There is a lot one can learn from a three year old. When you are gifted, as Dan and I are, with a perpetual toddler, life lessons are abundant.
Our special needs daughter Tiffany has a tendency to spout off when things are not going her way. Her rant-and-rave sessions are usually a verbal attack on someone. Her words are never directed towards the person in the room with her. Nor are they directed towards anyone who has had anything to do with her not getting what she wants. She just starts ranting. Whether it be family, friend or caregiver, she picks someone to reprimand during these rant parties.
I have learned to temper these moments by responding to the attack softly. Soft instruction for her to use kind words goes a long way in getting Tiffany back on track. (See Proverbs 15:1) Also, I have Tiffany repeat with me the very famous quote that mothers have used for centuries to correct their children, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!!” Thankfully, Tiffany is eventually diverted back to her kind ways by soft words.
I love a quote I heard while listening to a podcast, More Power than You Think with Jennifer Skaw, and it made me think of Tiffany:
When it comes to mental illness or (intellectual developmental disorder) or anything like that, …in proportion to the ability of our mind to think clearly and rationally is the proportion we are to take responsibility for our thoughts and mind.
Because Tiffany suffers from intellectual developmental disorder and does not have the mental capacity to comprehend, she resorts to that which is totally natural when she does not get her way. To be honest with you I get where she is coming from because that is exactly what I want to do when I do not get my way. I find myself facing the temptation to spout off at others and about others when life does not seem fair and is not going my way. It makes me wonder if I suffer from spiritual developmental disorder!
James 3 is an incredible chapter for the Christian about the tongue. There is both warning and admonition we should take to heart and apply to our lives. To follow up on these thoughts, James 4 continues the topic of the tongue giving us helpful insight into that which motivates a Christian to speak evil of others.
Right away in James 4 we find James instructing a struggling brother or sister who is fighting the enemy. Not just one enemy but all three enemies of the Christian – the world, the flesh and the devil!
Let’s take these enemies in the order James 4 presents them:
The Lust of the Flesh
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. James 4:1-2
First of all, as these verses state, we want something very badly. So bad that we take extreme measures to get what we want. We fight and war.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:4
Next, our friendship with the world has distorted our view of how things should be. A wrestling match emerges between the secular worldview and the biblical worldview within us. There is battle raging within.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Finally, we are in a battle with Satan himself, his deceptive ways and his demonic influence to lift ourselves up in pride. Victory and deliverance is found in submission to God.
I noticed that a number of verses are given to pride in James 4 (See verses 6-10). The temptation to speak evil of another is always rooted in pride. Pride will cause us to pass judgment. Pride will cause us to think ourselves above the law of God.
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. James 4:11
In our verse for today, James 4:12, we are reminded that there is just one lawgiver. And it is not us.
There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? James 4:12
So, how can we escape from these enemies? James explains that submitting ourselves to God and humbling ourselves in His sight is our “fire" escape. These two godly attributes lead us to safety away from the destruction that comes from a tongue that is set on fire of hell.
So who are you? This is not my question. It is a question that God asks us in verse 12. I pose it to myself and ask you to do the same - Am I the "judge" who is living a defeated Christian life wrestling with these enemies of the Christian?
Or have I taken God’s gracious, merciful way of escape from loss by losing my pride and choosing to humble myself and submit to His will and way?
By seeking my own way, yoking up with the ways of the world, or lifting myself up in pride, I will ultimately speak evil of others. An escape from loss is provided and is available to us all. Victory is found in submission.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.” Mark 8:35
“Lose” from the Greek word “Apollymi” means “to destroy fully.” It is translated “destroy” in James 4:12, our verse for today.