Henry Mahan Lessons in James Lesson 11

Lesson 11
James 4:10-17

Henry Mahan

(Vs. 10.) When men, before the Lord and from their hearts, acknowledge their sinfulness and unworthiness, seek the grace and mercy of God in Christ and walk humbly before God, owning their dependence on his grace, then he will lift them from the dunghill give them a place and a name in his favour.

(Vs. 11.) Here is an evil of which we are all too guilty: speaking of another person in a critical, judgmental way. We are more prone to find fault than to encourage, to point out failures than to praise virtue, to repeat the bad rather than the good. One can never exalt himself by discrediting another! Gossip and criticism are not acceptable even if the report be true. Our words should be guided by love as well as truth (Lev. 19:16; Prov. 11:13).

In speaking evil of and judging a brother we usurp God"s office, an act of power that does not belong to us! We sit in the chair of judge and sentencer (Rom. 14:4).The law forbids rash judgement, gossip and evil speaking. In doing this we in effect become judges of the law. We are taking upon ourselves to decide which law is greatest – the one our brother broke or the one we despise by judging him.

(Vs. 12.) Only God is the Lawgiver and the Judge. He is able and willing to save by Jesus Christ even those who have despised his law. He is also able to destroy those who refuse to be humbled and to seek mercy. "Who are you that presume to pass judgement on your brother or neighbour? You can neither save nor destroy! You have no access to his heart or mind. You have no knowledge of the extent of his failure, nor the extent of his repentance" (Jude 9).

(Vs. 13.) The apostle does not condemn buying and selling of merchandise or the lawful practice of going about one"s business. He is rebuking those who resolve upon those things without consulting the will of God or considering the uncertainty and frailty of human life. We say that we are going here or there, that we are going to do this or that, as if these things are in our power and we have no dependence on the providence and blessings of God (1 Sam. 2:6-8; Deut. 32:39; John 3:27).

(Vs. 14.) You and I know nothing of tomorrow, not even if we will live until then. We cannot foresee what shall befall us tomorrow. Therefore it is stupidity and haughtiness to determine on this course or that without the will of God, in whom we live, move and have our being!

"What is your life?" Or, what is the nature of your life? You are but a wisp of vapour, a puff of smoke, a mist that is visible for a little while and then disappears. The reference is to the breath of man which cannot be depended upon (Job 14:1-5; Ps. 103:13-16).

(Vs. 15.) Instead of saying we will go to such-and-such a place, and we will do this or that, it should be said, "If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that." This is the condition of doing anything: is it agreeable to the sovereign will of the Lord, by which everything in the world comes to pass? (Rom. 1:10; 1 Cor. 4:19; Heb. 6:3.)

(Vs. 16.) "As it is, you boast presumptuously of tomorrow, of the continuance of life, of going to certain places and doing certain things. All such boasting and planning without regard to the will and providence of our Lord is evil" When we make plans and blueprints without a reference to the will of the Lord, we are expressing independence and ascribing too much to our power and will, as if our lives and fortunes were in our own hands.

(Vs. 17.) A person who knows what is right in regard to the above (putting a watch on our tongues, sowing discord among brethren, slander and evil speaking and idle boasting concerning our lives and daily activities) and does not do what is right, to him it is sin!

Henry Mahan
Ashland, Ky.