Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges
his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a
doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, are you to judge another? (James 4:11-12
I’ve been working through an 8-week study on the book of James lately. This week we got to
chapter 4 and the verses above. As I was wrestling through what those verses meant, I was
reminded that Jesus said: Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you
judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back (Matt 7:1
NKVJ). And yet, why is it that I so often find myself judging someone’s actions or words?
Webster’s Dictionary defines judge as:
1: to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises
2: to sit in judgment on :
3: to determine or pronounce after inquiry and deliberation
4: used of a Hebrew tribal leader
5: to form an estimate or evaluation of; especially : to form a negative opinion about (shouldn’t judge him because of his accent )
6: to hold as an opinion : (I judge she knew what she was doing)
Most of those definitions don’t really seem that bad, but I think James is probably referring to numbers 2 and 5. That’s were we get ourselves into trouble, when we start sitting in judgment in a negative way. As I was mulling this over, Micah 6:8 popped into my head.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV)
I looked the verse up in several different translations, and almost every one used “do” with the
words justly, justice, or what is right, and the word “love” with mercy and/or kindness. It
occurred to me that love is the higher command than what we do. So if God tells us to do what
is right, but to love mercy, then it must be even more important that we love mercy (and
therefore, DO mercy). I don’t know if you think like me, but when I see a situation that seems to
be not right (again, by my judgment), I tend to want to make it right. I want to see justice done.
And so I often will pray that God will make the situation right, straighten out the person who is
wrong. But it isn’t my first thought, or natural tendency, to be merciful.
I think if I could make it my first response, to be merciful, then I would be less prone to judging.
See, it’s my actions that I’m responsible for – I’m to “do justly” or “do what is right.” But I don’t
get to judge if someone else is doing justly or what is right. And if I learn to love mercy, then
mercy will be my first response to any situation – not judging.
And if I can master that, then I think walking humbly with God will follow.
Ruth Schmidt is on full-time staff at America’s Keswick, and grateful to be a daughter of the King.