James Bible Study (Constructing A Godly Life)

James 4:11-17, Pitfalls of the Proud

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"I can’t believe they bought a new car." "How can they afford that tv?" "That person wears the same clothes every time I see him." "That person never wears the same clothes." Speaking evil against others is a common pitfall that we encounter. It is so easy for us to say something against others. Why does this happen? Why do we struggle with the things that we think and the things that we say? What do we need to know so that we can overcome this sin? James continues to teach us the practical ways that we can construct a godly life. James 4:10 we read, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." James brings us back to the problem of pride. Pride is the reason behind many of our failings. James is going to show us three areas where our pride causes us to failing in having a godly life.

Proud in Speech (4:11-12)

Do not speak evil against one another. James explains what we are doing when we speak evil or judge one another. We are speaking evil against the law and we are judging the law. To speak evil of one another is to speak evil of God’s law. To judge one another by human, external judgments is to become a judge over God’s law. Why? Why does speaking evil against others mean that we are speaking evil against God’s law? We are choosing to ignore various commands of God’s law, like the law to love our neighbor. Remember what James called, "The royal law." "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourselves,’ you are doing well" (James 2:8). You cannot love a person and slander them at the same time. James does not merely say to watch your tongue. He wants us to understand something. We are breaking the royal law. We are breaking the law of God. We are sitting in judgment of God’s law. When we break a law on a regular basis, then we are implying that we do not believe this is a good law for us to be under. Rather than seeing that this is God’s law and doing it, we sit in judgment as we decide if we are going to keep God’s law. There is only one lawgiver and judge. That person is not you. That person is not me. That person is God. He is the only who gives law and he is the only one who can stand in judgment of the law.

Look at the end of verse 12. "Who are you to judge your neighbor?" Who are you? Who do you think you are? As if we can judge God’s law and question his commands rather than keeping quiet and submitting. What makes you superior to another human being? Who gives you the right to criticize someone else? What makes you greater?

It is easy to criticize others, but are you a doer? It is easy to sit on the sidelines and throw stones at everyone else who is trying to work for the Lord. Often we think we are the doers and those people are just the hearers. But you are not a doer when you speak evil of another. We may argue with this thought, but James is right. We are not keeping the law of God when we slander. We are not doers. We have set ourselves up as judge. We are usurping the right that only God has as lawgiver and judge. We need to simply keep quiet and obey the commands of God. Only the proud have the foolishness to speak evil of others, forgetting their proper place before the Lord.

Proud in Plans (4:13-14)

We exhibit pride about having control over our lives. We act like we have control over the things that will happen to us. We don’t even know what is going to happen tomorrow. But we make all of these grand plans about how our lives are going to go and we have no idea what lies ahead of us. We are false to assume that we even have tomorrow for anything. There are days in our life that change everything about our life plans. Stop planning your life as if you can control your life plans. I learned this principle very quickly with our youngest daughter. The day we found out she had Prader-Willi syndrome is the day that everything change. All of our life plans completely thrown out the window. We are going to have many children. No, we are not. We are going send our kids through college and then we will be able to travel and enjoy our time together. No, we are not. We make all of these assumptions about what we are going to do with our lives as if we have a bit of control concerning what is going on.

Stop acting like you have any control! We know that we do not have control but it seems like we forget this truth. How often we will speak about something happening that ruined all of our plans for the day! We got hung up at work and we did not get home to do something that we wanted to do. We got caught by the phone and did not get to go somewhere. "Nothing went according to schedule." This truth is exhibited nearly every day. Yet we continue to act like we are in charge and that we have control. We are arrogant to think so.

Verse 14 contains and important reminder. Your life is nothing more than a mist. If you think your life is anything more than this, then you are showing your pride. The longer we live the more we are able to realize the fragile nature of human life and the uncertainty of all human plans. Illustration: consider the members of this very church whose lives are completely thrown into chaos because of the fragile nature of human life and the uncertainty of all human plans. Never forget how short life is. Never forget that something can happen to you and me at any moment. It is not something we like thinking about or talking about. But we must live our lives with this truth in the back of our minds. You can find out tomorrow that you have a horrible disease. Your life can change without any warning. Your life is a mist. Take nothing for granted. Do not assume you have tomorrow. Do not think that tomorrow will be like today. Take advantage of today. Do not be proud in your plans. Do not be proud of your life. Everything can change tomorrow.

Proud in Pride (4:15-17)

This point may sound strange but notice that is what James says. "As it is, you boast in your arrogance" (4:16). We our proud of our plans. We are living in complete arrogance as we boast about what we are doing. James instructs us that we should say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." Allow me to highlight the part that we often do not say. When we are being thoughtful we will rightly say, "If the Lord wills." We need to mean those words when we say them. But notice that there is more to the statement. We ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live." What does this mean for us?

It means that we must have an attitude that God is in control, not us. It means that we will think about God’s will, not our own will. We must stop assuming that we will have life and health. These things are not guaranteed to us. God is the only one who knows. God is the only one who is in control. We do not control that we will be alive tomorrow. We must understand that our lives are in God’s hand. Do not be proud in your pride like we are doing anything to keep ourselves alive or control over how things are going to go. Any one of us could have a silent killer in our bodies or in our brains. Jill Jameson is a girl who burns in my mind when we talk about these things. My first year at Florida College had a traumatic incident. Suddenly one night the paramedics come to campus. Of course, the whole school wants to know what is going on. Jill had suddenly died. If I heard correctly, it turned about that she had an unknown brain tumor. Who knew a life of a Christian would end so suddenly? All of her plans, all of her dreams, and all of her works quickly vanished. Stop acting like you are in charge and put your life in the hands of God. Have you surrender 2010 to God? Are you living life thanking God that you have today and will appreciate the day given to you?

Conclusion

Where do you stand with God? Are you living in arrogance thinking that there will not be a judgment? Are you living as if you are in control? Are you living as if you have years and years and those days will be just like today? You know this isn’t true. You know that life never goes according to plan. There is only one certainty in life — God. God does not change. He is the same yesterday as he is today. Put your trust in God who holds all things in his hands. Put your trust in him who made you and gave you life. Rely on him and not yourself.  Love one another today. Live for God today.

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