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If the Lord Wills – James 4:11-5:6

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

There once was a very wealthy farmer. He owned vast parcels of land. He brought in amazing quantities of crops. He loved his wealth. All he could think about was gaining more.
He had so much grain that he wondered where he would store it all. He couldn’t eat that much. He didn’t want to give it away.

Then he had a brilliant idea: He would tear down his small storage bins and build huge ones. Then….Then he could live comfortably. Finally he could live care-free for the rest of his life. He was set. This was like having millions and millions in IRAs. Now he could relax. Eat. Drink. And be happy.

That sounds very good to me. Doesn’t it to you, too? Security and happiness.

But God spoke to him one night, and said, “You fool! You fool! This very night you will die. And what will happen to all this wealth that you hoped in?” All of this man’s plans…..and all the enjoyment of his vast wealth….was going to blow away like his breath on a cold morning. It was going to vanish from his hands in a moment.

That story, told by Jesus in Luke 12, reminds me of some words by the Apostle James who wrote the Letter of James. James speaks some very strong words to those who have grand plans and dreams in life, but give no thought to God, and what God may want.

We are in our 4th week on James, written by the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. It’s a fast moving letter. Full of action and commands.

This morning we will read 3 distinct passages with some hard-hitting messages for us. So buckle your seat belts. Let’s go for a ride.

Review of last week

Last week Matt took us on a fascinating look at chapters 3 and 4.
The problem with the tongue. Our mouths. “A restless evil, full of deadly poison.” “A spark that sets a whole forest on fire.” “No human can tame this wild beast called the tongue.”

Then in chapter 4, we read about our great potential to quarrel and fight. It’s caused by our self-absorption. We want what we want. We are spiritual adulterers, friends with the world and not with God.

Then all of that darkness is snuffed out with a glorious sunrise. A conclusion of victory in the gospel.
For promised Victory, we are to RESIST the devil.
For promised Nearness, we DRAW NEAR to God.
For promised Exaltation, we are to HUMBLE ourselves under Almighty God.

Victory is ours if we simply and humbly BELIEVE God’s promises.

James 4:11-12

Now let’s dive into chapter 4:11-12.

James 4:11–12 ESV “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 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 here doesn’t let up the throttle from last week’s passage. He gives some hard-hitting commands.

He writes to these Jewish believers in Jesus, and he bluntly tells them, “Do not even think about speaking evil against your fellow believers.” Don’t slander them. Don’t gossip about them. Don’t say one word that would bring harm to them. Don’t harshly question authority, like Israel did so often against Moses. Don’t falsely accuse someone. James says they are your brothers. They are family.

Sadly the church of God is not immune from evil, destructive, harsh speech. Matt looked at this last week in Chapter 3. And we all know that from experience. Within God’s family, we all can hurt one another. It’s sad but true.

I would ask for a show of hands of how many of you I have hurt through my words. But I’m not sure I want to see how many hands go up.

Such speech, James says in chapter 3, is worldly and demonic. Such speech is set on fire by hell!

James also says here in chapter 4, “Don’t judge your brother.” Does he mean that if I am sinning, you must never correct me concerning the truth of God? No. James knew quite well what Jesus said about judging. One of the most quoted verses in the Bible in our day seems to be Matthew 7:1,
“Don’t judge one another, lest you be judged.”
Many of us have used this wrongly. When someone corrects us, we quickly cry out, “Hey, you’re judging me! Jesus said don’t do that!”

We fail to realize two things:
1. First, when we shout back at our friend, “You’re judging me,” we are actually doing the same thing back to them! We’re eating our own words. We’re hypocrites the moment those words come out of our mouths.
2. Second, Jesus goes on in vs. 2-5 to tell us what we should do. We should FIRST take the log out of our own eye. We first need to examine our own hearts and actions. We need to repent ourselves.
THEN….THEN….Jesus says, you can see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eyes. Jesus acknowledges your brother may have a speck in his eye. He may have some sin, and you can help him with that. But first you have to deal with your own life. Otherwise, you are a hypocrite.
So to say we must never judge is an error. We are to never harshly and critically judge. We are to never judge someone without first judging and examining ourselves.

So now back to James 4, in vs. 11 and 12, he gives a warning: If you speak evil against your brother or harshly judge him, you are speaking evil against the law.

What does this mean, to “speak against the law”? It seems James is referring to the law of God, perhaps quite simply commands from Jesus like, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which James quotes in chapter 2. So when we speak evilly against our brother, we are speaking evil against God’s law. Against Jesus’ own words.

What he means is that when we violate God’s law, we are in a sense making our own judgment on the law as unimportant or in error. When I speak evil against you, I am saying that Jesus’ words to “Love my neighbor,” is not important. I’m saying I don’t value it. When I do that, I place myself above the law, sitting as a judge of it making my own assessments as to its rightness or wrongness. I am proclaiming myself as Lawgiver and Judge.
Stop and consider this: For me to place myself as Judge of God and his law is the greatest height of arrogance. An extraordinary brashness toward God. I am attempting to take the throne of God.
We ought to tremble at this.

Charles Spurgeon said about this verse, about the person who speaks evil against his brother:

“He sits in judgment upon God, as though he were wiser than the Judge of all the earth.”

James here grabs us by the shoulders and kindly but firmly warns us: “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, him who is able to save and destroy.” In a way, James is saying, “Don’t trifle with God. Do not go there.” Leave all judgment to him.

What should we do when we are tempted to speak evil and harshly judge our brother or sister in Christ?
1. Fear God
James is not speaking lightly here. When we judge others, we are usurping God’s authority. And God is not pleased. There is no condemnation if you are in Christ, but if you are his child, he as a loving and holy Father will be quite firm with you.
“He opposes the proud….but he gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
He will oppose you. Fear him.

2. Remember our own salvation.
Ephesians 2 tells us that we were Dead in our sins before God. We had spiritual Death, not spiritual Life. But God showed Rich Mercy and Great Love to bring us real life forever through the death and resurrection of his Son. We now owe our very lives to him. By his Grace.
Now when we are tempted to speak evil and bitterly toward our fellow Jesus follower, we should humble ourselves and remember what mercy God has shown toward us.

James 4:13-17

Now look at vs. 13-17. James doesn’t lighten up in this section.

James 4:13–17 ESV “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

James is speaking to Christians who speak and dream and plan…..without God in view. Perhaps they are merchants who travel for business. They have many long-term dreams and plans. They are plotting out how they will make money, where they will go. At a glance, we may wonder, “What is wrong with planning?”
But what is their mistake? They are short-sighted. And, they have neglected God. They are trying to be the Master and Commander of their own lives.

They are short-sighted. James says, “You have all these plans. You think you will live on and on and on. Fine. But honestly, you cannot even guarantee tomorrow.”
James may have had in mind Jesus’ words in the parable of the rich fool.

Luke 12:20 ESV “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’”

These believers here in James are short-sighted. We don’t know with any certainty what will happen tomorrow.
We are reminded of Proverbs,

Proverbs 27:1 ESV “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”

James isn’t saying we should never plan. Proverbs tells us the wise man plans for the future.

His point is, Stop being so short-sighted and arrogant. Stop neglecting God in your plans and desires. You are not Master and Commander of your life. Your life is like a mist. Like on a cold morning, you blow out and see the vapor, but in seconds it is gone. Life is brief, and we do not know the end of our days.

As James Dobson said,

“It is the illusion of permanence that distorts our perception and shapes our selfish behavior.”

The illusion of permanence!

So what should we do? What should we say?
We yield to the Lord. We submit to the Master and Commander of our lives. Yes, he is our Father through Christ, and we are his children. He is also our LORD, our Master. Our Commander.

So instead of speaking so confidently and arrogantly about our great plans, we submit our very lives. We submit to the Lord’s will about how long we will live. We submit our schedules and our jobs and our plans and our dreams to him. We submit. And we say, “If it is the Lord’s will for me, I will do this and go here.” It even occurred to me last night lying in bed: “I will give this sermon tomorrow, if the Lord wills.”
Jesus is, of course, the perfect model of this. In the Garden just hours before he was crucified, he prayed,
“Not as I will, but as You will.”

The Apostle Paul kept this in mind:
Acts 18:21 “But on taking leave of them he said, ‘I will return to you if God wills,’ and he set sail from Ephesus.”

For centuries many Christians have kept in mind two letters: D.V. DV represents two Latin words, “Deo volente.” It means, “God willing.” If God is willing.
To help us all live in humble dependence on the Lord, we could consider the spirit of James’ strong words here by writing on all our plans and goals and expectations, “D.V.” If God is willing.
Our business plans. D.V.
Our buying a house plans. D.V.
Our vacation plans. D.V.
Our tomorrow plans. D.V.

So really, James is offering a radical proposal: GIVE UP CONTROL of your own life, and turn it over to God. Humbly submit to the Lord [see James 4:7]. Let him be Master and Commander.
Anything short of this is arrogance.

But let’s be honest: To yield our lives over to someone else can be quite unsettling. And indeed, it ought to unsettle us because we feel like life is out of control.
However, there is a distinction. James is not calling us to a life OUT of Control. He is calling us to a life in GOD’S control. Out of control is terrifying. In God’s control is a place of quiet confidence and peace.

So much of life is uncertain. Even the end of our life is uncertain. But there is one thing in life we DO know with certainty: GOD. God is certain. We can be sure of him. He is not unstable. He is not flighty. He is not like the waves of the sea, blown and tossed about. He is not forgetful or absent-minded. His eye is fixed on us constantly. He is our Rock. He loves us enough to send his Son to be slaughtered for us.

On vs. 17:
James finishes this short section with these words:

James 4:17 ESV “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

It seems like it has nothing to do with vs. 13-16, but James says, “So.” Or “therefore.”
It seems James is saying, “Now that you know you should reject arrogance and instead yield to the Master and Commander of your lives, if you don’t do it, you’re sinning.
When we know the right thing to before God but don’t do it, we are sinning.

This also seems to have broad application to our lives. If we know a command to follow but don’t, we’re sinning. If we know we should serve someone in need, but don’t, we’re sinning. If we know we shouldn’t say those harsh words but we do anyway, we’re sinning.

So the message is, “Act on what you know.”
There is always a gap between our knowledge and our obedience.
Only in eternity will that gap be close. But a main goal of the Christian life now is to narrow that gap.

Knowledge involves immediate responsibility.

James 5:1-6

Read James 5:1-6

James 5:1–6 ESV Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”

The rich people James is speaking to are wealthy landowners. In those days, the wealthy were typically farmers with much land and who hired people to work the fields.
Several of Jesus’ parables reflect this. (Matt 20:1-16; 25:14-30; Luke 12:16-21.)

James is giving a Scorching Hot Rebuke: “Weep and howl. Wail for there are miseries coming for you.”
And the tone of James’ words indicates he is speaking to non-Christians.
“Judgment is coming.”
Plus, James does not say, “brothers”, here as he does in so many other places in the letter.

He is not rebuking the rich for being rich… but for their sinful use of wealth.
He offers extremely strong words for them: They were self-reliant, greedy, hoarding, extorting, living in luxury, self-indulgent, condemning, and murderous.

So assuming he is speaking to unbelievers, why in a letter to believers would he include such a warning?
We’ll get to that shortly.

Vs. 2-3
This remind us of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6, Jesus speaks of our treasures on earth becoming rusted and moth-eaten. He talks of laying up treasure in heaven and not on earth, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
These landowners have their minds set on the earth.
They have no thought of eternity.
They have no room in their heart for God.
They have no love for the poor who are suffering because of them!

In vs. 4:
This wealthy farmer is getting richer by withholding wages from the field laborers. He is getting rich off their poverty. And the cries of those laborers is reaching the Lord of hosts, or “The Lord of the armies in heaven.” There is an implication here that God is going to come marching out in judgment with his angels to rescue the oppressed and condemn the evil farmer.

To be clear, James is not condemning wealth. He is condemning wealth obtained through evil means. And using the power of wealth to oppress people.

In vs. 5:
And when James says, “You have lived on the earth,” he is silently contrasting this life “on the earth” with the next life which will come. So the rich are very short-sighted and blind to the reality of eternity. Like the Fool in Jesus’ parable in Luke 12, he was short-sighted, and did not have eternity in view.
“You live in luxury and self-indulgence.” I have to admit: I like the soft and luxurious life. I like a comfortable life. Money can buy much comfortable living.

Comfort in itself is not an evil thing. But such comforts and luxury can demoralize our hearts. They steal away our desire for God. They turn us inward. They shut out love for others.

Pastor and author Warren Wiersbe said:

“Luxury has a way of ruining character. It is a form of self-indulgence. If you match character with wealth, you can produce much good; but if you match self-indulgence with wealth, the result is sin.”

In contrast to these men in vs. 1-6, we see godly and wealthy men who genuinely cared for others.
• Job—a very wealthy man—showed kindness to the poor (Job 29:12).
• Nehemiah rebuked his fellow Jews for their mistreatment of the poor (Neh 5:2-13).
• Barnabas sold property and gave it to the apostles to distribute (Acts 4:36-37).

Then also in Verse 5, James says, “You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”
James seems to be saying that these wicked rich people are fattening themselves for the coming day of judgment, a “day of slaughter.”
Recently we were driving on the I-80 and we passed a semi with hogs in the trailer. I thought, “You poor pigs have no idea where you’re headed. You’re traveling to your doom.”
Like those pigs going to the slaughterhouse, these rich, evil landowners are completely unaware of their impending destruction. All they can think about is getting more money. More comfort. More luxury. But they are fattening themselves for the slaughterhouse.

So what do we do with this passage?
If you are a wealthy landowner who is robbing your workers, well, this has very direct and stern warnings to you. I hope none of you are like this. I doubt any of us are.

Here is some application for us from these 6 verses:
1. Be warned not to envy such people. Their judgment is severe and sudden. They will rue the days of their greed.
Jesus said, “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
There is something about wealth…..There is an allurement….an enticement to money…that can steal our hearts and make us cold to God. It doesn’t have to steal our hearts, but it can.

Don’t envy the wealthy. Especially don’t envy the wealthy who are obtaining their wealth through evil means.

2. Be comforted if you have been oppressed by evil and wealthy people.
The Lord will deal in perfect justice someday soon.
Next week we’ll look at verse 7 on, and we find that Jesus’ Second Coming gives us great hope and comfort in the face of suffering.
But for today, be comforted. If you are mistreated by someone like this….or really if you are mistreated by anyone….Be comforted. God is a Righteous Judge. In the end of time he will set everything right. He is the protector of the weak and down-trodden.

3. Be content with what you have.
Don’t long for riches. Be content.
In the wisdom of Proverbs 30:8-9, the author prays,
“Give me neither poverty nor riches… lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord”? or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
There is wisdom here.

Let me finish up for a couple of minutes about wealth and contentment.
In the Western world, amassing wealth is not only condoned but admired. As Jesus followers, we need to come to grips with some of the implications of James’ warning here and ask ourselves seriously: When do we have too much?
One author said,

“There is a power and peril of wealth.”

I am going to take a guess here this morning. My guess is that most of us are thinking, “Well, at least I don’t have to concern myself here. I’m not wealthy.”
May I argue that thought for a moment?

We aren’t wealthy when we compare ourselves to Bill Gates of Microsoft or Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com. Those men are in a neck and neck tie for the wealthiest men in the WORLD, both about $90 Billion. Of course, we’re all poor compared to them.
But if you’ve traveled much, you probably know the vast amount of poverty around this country and around the world. I’ve been to Central America 8 times and Africa once. Each time I return, I think, “I’m rich. I have so much. I don’t ever want to be discontent again with my possessions or my income or my savings.”
What’s my point? Money can be a temptation to any of us. Even the poorest among us can be tempted to love money, which Paul said is a root of all sorts of evil.

The ultimate goal in life is quite simple: To love God more than anything.
To make God #1 in your life. To have your treasure in heaven, and not on earth. To make God your Master, not Money.
How do we do this?
Every day, walk with Jesus.
Every day, keep him squarely in your mind and heart.
Every day, remember your salvation.
Every day, remember the brevity of life.
Every day, do whatever he tells you. He is Master and Commander.
Every day, be a giver.
Every day, depend upon him by praying, “Lord, give me this day my daily bread. Today, provide me with what I need.”