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Judging Others and Making Plans for Tomorrow

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Text:  James 4:11-17


            Speech reveals the character of a person.  But speech alone is not the true measure of one’s character.  You also need time…time to measure whether what a person says is backed up by their walk.  People with a reputation of a forked tongue also walk crooked paths.  Poison on the lips conceals a dagger in the hand with which to stab you in the back.  Not too many things are much further from the character Christ wants us to have.  Our walk is to be straight, our tongue is to bless, and our character is to match His.

James has previously dealt with the issue of the tongue.  His conclusion is that the tongue has to be carefully guarded because control of it is so illusive.  You may think you have control of it one moment, but something can crop up without notice and find you destroying others with even a whisper.  Our text continues in that vein and has to do with slandering others.  One of the quickest ways to create an enemy is to be a back bitter.  We would do well to heed to wisdom James has to say to us.  Read Text.

1.      Let’s start with defining “slander.”  (False statements injurious to a person's reputation; a false and malicious statement or report about someone.)

2.      What is the usual setting when someone is speaking slanderously against another person?  (The person they are talking about is not present.  How sad.  As disciples of Jesus, our brother or sister who is absent should be safe in our presence.)

3.      How do you think God feels about this?  Ps. 101:5;  2 Cor. 12:19 – 13:2

4.      How are slander and gossip related? 

5.      When someone slanders you, how does it make you feel?     If someone has done so, what should they do to repair the hurt they have caused?

6.      Information is power.  But what must we do to keep from sharing detrimental information with someone who shouldn’t hear it (i.e. gossip)?

7.      James condemns slander for two reasons.  What are they?  (It transgresses the law of love; it assumes the role judgment that belongs to god alone.)

8.      How does slander break the law of God?  (He cannot love his neighbor as himself and speak slanderous evil about him at the same time.)

9.      James rapidly goes through a progression:  To speak against your brother is to judge your brother; to judge your brother is to speak against the law; to speak against the law is to judge the law.  Is it our role to judge the law?     What is our relationship to the law of God?  (To obey it.)

10.  Do we have any right to judge others?  Matt. 7:1-5; Rom 2:1-3     Who does have the right to judge and condemn?  Jn. 5:30;  Acts 17:30-31;  Rom. 14:10-13

Now James shifts the topic to passing judgment on yourself…making your own boastful plans about tomorrow.

11.  Jews are an industrious people; often great traders and business people.  To this James speaks directly.  Why does James say it is wrong to say confidently what we are going to do tomorrow?  (It is God who shapes tomorrow, and He may have a different plan for our lives.)

12.  What is the moral to the story in Luke 12:16-21?

13.  Is the uncertainty of life to cause us to live fearfully each day?  Explain.

14.  Is the uncertainty of life to cause us to be inactive with our time?  Explain.     What is the balance?  1 Cor. 4:19;  16:7  (The true disciple of Christ commits the future and all our plans into the hands of God, always remembering that these plans may not be within God’s purpose.)

15.  If a man does not remember this, what is he guilty of?  (Arrogant boasting.  The future is not within our hands, nor do we have the power to decide what will happen tomorrow.)

16.  This chapter ends with a strong admonition that is related to the text before it.  What is it?  (You have been warned; to continue in a habit of self-confidence about your future is to sin.)
Insight:  The future is not within the hands of man and no one can arrogantly claim that they have power to decide it.

Application Questions:

1.      How do you think God would like to use you the next time you find yourself in a situation where someone is being slandered, but not present?

2.      How cooperative are you when God throws a divine interruption into your schedule?

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