11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of 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 one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (James 4:11–12, NKJV).
God’s prophet gives us a plain warning not to speak evil of one another. “Speak evil” translates the Greek word katalaleo, “to be a traducer, i.e. to slander:–speak against (evil of)” (Strong’s Greek #2635). Words that belittle, defame, and libel other Christians (or anyone, for that matter) are sins against brethren, against God, and His law. James does not negate the accurate, appropriate judging of sin. For example, the apostle Paul said we judge unrepentant Christians (“those who are inside”) by applying corrective discipline and putting away the evil person from ourselves (1 Cor. 5:12-13). James is condemning unrighteous judgments that are void of divine truth. He addresses and exposes the sinful “wars and fights” that arise among Christians in this context (James 4:1). Divisive, factious words and actions are worldly and prideful (James 4:1-6). We “become judges with evil thoughts” when we quickly think the worst, grumble and complain against one another, and show partiality in our treatment of one another (James 2:4, 12-13; 5:9). We become the law or standard by which we judge others. James cautions us to remember God is the Lawgiver to whom we are all answerable. He saves and destroys; therefore, we give place to His judgments. Let us not become judges of one another to our destruction.
“The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9, NKJV)
God’s judgments are “true and righteous,” reliable and trustworthy, unbiased by error and untainted by the stain of prejudice. We must resist the temptation to pronounce judgment upon those who would speak God’s judgments to us. When someone speaks to us the truth of the gospel we must refrain from the defensive, futile deflection that says, “You’re just judging me!” It is ironic (not to mention, hypocritical) that those who charge others with “judging” them are doing the very thing they condemn in others. Yes, let us speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Yes, let us correct sinners with humility as we call them to repentance and salvation (2 Tim. 2:24-26). But let there be no mistake, we are not “judging” the sinner when we identify their sin and error from the Scriptures. We are teaching God’s word to help the sinner turn from sin and be saved. By doing so we are sharing God’s judgments, not rendering our own. “With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth” (Psa. 119:13). God’s true and righteous judgments are revealed in His word. By hearing His judgments (His word) we can turn from sin, turn to God, and conform ourselves to His judgments (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:20-24). May we never condemn someone for telling us the truth (Gal. 4:16). Instead, may it be said of us, “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me” (Psa. 119:30).
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.” (Romans 2:1–2, NKJV)
The fear of being labeled “judgmental” can keep us from judging with “righteous judgment” (Jno. 7:24). It is true that we must be very careful and accurate in the judgments we make. Jesus’ warning to “judge not, that you be not judged” is understood by His explanation that how we judge will be the measure of our own judgment: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt. 7:1-2). By doing so, He exposed the sin of hypocritical judgment (Matt. 7:5). Today’s passage is a clear condemnation of holding others to moral and religious standards to which we refuse to hold ourselves. The Jews were “inexcusable” to condemn the Gentiles while practicing the same sins (Rom. 2:17-24). Christians who condemn the sins of others while committing the same sins are hypocrites, and will not escape God’s judgment of truth. “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:3). God’s judgments are “true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). We can help others follow God’s judgments by holding ourselves to His judgments of truth (Matt. 7:3-5; Gal. 6:1-2). When we don’t we run the real danger of hindering the salvation of others (Matt. 18:6-7; Rom. 2:21-24).
5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. 6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.” 7 And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” (Revelation 16:5–7, NKJV)
The righteous judgment of God proceed from the righteous character of God. When the angel pours out God’s God bowl of wrath in this vision, he says God is righteous because He judges evil with His wrath (v. 5). God does not leave evil unpunished. Just as God poured out His wrath against nations in the Old Testament, He did so against Rome for persecuting and killing His saints and prophets. (See 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7, where the principle of God’s righteous judgment is applied to those who trouble Christians.) Punishment is due the wicked, and God executes justice against it (Romans 12:19). His judgments are “true and righteous,” unbiased by error and untainted by the stain of prejudice. The angel’s words are reminiscent of Psalm 19:9, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” Thanks be to God that He has revealed His judgments in His holy word! We can learn God’s judgments and live to receive glory instead of wrath on His day of judgment. “I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:7). Are you ready for the Judgment Day?
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36, NKJV)
The gospel reveals the purposes of God to save sinners – us – through the redemption He makes available through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul had plumbed the depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge in the first eleven chapters of his letter to the Romans. Today’s passage summarizes with clarity and force that the judgments and ways of God are not measured and tempered by human wisdom. It is not man’s place to teach God. We must resist the temptation to make God in our own image, and then expect Him to agree with the ingenuity of our intuition, insight, expectations and knowledge. No, we must humble ourselves before the magnitude of God’s wisdom and knowledge. He is our Creator, our Sustainer, and our Redeemer. Every blessing we have is because God is all wise, all powerful, and all merciful. To Him be the glory forever.
I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me. (Psalm 119:30, NKJV)
We are taught from an early age to think about the course of life we wish to pursue. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is often asked of the youngster who is just beginning to be aware of the great, big world outside. One may choose any number of career paths in life, but the way of truth is by far the most important path to take. All other courses of life ought to be measured by truth. The psalmist had already made his choice; he would follow the path of truth. So, like a map, he laid out God’s righteous judgments before him. They would guide his steps. They would direct his values, his character, and his faith. God’s judgments “are true, and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9). Be sure that whatever course of life you pursue, it is measured and directed by the truth of God. By doing so, you will find good success that reaches into eternity. But, to shun God’s holy judgments will insure a destiny of despair, from which there will be no escape (Romans 2:1-11).
137 Righteous are You, O Lord, and upright are Your judgments. 138 Your testimonies, which You have commanded, are righteous and very faithful. (Psalm 119:137–138, NKJV)
God’s judgments, His judicial pronouncements, are upright and reveal His righteous nature. His commands are very faithful and trustworthy. Therefore, when confronted by the testimony of God’s word concerning our lives, we are called to humbly accept His word. By His word He calls sinners into the salvation of His Son, Jesus Christ (Acts 2:39; 4:12). The judgments of His word convict us of sin and correct us in love (Acts 2:37-38; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). To discount and discredit the Bible is to despise the One who spoke it. If you intend to respect God, then respect His Scriptures with humble obedience, not willful defiance (Jno. 12:48-50).
Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. (Matthew 7:6, NKJV)
An unwillingness to make any moral and religious judgments puts a person at odds with Jesus. After warning against making hypocritical judgments in Matthew 7:1-5, He commands us to make several judgments. We must judge what is “holy” and are “pearls”, as well as who are “dogs” and “swine” (the two-legged kind). Then, we must judge when not to give holy things to the dogs and when not to cast pearls before swine. But, are these judgments left up to our personal assessment? No, because God’s word tells us about holy things and true valuables (cf. Matt. 13:44-46). He identifies the figurative dogs and swine for us (cf. Phil. 3:2). The Scriptures reveal God’s judgments. We shall test ourselves against His judgments conform our lives to His words. When evil people despise God’s truth we must judge when to “shake off the dust” from our feet and move to others who will hear and respect the gospel of Christ (Matt. 10:14-15). (Or, have you reached a point where you will not judge something and someone as evil?) “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9).
“The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160)
We must show utmost respect for God’s word. One way to do that is considering the context of the passage we read, study and apply. All of God’s word is truth, so everything God says on a given subject must be taken into account as we learn what His word is teaching us. There is harmony to truth, therefore, we cannot explain one passage of Scripture in a way that contradicts another passage. We mishandle the Bible when we pit one Scripture against another. The Scriptures express God’s judgments for life on earth and for life to come. The truth of His judgments will endure. We must conform ourselves to His righteous judgments to live in His eternal care.