9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. 10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. 12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
As James begins to close out his letter, I find it interesting that his closing resembles his opening, however it is a bit different. Verse 9 intrigues me in that he compares complaining to judging. It made me stop and ponder. If I complain about something or someone, I’m essentially judging it/them as being wrong. James mentioned our judgment on others earlier in his letter but this time he adds a twist. I think I’ve discovered something new in my life I must examine. Of course, he explains again that Jesus is the Judge, not us, so it isn’t up to us to even complain about what others are doing. Wow…this one is hitting me deeply.
The next sentence seems almost out of place, as if James has ADHD and saw a squirrel. I don’t believe, however, this is the case. It simply caused me to slow down to discern what is happening here. Verse 10 is to serve as an opposite to verse 9. In verse 9 James warns against complaining with an appropriate explanation. In verse 10, he offers a counter action to complaining. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience we are to take the prophets. What does that mean? In the New Testament, this is a term sometimes used. It means to look to the Scriptures in the Old Testament (also known as “The Prophets” since it was written by them) and look to their example.
We count those blessed who endured. We usually look to the story of Job when talking about suffering because it appears to us that he endured the worst. If we look to his story, we see his steadfast trust in God. Notice I said trust, not faith. His faith waivered from time to time (as I remember, that is) but he remained trustworthy of God to deliver him one way or another and that for whatever reason, God allowed it to happen for a higher purpose. Despite the naysayers, his close friends and even his wife, he remained trusting in God. Maybe that is a definition of faith. What did we see out of it all? The Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. My initial thought as I reread that was “what if Job wasn’t trustworthy?” I need not forget the beginning of the story where God KNEW Job’s heart and condition and gave him what he could bear. We also must see that the testing of Job’s commitment to God and trust in Him ultimately ended up in Job’s life being blessed many times over at the end of the trial. Is this a sideline from verse 9? Not at all. The point here is that instead of judging or complaining, we must continue to trust in God despite any of our circumstances and He will deliver us from ALL of it, one way or another.
We hit verse 12 thinking James saw another squirrel. What is wrong with this guy? Ok, ok, let’s slow down and read it again. My study bible points out that this verse is not meant to discourage oaths or covenants or pacts, but rather to encourage truthfulness. I believe the “swearing” here is the kind that someone uses to convince another of a falsehood. In other words, someone using a convincing “I swear on my mother’s grave…blah, blah, blah.” Remember, James’ intent of this letter was to explain what our faith looks like. So, how does this all relate? If we live our lives honestly, we won’t have to further extort what comes out of our mouths. We won’t have to differentiate between something we said as untrue and something we said as true (by adding seriousness in swearing by something). If we live a true life then our yes and no will mean just that, without any extra caveats. So what does this have to do with suffering, judging, and complaining? It’s another “fruit of the Spirit” in focusing on God.
Jesus said, “I am the Truth, the Way, and the Life.” In focusing on this Truth, our words become true as well. We don’t have to add anything to our answers to convince someone to believe us because they can see the Truth in our daily walk. In our lack of complaining, judging, patience, and perseverance we exemplify a life that is true. If we walk in The Way, and people say “there is a Way about them,” part of that Way is the Truth. So then, as we continue our walk with Christ and become more like Him, our actions and words will be less and less questionable. We won’t have to prove ourselves and quite honestly, we will not feel the need to prove ourselves to anyone. I don’t mean this is an arrogant atmosphere we project, but rather an outward positive feeling that we are walking in some sort of higher Truth.
How are you walking today?