Do Not Grumble Against One Another (James 5:9) ~ A Daily Devotion for March 26, 2014

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing at the door.” ~ James 5:9

Explanation of the Text: In this particular verse, James seems to transition topics, without a transition. Yet, a review of the text will reveal that there is indeed a connection. The first part of the verse could be translated to read, “Do not blame your troubles on others.”[1] James is addressing the crowd, exhorting them to not grumble against one another. Under times of pressure it is typical for a person to release that pressure on those that are around them, especially those that are around them most frequently, such as a spouse, child, or parent. This is the same type of issue that James is addressing. Under the poverty and persecution that the believers were under, it makes sense that the audience to whom James writes would turn their frustration on each other.[2] As a result of this, James indicates that the right response does not include grumbling against one another. The verb for grumbling refers to “inner feelings of faultfinding.”[3] The concept of grumbling indicates a perpetual, negative attitude. It is the development of a critical attitude that is contrary to a Christian attitude.[4]It is an attitude that is not profitable for anything and definitely does not glorify the Lord. In fact, this type of complaining attitude hinders growth, and specifically the development of patience and long-suffering,[5] the very characteristic that James points to one needing to have in the previous verses. For this very reason, James calls on the believers to stop complaining and grumbling against one another. Their quarrels are not with each other and thus, they should not blame their troubles on one another.

In further development of the theme, James curiously adds the phrase, “so that you may not be judged.” It is known that every person, believer and unbeliever will face judgment from the Judge (1 Corinthians 4:5). While the believer will not face judgment for their sin, because that was taken care of in the work of Christ, they will still face judgment for their purposes and work. However, beyond just being judged, Mathew 7:1-2 says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Just as one judges another, they too will be judged. In their grumbling, these believers were passing judgment on each other. However, in that judgment, they were inviting it upon themselves as well. Therefore, in not grumbling against one another, they are not inviting judgment upon their own lives.

Finally, James for the third time in as many verses draws on the fact that the judge and judgment are near. It is not men who should judge one another, but the Judge, who is the only one who is both just and righteous. The imagery here is not pointing to the fact of the place of judgment, but instead is acknowledging the imminence of the coming judgment. This verse points that His time is near. It is once again making the point that a person should always live ever present of heaven and hell before him. Living with this mindset impacts the daily living of a person, and should be reflected in that person’s lifestyle.

Examination & Application of the Text: As pressures mount, it is easy for us to turn frustration against the world into frustration against the one next to us. However, fellowship is an important part of the Christian walk. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant about our fellowship with one another. In other words, “We need to watch our fellowship. We may easily round on our fellow Christians.”[6] And yet, the practical application of this verse is to not grumble against one another. How is this done? Through what is found in verses 7 and 8. First, by being patient. Patience leads to an attitude of Christlikeness and an attitude that will be reflected outwardly in our relationships with not only those who oppress, but those around us. Second is through a future mindset, a mindset that is focused heavily on the plan of God, and recognizes the imminence of the return of Christ.

There is another concept that is important. Ephesians 4:2 points to the fact that each person is to bear with one another in love. As part of fellowship with one another, each of us should bear the burdens of one another. In those stressful situations, rather than turn on the person next to us, seek them out, that the body of Christ will function together in love. IT should be a joy and privilege to come alongside one another that the body may be built up.

 

[1] J. Harold Greenlee, An Exegetical Summary of James (Dallas: SIL International, 2008), 192.

[2] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, Ed. D.A. Carson (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), Location 3434.

[3] J. Harold Greenlee, An Exegetical Summary of James (Dallas: SIL International, 2008), 192.

[4] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 344.

[5] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 344.

[6] J. A. Motyer, The Message of James: The Tests of Faith, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), 181.

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