Criticism and Judgment (James 4:11-12)

First Baptist Church

“Criticism and Judgment”

(James 4:11-12)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

March 25, 2018

Introductory Comments:

We’re continuing our series through the book of James, now coming to a passage that addresses our behavior towards other people.

James really seems to be concerned with the way that we treat other people, as he brings it up time and time again.

Keep in mind that he is now transitioning from his discussion on humility before God. He now starts to condemn those who are arrogant, boastful, or judgmental.

These words from James may make some of us uncomfortable, but that’s what comes with Christian growth. We should welcome this!

Let’s look at the passage.

Read the Passage

Read James 4:11-12

11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Let’s pray together.


So, we see that James turns his focus to this conversation regarding criticism and judgment.


We need to consider this carefully so as to understand what he is getting at.

What are we meant to do as believers, and what are we not meant to do?

This morning we will discuss two things that we are not meant to do. At the end, I will also offer some clarifications about what this does and doesn’t mean.

So, let’s see what we are not meant to do.

First, . . .

I. We are not meant to criticize (11) [on screen]

James says very clearly, “Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters.”  

Well, that’s plain and clear, isn’t it?

Don’t criticize!  We are not meant to criticize!

Some transitions say, “do not speak against,” or, “do not speak evil,” or, “do not slander.”

The idea here is that we are not to speak badly about someone else. This is the heart of James’ concern.

Let’s remember that this passage follows the section on humility.


James has been imploring us to be led by humility; to act as those who are truly believers.

Yet, some of us have within us this inclination to criticize, slander, or speak evil towards others.

This is not Christlike!

To criticize someone is easy. All you have to do is sit back like the Monday morning quarterback. You know, the person that speaks the day after the football game about all the things they would have done differently.  Forget about the fact that they couldn’t play ten minutes of football because they’re out of shape, slow, and uncoordinated. They think they know everything about football.

In the same way, when we criticize, it’s not only unkind and not Christlike; it’s also arrogant and unfair towards the person being criticized.


As James has already taught us, we should not use the tongue for evil; we should not speak evil against our neighbor.

What could this kind of destructive speech or criticism include?

It could include complaining about someone.

It certainly includes verbally attacking someone.

How about gossip, slander, and lying?  Yes, yes, and yes!

This is led by arrogance, selfishness, and an evil spirit.

This is not from God.

Further, when we speak against another person in an evil way, we directly disobey the law of God, which in effect is speaking against the law of God.

James says, “Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law.”

When we do this we are opposed to the ways of God and opposed to God Himself.


We must remember that following the ways of the world is a direct rejection of the ways of God.

Because we have received the mercy of God, we also are people of mercy, led by mercy in the way that we behave towards others.

We are called to love one another, and that certainly includes the way that we speak to one another.

Criticism, slander, evil speech; these are not love for one another.


So, first, we are not meant to criticize. It is not what God wants for us, as His people.

Second, . . .

II. We are not meant to judge (11-12) [on screen]

Part of what James is speaking about is criticism, harsh speech, or slander.

However, he also moves beyond this to judgment coming from believers.

Look at the passage again. Look about halfway through verse 11.

James says,

If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

God is the judge and we are not. Period!

He determines what is just and what is unjust.

He determines what is sinful and what is good.

This idea of judgment brings with it an idea of us determining in our own mind how another person out to live or ought to behave.

Let me let you in on something: the law of God is perfectly fine just the way it is. We don’t need to add anything to it!

We do not need to pronounce judgment upon someone any further than what God has already established.

Who are you to judge anybody?

Who am I to judge anybody?

Do you think the law of God is good enough?  Well, then, let’s leave it at that!


If you try to judge others based on your preferences, your discernment, and your morality, you are taking the place of God and undermining the law of God.

We should not put ourselves in the place of God. We are not to judge.

Remember, James says that we are to be doers of the law. We are not to be modifiers of the law or changers of the law.

We are not the lawgivers.

James says, “there is one lawgiver and judge.”

We are not in a place to offer a judgment on anything.

Imagine asking a toddler to clean your china cabinet; or, a third grader to handle your financial portfolio; or, me to decorate for your wedding.

It’s nonsensical to think that we could have the ability to know the hearts of people, to know their deeds, and to pronounce judgment upon them.

We cannot be judges.


If we are changed by Jesus, if we are under His mercy, we should live by His mercy and by His rule.

We should show mercy to others, not pass judgment.

We should point others to His law, not create our own.

We should love and support His justice, not try to create our own.

God created the law, and He administers the law; not us.

We are not meant to judge.


Now, let me offer . . .

Some needed clarifications: [on screen]

First, . . .

Criticism ≠ Accountability [on screen]

Criticism is not the same as accountability.

Accountability is helping a brother or sister in Christ grow in holiness and obedience to God’s revealed way.

Accountability is for the good of your brother or sister in Christ. It’s to make them more like Jesus.

It’s done with respect and gentleness.

Criticism is done to hurt or judge.

Accountability builds up; criticism tears down.

Accountability is biblical; slanderous criticism is satanic.

Second, . . .

Judgment ≠ Truth of God [on screen]

Judgment is not the same as declaring the truth of God.

James isn’t saying that you can’t declare something to be the truth of God.

He’s not saying that you cannot pronounce God’s judgment.

That’s what James has been doing through His entire letter! He’s been pronouncing God’s truth!

He would be crazy and unfair if he were to do that and then tell us not to do it.

He’s saying don’t judge by our standards. He’s not saying we should shy away from the truth of God.

Here’s a good test: if God said it, then you can say it to someone else. If God did not say it, don’t impose it upon someone.

Some churches say that pastors shouldn’t have beards. Well, I’m out!  And, Jesus would be too!

Some churches say only one translation of the Bible is true and accurate.

Some Christians believe you shouldn’t listen to certain styles of music.

Some churches say you must look a certain way and follow these extra rules, and then you’ll be a good Christian.

God is the judge! Stick to His Word!  It’s clear enough.


Are you building your brothers and sisters up, or are you tearing them down?

Are you loving God, loving the church, and loving others?  Or, are you living for yourself?

We are not meant to criticize. We are not meant to judge.

We are to be low and humble, not high and mighty.

Bottom Line: Let the Judge be the judge[on screen]


Let God do His part. We should do ours.

Be disciples who love God, love the church, and love others.

Take these two challenges with you this week:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Think before you speak[on screen]

Ask yourself these questions:

Is it true?

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

Is it helpful?

Speak in a way to build up, not tear down.

  1. Think before you judge[on screen]

Is your judgment from God?

Will someone receive the judgment well if it’s coming from you?

Let God be the judge.

Think first.


We should live as the people of God.

Today is Palm Sunday. It’s the Sunday that we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

People loved Him!  They praised Him!  They waved palm branches in the air welcoming Him!

Those same people later rejected Him and yelled, “Crucify Him!”

When we profess faith in Christ and reject His ways for us, we are the same as those that welcomed Jesus and then rejected Him.

We should seek not only Him but also His ways.

Let’s welcome Him fully into our lives!  Let’s live for Him!

If you’ve never welcomed Jesus into your life, you can do so this morning.

Turn from your own way and turn towards His way.

Reject the world and run to Him.

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Wherever He Leads I’ll Go


Church, thanks for being here this morning.

Before we leave let me remind you to take an Easter Yard Sign. Take as many as you want today as Easter is next Sunday.

Also, take some Easter invite cards.

I will see you all here tonight at 5:30 PM as we gather for our Easter Musical.

God bless you.

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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