the God in heaven who knows best. We “kiss the hand.” And by the way, I’m grateful that I’m not blind in my right eye. Look for the positives.

Now, I’m no hero for my choice. And here’s where I switch over now to the figurative spiritual eyesight. Last Monday in my day off, I drove to Walmart. I came the back way on Hulsizer Drive, and as I was driving I didn’t realize there was a little dip in the road before you get to Walmart. And there was a deep puddle of standing ice water on the road. Why it wasn’t frozen solid given the temperatures I do not know. It was liquid. When I drove through it it splashed on my windshield and became an instant flash freeze! My entire windshield was blinded. I couldn’t see a thing! I couldn’t see the traffic! I couldn’t see the road! It was a sheet of ice, just in a moment! ‘What am I supposed to do?!’ I did the only thing I could do. I stopped the car, feeling as maybe re-ended by somebody. God got me through that. I scraped it and went on to shop.

But I was wondering, what in the world is that all about? And I began to realize, “Oh yeah, I’m preaching on Sunday. God is up to something here!” And so I began to shop, and I did some extra steps for exercise. And I became very aware of my surroundings. And (you know this) Walmart captures a great diversity of workers and shoppers, a mosaic of body sizes and shapes, and nationalities, and languages, and hair colors, and styles, and ages and infirmities, and socioeconomic differences. And, oh yeah, it wasn’t lost on me… This is MLK Day, Martin Luther King Day! ‘Yeah, I know what that’s all about.’ So the Lord seemed to be asking me, “Hey, Curt, you got any blindness of biases in your life? You’re gonna preach to that congregation on Sunday. You better ask them the same question. You got any blindness of biases in your life?” I mean, even the people that you see here, I wish a little thought bubble could appear above all of our heads when someone walks by and we have that thought we shouldn’t have, and all of a sudden it would pop up and… Ooh! (audience laughing) I shouldn’t think that or say that. That’s what the windshield experience was all about. We have to stop judging people by externals!

And let me add, we don’t always have to be right. Sometimes, it’s more important to be kind than right. And I’m still trying to learn that after 49 years of marriage. It’s more important to be kind than right.

Hey, back to the text. I can’t even know for certain and judge for certain whether or not you are truly a child of God born again, because I can’t see your heart. But God can! God knows! By the way, God will judge you. Verse 12 again.

James 4:12, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, He who is able to save and to destroy.

(Both save and destroy. That’s GOD!) But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

He will judge you based upon what you’ve done with His Son. And He knows your scorecard already. The record is in heaven. Short of perfection, you do not qualify. And that’s why the Lord Jesus came to lay down His life as a payment for your sins, an atonement for your iniquities, and then He rose again so that He might come and live in your life If you would invite Him in by faith. You must be born again. He sees the record. He knows exactly who you are and every thought, and He will judge you in the only way for forgiveness is through the blood of Jesus Christ. So have you trusted Him as Savior? And if you have not, will you do that right now?

Billy Graham tossed away all the externalism of how we judge each other and simply put it this way. (I love this!)

“What is the use of being famous on earth if Heaven doesn’t know your name?” Billy Graham

Would you pray with me? Lord, help us to answer that question with judgment day honesty. Help us to turn our eyes away from our own agenda, our own self-righteousness and judging other people. Forgive us, and, instead, help us to turn our eyes upon Jesus. Turn our eyes to Calvary in the empty grave and truly believe, and then let the living Christ help us to see through His eyes, because all these people are created in His image. And the bottom line question is, ‘Do they know Jesus or not?’ That’s the only question. God, please, purge us and help us right now to choose to look to Christ. We pray in His name. Amen.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *