June 14, 2012

That girl is such a ______! (Book of James)

According to Gaudium et spes, one of the biggest problems of our time is the split between people's daily lives and their faith.  There are so many people who believe in God, but live their lives like He does not exist.  Pope John Paul II called this problem "practical atheism."  People go about their day on autopilot without involving God in their relationships and daily decisions.  I know I am certainly guilty of not always living in a way that includes God or that would show others my faith.  Our Bible study this week addressed three ways that this practical atheism shows up in people's daily lives: talking badly about others and judging them, making plans without God, and greediness over money (James 4:11-5:6).  I am going to split these into separate posts because there's a lot to write about, so today is all about talking badly about others and judging them. 

"Do not speak evil of one another, brothers, whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law.  If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge.  There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy.  Who then are you to judge your neighbor?
- James 4:11-12

The Catechism (2477) says that these are the three ways we can fall into the sin of speaking evil of others:  

  • Rash Judgement:  We assume the moral fault of a neighbor, even tacitly 
  • Detraction: Disclose someone's personal faults or failings to a person who did not know about them (gossip)
  • Calumny: Harming the reputation of others by saying things about them that aren't true

Jeff Cavins said that there are more warnings against speaking evil about other people in the Old Testament than about anything else, so I'd have to say it's pretty important to avoid doing that!

Why you should not judge others:
1. It sets you above the law.  If we are the ones judging the law, we are essentially making ourselves out to be better than the law or not subject to it ourselves. 

2. You are taking over God's authority. As James said "there is only one lawgiver." 

3. Only God knows people's hearts and motives: It takes a divine being to be able to know what's inside a person's heart, and God is the only one who sees every aspect of a situation.  He is the only one who is able to judge fairly and objectively.   

4. All judgement is given to Jesus. John 5:22 says that all judgment was handed down to Jesus, so we need to leave that to Him.  Again, it's not our place. 

5. We will all be judged one day. Matthew 7:1-2 says "Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you."  My husband and I were thinking that this means if we don't give people the benefit of the doubt for doing something wrong, God will turn that around on us and not give us the benefit of the doubt for our sins on Judgment Day.  

What do we do when someone sins? 
It's pretty obvious that we should not judge others or speak badly about them, but what do we do when someone close to us does something we know is sinful?  There is a huge distinction between judging someone as a bad person and judging an action to be a sin.  We can judge that specific behaviors are sinful, such as committing adultery or lying to someone.  However, God is the only one who can judge a person's heart and eternal destination, so we should never assume or talk about someone as if they are a bad person.  We should also not make judgments as to whether a person is going to heaven or hell.  If we are close enough to that person to talk to them about it, it is appropriate to point out that the behavior is wrong, but only if you are doing it carefully, sensitively, and out of love for that person.  You need to make sure that your intentions are honorable and that you really are seeking to bring that person back to God.  God is merciful and forgiving, and we need to be as well.  

This blog post is based on the Bible Study James: Pearls for Wise Living by Jeff Cavins. Here are my previous posts based on this study:


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