James 4:11-5:6 (Week 7 – Faith in Action Series)
Jason White



James teaches us about slander, arrogant planning, and riches.  James shows us how to recognize when we are walking in our flesh and focused on the world, rather than on Christ and who we are in Him.







Sermon Audio Transcript
So last week in the section that we looked at, James talked about two different kinds of wisdom. He talked about a kind of wisdom where we walked by our flesh, and it's an earthly kind of wisdom. It's an unspiritual kind of wisdom, honestly, he even says it's a demonic kind of wisdom. This kind of wisdom, he said, is characterized by envy, and selfish ambition. But the other kind of wisdom that James mentioned, comes from heaven. It's one that comes from God, it's a kind of wisdom that he says, is characterized by peace, loving, and consideration of others, it's full of mercy, and it's full of good fruit. And James really said, the difference between living out these two kinds of wisdom is pride, and humility. When we walked by pride, of course, we're walking by the power of our own streets, we're walking according to our own thoughts, and what we think is right about life. And ultimately, all of those thoughts are being influenced, of course, by Satan, who is using this world to promote kind of a counter fit wisdom, a godless wisdom in order to really just keep us from experiencing what true wisdom is, and to keep us from experiencing the life of Christ that we were meant to experience in us and through us. But James says, if we walk in humility, by setting our minds on things above, rather than on earthly things, then Jesus will guide us by His wisdom and in ways where we find fulfillment and satisfaction in him. He'll guide us in ways that make this world a better place, or to use us in ways to make this world a better place. Because it again, it'll be characterized by peace, loving and consideration of others, and it'll be full of mercy. And he'll produce fruit in us and through us. And so again, the difference between living out in these two areas of wisdom or living by one wisdom over the other wisdom is the difference in walking in pride, or walking in a spirit of humility. He even said in the section we looked at last week that God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble and to humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up, He'll lift you up off of the path of worldly wisdom, and put you on the path of Godly wisdom. And this is how James have finished this section before we dive into the section we're looking in today. And so you would expect since he just made a statement about humbling ourselves before the Lord and Him, lifting us up to walk this godly kind of path, and, and according to his wisdom and guidance, you really would expect him to give us some examples or dive in a little bit more to this humility, and what it looks like to live by Godly wisdom. That's not what James does, though. He does the exact opposite as we get into this section. And he basically gives us three different examples of what it looks like to walk in pride. And he gives us three examples of what it looks like to be walking in that earthly are, are guided by that earthly unspiritual, and demonic wisdom. And this is good for us though, because, honestly, we need to be able to recognize when we're walking in our flesh, and not by God's Spirit that's living in us if we've put our faith and trust in Him for salvation. Because really, it can be so easy to become so fixated by the ways of the world, in the things that are always right in front of our face that Satan is using, and to be thinking that we're walking down the right path of wisdom, when we're really walking in this earthly and unspiritual and even demonic wisdom that James has been talking about. And so let's look at this first section and see what James has to say to us in verses 11 and 12. He says, Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law. You are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There's only one law giver and judge, the one who was able to save and destroy but you Who are you, James says to judge your neighbor, the first exam pulled that James Gibbs of what it looks like to walk in pride and by this earthly fleshly wisdom is slandering other people, which in essence, James says is judging them and trying to take the place of God that's reserved for him. That word slander here means to speak against someone, it's critical speech that's damaging to a person's character, oftentimes, in order to attempt to push them down a notch or two, to raise us up in ourselves to look better a time or two. There was a time when I'm not very proud of this, obviously. But when I was in my early 20s, and well before vocational ministry that I was going to a particular church, I had become really good friends with children's minister who was on staff, he became kind of like a mentor to me like a spiritual father to me at the time. And in one day, it just seemed like out of the blue, that the church let him go. And I got mad, I got really upset, I got fired up that they had done this to him to my friend to someone that had made an impact on my life. And I began to do exactly what James is talking about. Right here. In this section, I was slandering the leadership of the church, I was talking about them behind their backs, I was doing my best to tear them down. And to anyone it was who would listen to me about what it was that was going on. And James says when we do this, we're not keeping the law. And we're speaking against it. He's talking about the royal law there. We've already talked about this in an earlier section, James references this in chapter two, verse eight, Jesus said that the royal law was to love your neighbor as yourself, when we're living by the Spirit, we're going to treat people in ways where we're loving them in the same ways that we love our selves, it's the way Jesus is going to lead us. And I certainly was not loving my neighbor as myself, when I was slandering these church leaders, I was judging them, I was putting myself above them and putting myself in the place of God. Finally, God, thankfully got a hold of me. And he said, Jason, why don't you actually go talk to these church leaders, and try to gain understanding of what happened, instead of just slandering them? So I did, and I went to them. And we had a great conversation. And I honestly learned some things that I didn't know. And I began to gain understanding a little bit more of the reasoning behind the decisions that were made. And God used that to humble me. He led me to apologize to them and ask for forgiveness for slandering them, instead of going to them and just having a conversation around these things, and what the Spirit led them to, as far as this decision was concerned, I wonder this morning, is there someone that you need to go to, and ask forgiveness for this morning, for slandering them. If you look at your life, and your speech is the Lord trying to use this passage this morning, to reveal to you the times you are walking in this earthly unspiritual wisdom, and you see slander as a result of that slandering someone in your family, that maybe it's a neighbor, maybe it's a boss, or a co worker, maybe it's a church leader, maybe it's a church member, someone in your Sunday school class, maybe you're a kid, it's someone on your football team, or your volleyball team or a coach or a teacher. Or maybe the Lord is even trying to get your attention about the way you're slandering people through maybe social media that you don't even really personally know. Quite honestly, I see a lot of that from Christians in the realm of social media, especially in the realm of politics.How many of us if we scrolled through our feed and noticed our post would see that we are slandering other people that are of a different political persuasion than us and are people that are created in God's image and that Jesus went to the cross to die for? So maybe this is something that Jesus is wanting to open our eye Is to and see, oh, wow, I thought I was being led by Godly wisdom to call them out and highlight the things that they're doing, which may go against God's ways. But maybe what I'm actually doing is slandering them and walking by earthly unspiritual, and even demonic wisdom in those moments, and we need to go back and clean our social media feed up a little bit, begin to trust Jesus to lead us in different ways. James says you cannot love your neighbor, and speak slander against them. Speaking, slander is the way of worldly wisdom under the influence of Satan. And this will show us when we see it that we're walking in our flesh. But when we're walking in humility, by turning our attention to his wisdom, God's wisdom and His ways, he's going to lead us to speak in ways that are peace loving ways where we're being considerate of other people seeking to gain understanding, and speaking the truth in love. Two key words to add on to when we feel led to speak the truth to other people, or to them through social media. Let's look at what James says in this next section beginning in verses 13. And going through 17. He gives us another example of what it looks like to walk in pride. He says, Now listen, you who say today or tomorrow, we will go to this or that city, spend a year there carry on business and make money, why you don't even know what will happen tomorrow, what is your life, you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say if it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that as it is you boast in your arrogant schemes, all such boasting is evil. If anyone then knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them. James says, what James is talking about here is how walking in pride leads us to arrogantly plan everything out in our lives to determine our future. I've had people and you know, the same people, maybe you're one of them, or used to be one of them, who will tell you that they've got their entire lives pretty much planned out. And this is how it's gonna go, right, I'm gonna get married. By the time I'm 25, I'm going to have three kids and run my own business from home, I'm gonna live in this house with a white picket fence and two dogs and a cat and my kids are gonna go to these kinds of schools, and they're gonna grow up to be these kinds of people and do these kinds of things. I've had other people that have come up and said, I'm going to have this degree by the time I'm this age, and I'm going to get a job in this field, I'm going to make this much money. And by the time I'm this age, then I'll finally settle down and find a spouse and have a family and live again. And this kind of house will drive this kind of car, and the latest and greatest toys and all the above. And these are examples of boasting in the arrogant and pretentious planning. It's pride. It's saying that I know what is best for me, I am the Lord of my life, I decide and I determined where I go, and what I do and how I do it. This is earthly wisdom, again, inspired and influenced by Satan, why to keep you from God's great plan for your life, how He created you to live and function, how he wants you to fit into and be a part of what it is that he's doing in this world that lines up with his kingdom work. And so James says instead, in verse 15, you ought to say, if it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this, or we will live and do that. Now to be clear, James is not talking about never making plans in our lives. Scripture tells us all over the place, that planning and saving and thinking ahead is a wise way to live. Especially if you go back and look at the book of Proverbs and places like that. Here as a matter of fact, is the way that Douglas mu and his commentary on James describes what James is talking about here. He says James is not rebuking these merchants for the plans or even for their desire to make a profit. He rebukes them rather for this worldly self confidence that they exhibit in pursuing these goals. And he says we should guard here against another kind of misinterpretation. The idea that James is forbidding Christians from all forms of planning, or of concern for the future. Taking out life insurance and saving for retirement, for instance, are not condemned by James, these may very well be a form of wise stewardship. What James rebukes here as verse 16 makes clear is any kind of planning for the future that stems from human arrogance in our ability to determine the course of future events. In other words, we don't make plans based on our own wisdom, what we think is going to make us happy or provide fulfillment for us provide satisfaction, what's going to be best for me or my family, we don't do it to provide for our own security, or in ways where we're not depending upon Jesus. Instead, we make ourselves available to Jesus, we allow Him to be the Lord that He is, instead of us trying to be your own Lord, we cling to Him, we depend on him since we're in union with Him and one spirit with him. And we depend on him to be the source of our lives. So James says, when we know the good that we ought to do and we don't do it, then we sin, when we know that God has a plan for our lives and the way that he wants to guide us into that plan. And those good works that he planned in advance for us to do as he tells us in Ephesians, 210, and we don't do them, then we sin. It's easy for us to think that sin is just the bad things that we do. But sin is when we know what God is leading us to do and wants to do in us and through us. And we say no, I know what's best for me. And that's not it, I'm going to walk in my own flesh and do what I want to do. And so James says in these first two sections that when we're walking in pride, when we're walking in this earthly and spiritual and demonic wisdom, it will or can result in us speaking slander against other people. And it can and will lead to us wanting to make our own plans, be our own guide for this life, and to pursue our own fulfillment and satisfaction in life. The James gives us one more example of what it looks like to walk in pride though, before he finishes this section out and basically says that when we're walking in the way of fleshly, earthly wisdom, that that can result in trusting in riches and honestly the mistreatment of others with those riches. But what he says in chapter five, beginning of verse one now, listen, you rich people weep and will because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted and moths have eaten your clothes, your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look, the wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Almighty, you have lived on earth in luxury and self indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter, you have condemned and murdered the innocent one who was not opposing you. When we live in pride when we walked by this earthly unspiritual wisdom, we can easily become convinced that our money will provide for our own satisfaction for our fulfillment and our security. And James kind of pulls back the curtain here and shows us for things that are going on when we trust in our money and we're living by this earthly wisdom. The first thing is that he James says is your money will do nothing for you and the scope of eternity in verses two and three. In those verses, he's saying it doesn't do any good for us to hoard money. Wecan't take our money with us when we die. It's going to stay here on the earth and all the security that you and I built up on our hopes and dreams and what this money would do for us will not be available to us in eternity. Again, James isn't talking about not saving. Godly wisdom says to save and to be prepared for things that happen in your life. The difference is hoarding. For personal fulfillment, and for security and money over God. The second thing James says in verse four, when we see this there is that when we trust in money, it can cause us and lead us to mistreat others. James talked about how these rich land owners at the time, held on to their own wealth that they were making instead of paying their workers. There were a lot of day workers, especially in this day and age that worked for these rich land owners. And if those day workers didn't get paid, then they and their families didn't eat. But when you're trusting in money, you don't really care what it does to other people, because you need to hold on to it as long as you can, regardless of however it is that it's affecting other people. Because you need it in your life to provide that security and that fulfillment and satisfaction to to bring you life in some way that you feel like you are missing. The third thing that James says here and we see this in verse five is that trusting in money leads to self indulgence, instead of helping others. Verse five, James says, You have lived on earth in luxury, and self indulgence, pride and earthly wisdom will tell us that happiness and satisfaction are found in stuff. And so we indulge ourselves in stuff and more stuff, and more stuff, to try and find temporary satisfaction. We're looking for long term satisfaction. But the best it can do is temporary satisfaction. Of course, it's why we constantly have to keep indulging ourselves. Because the stuff that we have indulged in, always succumbs to the law of diminishing returns. We have to go to more and indulge in more and more and more. And so walking in pride and by earthly wisdom will lead us to self indulge. But walking by the spirit and the wisdom from above will lead us to use the money that God provides for us to be a blessing and a benefit to other people to serve the poor, to serve the needy, to use our money to be used in his kingdom work in the church and all around the world. Final thing that James says and we see this in verse six is that trusting in money can lead to injustice in the lives of others. James says that these rich people condemned and murdered innocent people. Now, I doubt very seriously that James meant they physically and actually murdered someone. Most likely what he means is that they were depriving them again of what was rightfully theirs. And it led to their demise. In one of the apocryphal books that even says to take away a neighbor's living is to murder him to deprive an employee of his wages, is to shed blood. The rich were cheating the poor out of their land at the time and also robbing them of their wages or ability to make a living for themselves or their family. The same thing can be true of our lives today, the more we walk in earthly wisdom and trust in money, the more and more it causes us to need more of it, even if it means at the expense of other people. So James is showing us in this section about money and how that is not the way of Godly wisdom to trust in it. If we're walking in humility and trusting in Christ and His wisdom to lead our lives, he will always provide for us He will be our security, he will be our satisfaction and he will lead us to use his money that he's provided for us to bless others and to be a part of His kingdom work in this world. And so again, overall, through these three sections we looked at today James has given us each some things to look for in our own lives, that are kind of indicators of ways that we will know when we're walking in our flesh and trusting in our own strength and power looking for earthly and spiritual wisdom. Or whether we're looking at be trusting and depending on Christ wisdom that dwells within us in our union with Him, He will know that we're walking by this worldly unspiritual wisdom that is influenced by Satan if we see that we're using our speech to slander other people, if we see that we're trusting in our own plans for life, for trusting in our own self confidence and arrogant ability to determine our future, and if we see that we're trusting and money, to be our security, or over indulging ourselves, with money and with the stuff that money can buy. If we see these things, then we'll know we're walking in that earthly wisdom, that we're walking in pride and a self sufficient manner. But if again, through humility, we trust in the wisdom that we have in Christ. We're not gonna see slander coming out of our mouths, but we're going to see speech that builds up, we're gonna see speech that encourages other people that speaks the truth in love and shows that we're loving our neighbor as ourselves, we'll see that we're praying for God's plans for our future and our lives for his guidance in all areas of our lives at home and work and school and social circles, recreation and everything. When we're walking by his wisdom, we're walking in dependence on Jesus and where he's leading us in the future. In all areas of our lives, there is no secular and spiritual divide, we are in union with Jesus. Therefore, every activity that we enter into is spiritual, if we're trusting and walking by the Spirit. And finally, we'll see the opposite of what we saw in verse six. We're not going to overindulge ourselves with money, but we're going to see that he's leading us in ways to bless other people with our resources and to be a part of His kingdom work in this world. That's when we'll know that we're trusting in Jesus and who we are in Him in the way that he's leading and guiding us in life. And so again, as we wrap up today, maybe there is someone that the Lord is leading you to apologize to today, because he's revealed to you that you have been slandering them. Maybe there's an area of your life that you need to turn over to Jesus for your future, instead of trusting, trusting in your own plans that you've been making, and that you've been using to try to determine the direction the course of your life and what you thought was best for you, or what you thought was best for your family rather than what or depending on what the Lord says, is best for you or your family. Or finally, maybe you need to allow Jesus to use your money that he's blessed you with, to be a blessing to others, and to invest it in his kingdom work in this world. May we all be open to what the Lord has revealed to us today, and how he's leading us to respond. In this moment. Let's pray