James the Just James
Introduction – In this Session, we will complete James 4 and explore verses 11-17, and go verse by verse and breakdown the text. The last section of James 4 focuses on the importance of living a life surrendered to the Lord and free from the spirit of offense and an orphan spirit. James gives very strong exhortations to live under God’s authority, the necessity of us living in a place of trusting the Lord, and seeking the Lord’s leadership in our lives.
We see the following 4 movements in the text.
1 – Christians should not slander or judge other believers.
2 – Christians should trust God’s authority as Judge.
3 – Christians should be dependent on the Lord for the direction of our lives.
4 – Christians should be ready to recognize good and be motivated to move in faith to carry out that good.
a) James builds on the thought he presented in verse 10, which is humility before God. If we humbly submit to God’s leadership in our lives and make Him the highest priority by which we live by, then we would be humble before our others because of our dependence on the Lord. If we are right with God, then the expectation is that we would be right with the others around us.
b) When we slander others, we are living out of identity as sons and daughters and living from an orphan spirit that competes for recognition, significance, importance, resources, platform and any other thing that would cause us to look at others before we look at the condition of our hearts.
c) Slander/Speak against – Greek – katalaleō – to speak against, incriminate or traduce (to tell lies with the intent of destroying their reputation). The Classical Greek use of the word was used in an accusatory way toward someone else.
d) This sin brings damage to our lives in 2 ways. 1 – We are not fulfilling Jesus’ command to love one another – John 13:34-35 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 2 – We usurp God’s authority to be Judge and enter a realm of spiritual authority that we do not have any right to. Much like Job’s friends.
e) When we judge (Greek – krinō – to separate, pick out, to approve, or esteem, to have an opinion about something, to stand in the place of a judge or king and pronounce judgment according to the law, to bring a law suit against.), we place ourselves in the same authority of the law, and we become a law unto ourselves, and this breaks the law we assume to uphold. Jesus said in Luke 6:37 – “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” When we assume the authority to judge others, then we are not trusting in the Lord’s ability to work justice and righteousness. Romans 14:10 – You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
a) There is only One Lawgiver and Judge – It is true freedom to surrender our opinions and live being free from offense. Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. To trust God as Father, is to surrender the right to hold onto offense and unforgiveness, and trust that God sees, and knows our situations. The test of time often reveals what really happens to those who have hurt us.
a) James is addressing the common culture of First Century itinerant mercantilism in the Roman Empire. People would travel from one prosperous city to another buying, selling and trading throughout the network of roads and cities in the eastern Roman Empire. This was very common among Jewish merchants.
b) Notice in verse 13, that there is no mention of seeking God’s will or direction in the decision to buy, sell or trade. This is living in the pride of life, where our life paths are not determined by a destiny and direction from God, but by the motives of our own hearts.
c) The Lord desires us to be prosperous and abundant, but not in our own strength, but by His leading as we hear and respond to His voice.
d) Charles Haddon Spurgeon – “There are two great certainties about things that shall come to pass – one is that God knows, and the other is that we do not know.”
e) This does not imply that we should not be wise, plan-ahead and seek to build a legacy. It does however imply that we make wise decisions, plan-ahead and build a legacy as we are led by God, trusting Him with the outcome.
a) In verse 14, James keys in on previous illustrations in the Old Covenant Scriptures, regarding the fragility and mortality of our lives this side of heaven. Compared to eternity, our sojourn here in our bodies is very short. In an instant our lives can be impacted by things outside of our control. We see the themes of life being like a vapor/mist/shadow in Psalm 102:11, Job 8:9 and 1 Chronicles 29:15.
b) Verse 15 highlights the heart that is dependent on the Lord’s leadership and heart that is submitted to God’s will. The lie of the enemy is that God’s leading and our being submitted to Him is not a fulfilling and joy filled life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The great adventure of faith, and a lifestyle of hearing God and responding to Him is very exciting, prosperous and full of supernatural happenings that we experience. Even trials begin to be exhilarating because we begin to look for the testimony and the deliverance that God will work on our behalf.
c) Living independent of God’s leading is self-determination that reveals rebellion in
our hearts. In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus gives us a similar illustration of these truths that James exhorts his readers to consider.
d) The Apostle Paul said very similar things like, “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills”, and “I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits” in 1 Corinthians 4:19 and 1 Corinthians 16:7.
e) Arrogant schemes – Greek – alazoneia – empty, braggart talk, an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own power and resources and shamefully despises and violates divine laws and human rights, an impious and empty presumption which trusts in the stability of earthly things
a) Verse 17 is framed in the following thought; If life is uncertain and empty when we live apart from God’s will, then we should be ready to recognize good and be ready to carry it out. James is again putting forth the idea that faith is always accompanied by action. To know good and to do nothing, is not congruent to the faith we confess.
b) In Luke 12:42-48, Jesus gives a Parable of the Wise Servant, that illustrates this very same thought that James gives His readers. Luke 12:48 – From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. The more knowledge of God’s ways in our lives, the more responsibility we are charged with to live them out.