The Book of James
Read for This Week's Study: James 4:11-17; Acts 17:11; Heb. 4:15-16; Luke 12:13-21; Eccl. 2:15-19; Titus 2:14.
There is one lawgiver, who is able to save
and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? (James
Our attitude toward law, whether God's law or human's, affects how we relate to others and even to how we relate to God Himself. Have you noticed that sometimes the rich and famous act as if they are above the law? Even some who make the laws, or enforce them, may look for ways to write those laws for their own personal gain. Disrespect for a society's laws, then, can involve disrespect for other people, because laws govern how we relate to each other.
At the same time, those whose attitude toward law is rigid and unbending may also have difficulty in their interpersonal relationships. At a deeper level, our view of the law depends on the degree of respect we have for the wisdom of the lawgivers and the fairness of their laws.
This week's lesson begins with a look at the law but then leads into some important words about a form of arrogance and self-dependence that we might not be aware of but which we are warned about as being sin, a violation of God's law. In fact, we're given here, in James, another way of looking at sin.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 29.
Sunday November 23
Brothers, do not slander one
another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks
against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not
keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it (James 4:11, NIV).
How does judging others amount to sitting in judgment of the law?
The initial phrase in verse
11 that is literally translated
could include several sins of speech, including
slander, bearing false witness, and angry words (see
the one hand, it seems that James uses milder language here than in
chapter 3; yet, the
implications of speaking against one's brother or
sister seem more serious in that doing so calls into question the law
itself. By placing ourselves on the judgment seat, we ignore our own
weaknesses (see Matt.
and focus instead on another's wrongdoing,
as if we were somehow outside of or above the law. Such a focus also
fails to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev.
19:18). Thus, we are not
keeping the law.
At the same time, however, while we should not be judging others, we must learn to have spiritual discernment.
Identity the areas in which spiritual discernment is called for in the following passages: Acts 17:11, 1 Cor. 6:1-5, 2 Cor. 13:5, Phil. 1:9, 1 John 4:1, Gal. 6:1.
We are to compare what people teach and preach with the Word of God. We should also, as far as possible, encourage church members to settle their differences among themselves rather than in courts, where the judges may or may not be guided by God's Word. Most important, we should examine ourselves as to the health of our faith relationship and whether what we dwell on is uplifting and excellent or detrimental to our Christian experience.
It's so easy to criticize and judge others, especially when they do things we don't like. How can we learn to know if we have crossed the line from being spiritually discerning to being judgmental on God's law?
Monday November 24
All the laws of the Old Testament are from Jesus. They are
sometimes called the laws of Moses because they were given through him
Chron. 33:8, Neh.
but it was Jesus who led the Israelites
through the wilderness and spoke the Ten Commandments to them at Mount
Sinai (see 1
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clarified
and amplified the law. He is the
Word . . . made flesh
1:14), and it is by
His Word that we will be judged (John
There is only one lawgiver and
judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge
your neighbor? (James
ESV). What do the following
verses tell us about Jesus as our judge? Isa.
33:22; 11:1-5; Heb.
Only someone who knows the law very well is qualified to judge whether or not it has been broken. Lawyers study for many years before taking bar exams, which test their readiness to begin their practice. The scribes in the time of Jesus (many of whom were Pharisees) diligently studied also, and not only the Mosaic laws but also the accumulated legal traditions. The fact that Jesus did not agree with many of these traditions resulted in serious conflict with the leaders. But as the One who gave these laws, He was and is uniquely qualified to explain what they mean and to assess whether or not they have been transgressed. So when He comes again, His reward is with Him to give to all according to their works (Rev. 22:12). Furthermore, by taking on human nature, living a sinless life, dying in our place, and being raised victorious over sin and death, Jesus is able to save us from sin.
"God has committed all judgment unto the Son, for without controversy He is God manifest in the flesh.
God designed that the Prince of sufferers in humanity
should be judge of the whole world. He who came from the heavenly
courts to save man from eternal death; . . . He who submitted to be
arraigned before an earthly tribunal, and who suffered the ignominious
death of the cross-He alone is to pronounce the sentence of reward or
of punishment.-Ellen G. White, Maranatha,
p. 341. As both Lawgiver and Savior, Christ is uniquely
qualified to be
Either reward or punishment, we will face only one or the other. What's your only hope of reward?
Tuesday November 25
4:13. (Compare Luke
How do we balance prudent planning
for the future with our need to live each day in expectation of
Christ's imminent coming? How can we avoid the trap of merely building
It may seem very reasonable to plan a year in advance or even more. Businesses commonly have short-, medium-, and long-range plans. Individuals and families need to save for the future and to make provision for unexpected expenses. On the other hand, we also believe that Jesus is coming soon and that, someday, all of our earthly possessions will be consumed by flames (see 2 Pet. 3:10-12).
These two approaches to life are not necessarily in conflict.
Someone has said,
Plan as if Christ were
not coming for years but live each day as if Christ
were coming tomorrow. This is good as far as it goes, though
long-term planning can make it difficult to take one day at a time.
Many of Jesus' hearers (and no doubt many Christians today) would
consider that the rich man who decided to build bigger barns was
prosperous because God was blessing him. But Jesus reveals to us the
man's inner thoughts:
soul, you have many goods
laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry
Most important, rather than making our plans too definite,
you ought to say, (James
4:15, NKJV). This means more
than simply appending
If the Lord wills, we shall live and do
this or that
d.v. (Deo volente,
God willing) to the end of a sentence
about our future plans. It means we should submit all our plans to God.
We can pray:
God, I want to know Your will. If you are not
pleased with these plans, please show me. Then, if our plans
are not good, God will show us that-as long as we remain attentive and
willing to correct our plans or even change them entirely.
Read again James 4:13. Though on the surface nothing really seems wrong with what is being said, obviously there's a problem-not in what the people want to do but in their attitude about it. How can we be careful not to get caught up in that same attitude, even subconsciously?
Wednesday November 26
Read James 4:14. What crucial point is being made here?
Life is uncertain. Every breath is a gift. James
4:14 uses a
very rare Greek word (atmis), which is translated
mist. Like the
Hebrew word hebel (
which occurs 38 times in Ecclesiastes and is often translated as
it emphasizes the transitory nature of life. Who hasn't, especially as
we get older, experienced just how fast and fleeting life is? Well into
his old age, well-known evangelist Billy Graham said,
knew that life went by so quickly.
In other words, there's always the imminence of death. We are
all just a heartbeat away from it. Any of us, at any moment, for any
number of reasons, could die in an instant. How rightly James says,
you do not know what tomorrow will bring (4:14, ESV),
I will not here dwell upon the shortness and
uncertainty of life; but there is a terrible danger-a danger not
sufficiently understood-in delaying to yield to the pleading voice of
God's Holy Spirit, in choosing to live in sin; for such this delay
really is.-Ellen G. White, Steps
to Christ, p. 32.
Plus, not only is life so short but, in and of itself, it can also be so unsatisfying.
Read Ecclesiastes 2:15-19; 4:4; 5:10; 9:11-12. How does the message of Solomon here only add to the point that James has made?
We see so much injustice, so much unfairness, so much that doesn't make sense in this life. No wonder we all long for the promise of eternal life made to us through Jesus. Without that, we are just a mist that will be gone and forever forgotten.
Take stock: how much of this world holds you in its grip? How can you always keep in mind just how fleeting it all is?
Thursday November 27
Read James 4:15-17 in the context of the verses that come before it. What crucial point is he making here?
James here is dealing with the attitude of self-dependence. In
fact, he calls that attitude
arrogance, and the
words spoken as
boasting; he says it is
That's how important the right attitude is for the Christian.
17. The Bible defines sin in two ways: (1) doing
wrong; (2) not doing right. The first definition is given by John:
is the transgression of the law (1
John 3:4). Many modern
versions render it
sin is lawlessness, but the
Greek word anomia refers to specific violations of
the law rather than to habitual lawless behavior (see
its use in Rom.
10:17). The second definition is
given in James
Therefore to him that knoweth to
do good, and doeth it
not, to him it is sin. We must therefore go beyond simply
resisting temptation to do wrong. We are called to be
of light (Eph.
light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good
works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven
Of course, one could get easily discouraged because, after
all, who constantly does all the good they could possibly do every
single day? But that's not the issue. Even Jesus' life was not a
continual round of ceaseless activity. There were times when He
withdrew to pray or simply to rest (Luke
important, He sought God's will in everything He did (John
even compared doing God's will to eating:
is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work
together (vss. 36-38). As we work for the Lord, we
encouraged to do more and will pray for a greater willingness to be
used in every possible way.
How does prayer help us die to self and thus maintain an attitude of surrender to the will of God? Whatever your plans are, how can you learn to surrender them to the Lord?
Friday November 28Further Study: Read about the value of time in Ellen G. White,
Talents,Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 342-346, and share the points that impressed you with your Sabbath School class.
Let no one among you glory any longer against the
truth by declaring that this spirit [of discerning the evil motives of
others] is a necessary consequence of dealing faithfully with
wrongdoers and of standing in defense of the truth. Such wisdom has
many admirers, but it is very deceptive and harmful. It does not come
from above, but is the fruit of an unregenerated heart. Its originator
is Satan himself. Let no accuser of others credit himself with
discernment; for in so doing he clothes the attributes of Satan with
the garments of righteousness.-Ellen G. White Comments, The
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 936, 937.
He who is guilty of wrong is the first to suspect
wrong. By condemning another he is trying to conceal or excuse the evil
of his own heart. It was through sin that men gained the knowledge of
evil; no sooner had the first pair sinned than they began to accuse
each other; and this is what human nature will inevitably do when
uncontrolled by the grace of Christ.-Ellen G. White, Thoughts
From the Mount of Blessing,
As a teenager Solomon was not so smart. He let his peers influence his decisions and began smoking and taking drugs. He experimented with every drug he could get, and often he grew weak because he was not eating. Drugs were all he cared for.
Solomon and his friends were always together, smoking and taking drugs. They formed a gang and often fought with other teens. Once when he was high on drugs he picked up a machete, ready to strike his father. But a voice shouted to him, "Stop!" and he dropped the machete as if it were on fire.
"Help me, please!" he cried. His family took him to a mental hospital for treatment. But the hospital kept him for only a few days.
Solomon's grandmother prayed for him constantly and encouraged him to attend church with her and let God heal him. Solomon went, and there he felt God's love calling him. But he continued taking drugs for 10 more years. Then Solomon's grandmother and father died. The two people who had tried to help him were gone. Finally Solomon could run away from God no longer. He gave up and gave his life to God. It had taken him years to heed the voice of God.
Solomon did not know which church to attend. He tried several before he visited an Adventist church. There he watched the pastor baptize someone, and instantly he knew what he must do. He went to the pastor and asked for baptism. The pastor reviewed the doctrines with him and baptized Solomon.
Solomon's repentance was real. He serves his church and his God with joy and faithfulness as a deacon and an elder. Several members of his family have given their hearts to Christ because of his witness.
Recently he held his own evangelistic series and led seven people to Jesus.
He is trained as an accountant, but he has chosen simpler work that puts him in touch with people he can talk to about God. Solomon shares his faith on the bus, to strangers in the street. "For years I was compelled to take drugs; today I am by God compelled to preach," he says. He is eager to redeem the time he has left for God.
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