The Book of James

Lesson 10 - "Shunning the Sins in Good Standing"

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 4:11-17, “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? Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”


-Introduction:

Sin is often more subtle than most of us realize. So far in this chapter James has dealt with the sins of envy, lust, quarreling, and friendship with the world, which is spiritual adultery. These sins are obvious to most of us. However, now James denounces two things most of us do without realizing they are very serious sins. I call them "sins in good standing." In our "journey into faith that works" we must shun these "sins in good standing." Two things here,


#1) Abstain from gossip.

James addresses this sin by writing: Speak not evil one of another, brethren. The phrase speak not evil means "to speak against" or "to slander." It refers to gossip or character assassination. This command forbids us to gossip or talk about other people in a way that damages their reputations. Slander is purely satanic because the word translated "devil" in the New Testament is diabolos  and means "slanderer." Revelation 12:10b calls Satan, “The accuser of our brethren.”


All slander and gossip originates with the Devil. When we listen to or pass on gossip, we are doing the Devil's work. Gossip is the favorite pastime of many believers and one of the most difficult temptations to resist. As Will Rogers said, "The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them." Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”


The root meaning of the word translated wounds means "to swallow greedily." This means gossip is like tasty tidbits that are swallowed up and stored in our innermost parts so they can later be shared for the evil purpose of spreading rumors. Many Christians think its ok to share the personal affairs or downfalls of other people as long as the information is true. However, unless it is shared to protect someone or help someone, it is the diabolic sin of gossip or slander.


James continues in verse 11, 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.” In other words, when we gossip or slander we attack the Law. Furthermore, this is a serious sin because it violates the second greatest commandment and the fundamental law of human relationships. In Matthew 22:39, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”


This is what James calls the royal law. When we knowingly and willfully are guilty of not keeping God's law, we are judging the Law, having determined it is not worthy to be obeyed. Most of us would agree gossip and slander are wrong but would think they are not horribly evil. However, that's not right. Here James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, informs us that gossip and slander are horrible evils because when we practice them, we put ourselves above God's number one law in human relationships.


Only God has the right to modify or overrule a divine law. Therefore, James writes: There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Only God has the right to judge because He is both the source and enforcer of the Law. He rewards those who obey it and punishes those who do not. Thus, James asks: who art thou that judgest another? The answer is obvious: when we judge others, we set ourselves up as God, and we are judging them when we gossip about them. The Bible teaches gossip is a sin of utmost seriousness because it violates the second greatest commandment. When tempted to gossip, we need to remember what warning of Jesus in Matthew 12:36 which says, “That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”


To shun the "sins in good standing," we must first abstain from gossip, but there is something else James tells us we must do...

#2) Avoid presumptuous planning.

In this section James talks about the sin of planning presumptuously. He illustrates this with a conversation between business people in verse 13 where he says, Go to now, ye that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain.” What's wrong with this statement? God is completely left out of the planning. Many Christians are "practical" atheists because they make decisions and plans as though God doesn't exist. James is saying we are to let God in on every area of our lives, including our jobs, investments, and careers. God wants us to plan and count the cost but not to exclude Him from the process. It is a serious sin to exclude God from our plans.


Making plans without God is presumptuous because none of us know what shall be on the morrow, much less a year or five years from now. James is not suggesting we shouldn't make plans but that we should be realistic and understand the future is uncertain, so we need to depend on God. Proverbs 27:1 says, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

To help put things in perspective as we plan, James says we must remember our lives are just a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Our lives are like a vapour or fog in early morning that is quickly burned off by the sun. Therefore, we shouldn't live like the rich young farmer in Luke chapter 12 whose crops produced so bountifully he tells himself he will take it easy, eat, drink, and be merry. However, listen to what Jesus say to him in Luke 12:20, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”


None of us should deceive ourselves into thinking we have plenty of time to enjoy our families or to live for Christ. Your life and mine are like a vapour that has no permanence. In I Samuel 20:3 David says, “There is but a step between me and death.” Job 14:1 says, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.”


This means we're only one heartbeat away from eternity, so we shouldn't take tomorrow for granted. Instead of ignoring God in our planning, we should say: If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. We are to plan but recognize God may change our plans. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”


If we allow room for God's will in our plans, there is a wonderful balance between our plans and God's oversight of the outcome. Our plans must always adjust to God's will and not be in conflict. James continues in verse 16, But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.” Bragging about our presumptuous plans is evil because we act as though we can control our own destinies without any help from God.


James concludes this section by writing in verse 17, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” This means we know we should include God in our plans, and when we don't, we sin. However, this verse also has broader implications. It indicates sin is not only doing what is wrong, but also not doing what is right.


There are two kinds of sins: commission and omission. For example, gossip is a sin of commission, while not giving a needed word of encouragement is a sin of omission. Failing to give encouragement is a sin because it violates the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 which says, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”


In other words, if God gives us opportunity to do a kind act, give an encouraging word, be a peacemaker, or whatever, and we fail to do it, we sin. Anytime we fail to do good we sin because of the command found in Galatians 6:10 which says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”


We should look at every opportunity in our lives to do good as being strategically placed there by God. A "journey into faith that works" is not so much what we don't do, such as avoiding sin, but what we do by doing good. To shun the "sins in good standing," we must abstain from gossip and avoid presumptuous planning.


Let’s pray.



Lesson 11  —>