Chapter 4

Roy Osborne
April 2014


In verse 9 of this chapter, James makes a very strange statement:
“Grieve, mourn, and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom”.  This statement points out one of the most difficult things a preacher faces, as he tries to bring the message of forgiveness to lost mankind.  When Paul realized that no matter how hard he tried he was still a sinner, he proclaimed himself a “wretched man”.  In other words, Paul was devastated at the realization that he had failed to live up to the will and desires of his Creator.  That is what James means here.  We should realize that we are constant sinners who, as Paul said, “Fall short of the glory of God”. This should disturb us, but, unfortunately, it seldom does.  The most difficult task of the Gospel preacher is not preaching the Word.  It is making people realize how desperately they need it.  Without the love and mercy of God, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, none of us would have any hope.  We are sinners, who would stand condemned and with Heaven’s doors closed to us, if it were not for the love and grace of God.  No one can be good enough or obedient enough to merit entrance into the glory of Heaven with God.

As a result, we should always be humble, and realize our unworthiness…asking God for help and forgiveness constantly.  Only God can forgive our sins, for all sin is against Him.  He is the author of all righteousness and the only One to be worshipped.  When our human pride causes us to ignore this, and we look to our own goodness, or our religious leaders for forgiveness, we lose our humility, without which we cannot approach God.  James says, “He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”.

Based on the fact that we are all sinners and constantly in need of His grace and forgiveness, James says we should not judge and criticize one another.  While God expects us to recognize and resist all evil, He does not give us the right to make judgements of the character and motivations of our fellowman.  In the first place, if we obey the “royal law”, and love our neighbor as ourselves, we will be slow to look down on and condemn him.  Mostly we do this when we consider his sin to be worse than our own.  God alone will decide which sins to forgive and which to condemn.  He alone knows every heart and the cause of every action.  Also He does not expect the impossible of anyone. 

In the second place, we who are sinners ourselves, should be more interested in repentance than in condemnation.  A strict rule of Jesus Christ was that only those who show mercy, will receive mercy, and all of us need all the mercy we can get.  Our reaction to others’ sins, then, should be a prayer for his repentance and for God’s mercy, rather than criticism and condemnation.  This means that being a Christian means you should be different from the world, and that means being a Christian takes constant attention, prayer and hard work.  Being our Savior was not easy for Jesus Christ, and following Him is a rough road to travel.  He warned us that we must deny ourselves, bear the hatred of the world and follow Him, who is always with us, to the final goal.