Bible Book: James  4 : 11-12
Subject: Judgment of Others; Christian Love
Series: James - Believing and Behaving - Minnix
[This sermon is one in a series of 10 messages from the Book of James entitled: Believing and Behaving.]

The Unacceptable - Acceptable Sin

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,


James 4:11-12 ...

"11 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. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?"

Some sins seem more acceptable to us than others. Furthermore, we often accept certain sins in people we know and love but reject them in people with whom we are unfamiliar or people we don’t particularly like. This is the human way of looking at sin, but it is not God's way. Today we are going to look at a sin which is much accepted, even in Christian's circles, but a sin which is detested by God. The sin we are going to consider is the unacceptable acceptable sin – unacceptable to God, but often acceptable in Christian circles. Hopefully, we will be brought to personal conviction, cleansing and commitment regarding this widespread vice.

Some years ago a church Bishop had to travel by ship on a sudden business from American to London which required, of course, that he travel by ship. He booked passage quickly, went down to the dock and boarded. He was given a room with another gentleman, who also had to make his reservations quickly. Bishop Potter went to the purser's office and asked if he might put his money, a watch and ring in the ship's safe. He explained that he was not accustomed to doing that but that he had been booked with a man who looked a little suspicious. The purser said, "Think nothing of it, sir, the other gentleman was just up here, he said the same about you and his stuff is already in the safe!"

We have to be very careful in this matter of judging others. It is easy for us to see ourselves as trustworthy and others treacherous. In fact, we often have excuses for our own faults but brutal judgments for the faults of others.

I read the other day about a man driving a large truck full of onions up Interstate 85 through Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was pulled over for speeding and told the officer that he had to drive fast in order to keep the onion odor behind him; otherwise the smell of the onions got in his eyes and made it impossible for him to see to drive at all." The driver’s excuse just about takes the cake, or in this case - the onion! But, honestly, any of us who have been pulled by a police officer has likely offered some lame excuse for our wrong doing?

A little boy came home from the grocery store with some apples which his mother had sent him to purchase. His mother promptly called the manager to complain. She said, "I sent my son to your store to buy five pounds of apples. I weighed them when he got home and they weighed only 4 and 1/4 pounds." The manager replied, "Ma’am, our scales are checked by the company and the government, and they are accurate. Perhaps you had better weigh your boy."

In other words, the manager was implying that perhaps the boy ate some apples on the way home. Indeed, often when we are judging others the greater guilt is our own.

Today we are going to examine what God had to say about the sin of judging others. In this passage are three vital truths for our consideration.

I. An Imperative Regarding Judging Others

"Brothers, do not slander each other"

A. The Disobedience to God in This Sin

"Jesus said, 'Judge not'"

Jesus stated that we are going to be judged with the same strictness with which we judge others. This is a sobering thought to my soul, for I have discovered that I have a great leniency when judging myself but take a fairly stringent line when judging others. I expect you are just like me, or maybe I’m judging you to severely – but, I doubt it.

B. The Danger to Grace in this Sin

John 13:35 – 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It is impossible to say how many people have been within an arm's reach of salvation when a dispute between believer's caused them to turn and walk away from God. When people read stories in the newspaper or hear about them on television regarding sexual abuse in various church organizations, they are turned off by our message of judgment toward people doing the same thing outside the church. This doesn’t mean that we are not to call sin by its name, but it does mean that we must apply the same message to everyone. Not only that, but we must call people to forgiveness found only in Christ.

C. The Disclosure of Guidance in This Sin

(Revelation 12:10)

When we are judgmental, we reveal the guidance to which we are giving our allegiance. The attitude of Satan is one of accusation and indictment. He is called the “accuser” because that it what he does. The realm of God is one of grace, pity and redemption. We are forbidden to judge lest we enter into a confederation with the devil and are led by him!

Yes, this causes us to walk a think line. We are not to wink at sin or make light of the things that offend God, but rather we are to be careful lest we become Pharisees rather than true witnesses to God’s grace. This is especially true when we are dealing with issues among fellow Christians. It is because we know how to love each other that we have a greater voice for Christ in the world.

We’ve seen the imperative in regard to this sin, but now let’s see …

II. An Insight Regarding Judging Others

"He who speaks evil of a brother and judges a brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law." (James 4:11b)

A. Sin against the Law of Solutions

Matthew 18:15-17 reveals that God has given us a way to deal with problems between ourselves and others within the faith. Furthermore, he has told us that we are to be restorers of those who have fallen into sin. Whether we are personally involved, or just cognizant of the facts in a case, we are never to be the judge of a person. We are to solve problems rather than intensify them.

B. Sin against the Law of Stumbling

Romans 14:13 reads, “13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”

Our duty is to be sure that we are not a part of the problem but that we are rather part of the solution in helping a person overcome sin in his or her life. We must ask if we have added to the sin problem by placing a stumbling block in anyone's way.

The is a great difference in judgment and discernment. We can see sin in others, and we can help the person overcome the situation, or we can merely judge the person and make matters worse. One thing we must do when seeing sin in others is examine ourselves to see where we are in regard to this sin or any other sin. When we see sin and must do something about it, we are to speak truth in love. This ought to be done in private, as much as possible, rather than just being a purveyor of gossip.

C. Sin against the Law of Standing

Romans 14:10 states, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” It is interesting that the verse regarding the fact that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ also contains the warning about judging our brother (or sister).

We must remember that we will all stand before God one day. We must live in that reality.

III. An Inquiry Regarding Judging Others

In James 4:12 the Lord asks, "Who are you to judge your neighbor?"

In Acts 17:31 we are told that God will judge the world by that One (speaking of Jesus). Jesus said that all judgment had been given into His hands by the Father (John 5:26).

A. Only God knows the Heart

1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that God does not look on the outside of a person but on the heart. We judge things by outward appearances, and that often leads us to wrong and sometimes hateful opinions regarding the sins of others. David was a sinner, but he was also a man after God's own heart!

The poet put it this way:

"Don't find fault with a man who limps

Or stumbles along the road,

Unless you have worn the shoes he wears

Or struggled beneath his load.

There may be tacks in shoes that hurt,

Though hidden away from view,

Or the burden he bears, placed on your back,

Might cause you to stumble, too.

Don't be too harsh on the man who sins,

Or pelt him with words or stones,

Unless you are sure, yes, very sure,

That you have no sins of your own.

For you know, perhaps, if the temper's voice,

Should whisper as soft to you,

As it did to him when he went astray,

T’would cause you to falter too.” (Poem by Rama Muthufirshnan)

B. Only God knows the Hurts

A young woman was holding a crying baby on a train and a man nearby was becoming very impatient with the wailing infant. Finally, totally exasperated, the man went over to the lady and said, "Madam, can't you do something to get your baby to quit crying?"

The startled young lady answered, "Sir, this is not my baby and I am doing the best I can."

The man was unmoved and replied, "Well, for goodness sake, get the baby to its mother."

"Sir," the young woman responded, "the child's mother is dead and her body is in the baggage car behind us."

The unthoughtful man was suddenly stricken with the situation. Big tears came up in his eyes as he sputtered the words, "Please forgive me. Here let me have the child for a few minutes." He took the child and walked up and down the aisle of the train car singing and entertaining the little one. The child had stopped crying, but the poor man could hardly stop his tears.

When you and I realize that only God knows the hurts that people are going through, we are less likely to be judgmental and harsh!

C. Only God knows the Hindrances

Longfellow said, "Every man has his own secret sorrows, which the world knows not, and often times he is called cold when he is only sad."

Only God knows what stands in the way of a person rising above his present state. Ours is not to judge but to pray, witness and work for the all to know the fullness of a relationship with God.


It has been pointed out that had we known Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot, we might well have made a terrible mistake in judgment. Judas, after all, was very business like and to the point. He is the one who protested when perfume was poured on Jesus, which he claimed which might have been sold and the money given to the poor. He would have sounded very logical in our money-minded generation.

Peter on the other hand, was so up and down. He was an elevator Christian! He was up one minute and down the next. Jesus once called Him Satan (Get thee behind me Satan). On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter denied even knowing Jesus at all. You and I would have supposed that Peter was a finished man. Not so!

Peter was restored by Jesus and preached at Pentecost when 3,000 people were saved. He was used by God to heal a man at the Gate Beautiful. He was instrumental in the salvation of Cornelius and in the ministry of Paul. God saw hope in Peter where you and I might not have seen any. God saw no hope in Judas where you and I might have assumed much. Only God knows the hope that is in a person's life!

We can make a new commitment today, a commitment to be more like Jesus. We can’t call sin anything but what it is, but we can love people who have fallen and do all we can to help them find the purity and peace that Jesus died and rose to provide. It is acceptable in Christian circles for us to whisper, sometimes joyfully, the sins of others – but, it is not acceptable to the Lord. A great revival might just break out in the Church of the Lord if God’s people got right with the Savior on this one issue. Let’s do that today!