Before studying today’s text “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold,the Judge is standing right at the door.” (James 5:9), I asked God to show me what I need to learn from this scripture. I haven’t previously seen that grumbling and complaining against someone is actually judging them, which is sin. In grumbling against someone else, we’re ultimately grumbling against the Lord, who sovereignly put that person in our life at that point in time. Judging someone is prideful. We’re warned to guard our hearts against pride lest we too “fall into the same condemnation as the devil.”
When things go wrong, we tend to grumble against and blame others for our miseries. Blaming others is easier than owning our share of the responsibility, but it can be both destructive and sinful. Before we judge others for their shortcomings, remember that Christ the Judge will come to evaluate each of us. He will not let us get away with shifting the blame to others. “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Corin. 4:5)
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold,the Judge is standing right at the door.” (James 5:7-9)
At first glance, verse 9 doesn’t seem to fit into the context. It seems that James should have put it in back in 4:11, when he talked about not judging one another. But a moment’s reflection reveals why he put it here. When you’re under pressure from the outside (James 5:1-8), it’s easy to take out your frustrations on those who are closest to you, even though they’re not the source of your problems. Grumbling and complaining is not a manifestation of patience and strengthening your heart; it is instead a manifestation of impatience.
The Greek word translated “complain” means, literally, to groan. Donald Burdick explains (Expositor’s Bible Commentary) “It speaks of inner distress more than open complaint. What is forbidden is not the loud and bitter denunciation of others but the unexpressed feeling of bitterness or the smothered resentment that may express itself in a groan or a sigh.” So maybe you restrain yourself from saying something caustic or exploding in anger, but you roll your eyes and shake your head in derision. Your body language communicates your disapproval of the other person. James says, “Don’t do that!” As Warren Wiersbe says (Be Mature [Victor Books], p. 156), “If we start using the sickles on each other, we will miss the harvest!”
Grudge not – Groan not; grumble not; do not murmur through impatience; and don’t let any ill treatment that you receive, induce you to vent your feelings in condemnation against your oppressors. Leave all this in the hands of God. Some people are always grumbling; they have a sour, dissatisfied, discontented temper. This spirit – the offspring of pride – will make any man lead a wretched life, which is wholly contrary to the spirit of the gospel.
Lest ye be condemned – By giving way to a grumbling spirit, you will get under the condemnation of the wicked. James says, “Before you groan against your brother, remember that the same Lord who will judge him will judge you, too!” (Matthew 7:1-2) Remember that in grumbling against someone else, you’re ultimately grumbling against the Lord, who sovereignly put that person into your life at that point in time. Thus the Bible prohibits all grumbling, because it ultimately is grumbling against the Lord Himself (Phil. 2:15; 1 Cor. 10:10).
The judge standeth before the door – His eye is upon every thing that is wrong in you, and every wrong that is done to you; and he is now entering into judgment with your oppressors. He is hearing every word, and marking every thought. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corin. 5:10)
The only reason for character assassination, or making an unfavorable comparison (grumbling and complaining), is to exalt ourselves, which is prideful. When speaking against a fellow human being, we are establishing ourselves as a judge. The Bible warns us about thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. No man has a right to an inflated view of himself. Under the influence of pride a man takes on the air of a master, even if it’s true that the other(s) are evil. Our sovereign Lord God is the only true judge. “Do not say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.’” (Proverbs 24:29) Revenge is the way the world operates, but it is not God’s way. Jesus gave us the greatest example of what to do when we are oppressed – pray for our oppressors! “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.” (Luke 23:34)
- My notes from Bible Study “Faith: A Bible Study on James for Women“
- Life Application Study Bible (NIV)
- Responding Rightly When You’re Wronged
- James 5:9 Verse-by-Verse