Jas 4:9-12 “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?”
In the first verses of this fourth chapter, James has warned us against being a friend of the world. He has cautioned us against our lusts that war within us. He has warned us against unfaithfulness to God and encouraged us to draw nigh unto Him. Now we are told to “be afflicted.”
The phrase as it is used here does not mean to be ill or injured in a physical sense. Rather it is a call to us to recognize our own wretched condition without God. We are to acknowledge our misery (be afflicted – see Strong’s), grieve over our condition (mourn), and cry aloud (weep) for our sins. We are not being asked to go around in a defeated state all the time because of our sins. We are being instructed to acknowledge our condition without God so that we might glorify Him in our deliverance.
When the things that make us laugh in the flesh make us mourn in our hearts and the things that give us joy in the flesh become a burden to us, then we are made to be humble before God’s face. While we are made to be humble, He does not intend for us to continue to be filled with sorrow. He will elevate us above our carnal nature and call us to sit together in heavenly places in Jesus Christ. Dwelling in this elevated state keeps us from speaking evil of each other.
Once again, James identifies his audience as “brethren.” This lesson is to those that know the Lord. Even if we know Him, we are not honoring Him if we slander (speak evil of) our brother. We are to discern between right and wrong, but we are in no way supposed to try, condemn, or punish (judge – see Strong’s) our brother. If we slander our brother, then we slander the law: we handle the law unrighteously (with partiality). When we slander the law we condemn the law. We place ourselves outside the law (not a doer) and seek to justify ourselves with our own righteousness by judging the law.
What a dangerous condition to set ourselves to judge the law. If we judge the law, we judge the lawgiver. There is one lawgiver, and He is God. How can we be humble before Him when we presume to judge the law He has given? He and He alone is able to deliver: He and He alone is able to destroy. Neither deliverance of another nor destruction of another is in our purview. We may indeed exercise discernment (judgment) about a brother’s actions, but we may never judge (try, condemn, or punish) our brother.
May we refuse to slander our brother or assume that we have the right to condemn him, but rather let us look to our Lawgiver and trust Him to always judge rightly!