There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?..... What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:12, 14-15)
Submission and humility are two characteristics contrary to our self-seeking sinful nature. If we are honest with ourselves, the main reason we speak badly about other people and judge others according to our own standards is for self-exaltation. And one natural way to exalt ourselves is to bring others down.
How often do we impose our own rules of life on others and confidently condemn anything that displeases us?
This allows us to take on a role that belongs only to God. Sadly, the moment you begin to consider yourself the authority over spiritual standards is the moment you have exalted yourself as the one who sets and supervises those standards rather than being someone in submission to those standards.
A weak but modern day example of this can be seen in the unspoken rules of rookie conduct in the clubhouse. There is a royal law that seems to govern most clubhouses that basically says rookies are expected to behave in a certain way and must remain submissive to this unspoken rule as long as they are rookies. Now, what happens if a rookie decides to act like one of the veterans in the clubhouse and even to the point of hazing other rookies on the team? Everyone would look at this guy like, “Who are you man? Who do you think you are?” The other rookies would look at him like, “Dude, you’re no different than any of us. What makes you think you’re any better than we are?”
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. (Romans 2:1)
And that’s the sort of thing we see when someone attempts to exalt himself over others by claiming a position that belongs to someone much more superior. Who are we to speak badly and judge others by a standard that we ourselves fail to uphold? We are called to reason honestly with our neighbor whenever rebuke is necessarily (Leviticus 19:17), but God alone is the Judge who is able to save and destroy.
Although we may not openly claim any superiority over God, we do have a tendency to exalt ourselves in subtle ways that reveal our lack of humility before Him. Not only do we attempt to judge the behaviors of those around us, but James also mentions how easily we forget our weakness and dependency on God for life itself. We falsely assume we got life under control and time at our disposal and fail to realize that saying “we will” or “I will” is the essence of sin.
Such confidence in what we’re going to do in the future subtly gives off a sense of self-reliance that disregards God’s sovereignty.
God is the One in complete control, and we ought to act accordingly:
1. If God is the One in complete control, we shouldn’t make assumptions.
It doesn't make sense to assume too many things because of the uncertainty of tomorrow and because of our fragile immortality.
Stop thinking so much about ourselves. This world isn't about us. We ought not to be so arrogant as to claim more control over our lives than we actually possess.
2. If God is the One in complete control, we should actively submit to His authority.
We should live our lives exercising our complete dependance on God.
It's okay to make plans and set goals. Good to have direction, but we must remain open to detours because ultimately we are not the ones meant to steer the wheel.
We ought to accustom ourselves to actually use the phrase, “If the Lord wills” when speaking of our future plans. (Acts 18:21, Romans 1:10, 1 Corinthians 4:19)
If we know that we ought to constantly acknowledge God’s sovereignty and live in daily dependence upon Him then it is clearly a sin to fail and do so.
To speak as one in control over the lives of others and your own life is to speak like an atheist.
We must acknowledge the sovereignty of God through full surrender to His authority. May we put on a character that does nothing out of selfishness but counts others more significant than ourselves. A character that looks out for the interest of others over our own interests. A character that is willing to give up clinging to any particular status and willingly takes a lesser status if God calls us to. A character that is willing to give up our own lives out of obedience to our Father's will. Sound familiar?
It was God Himself that came down in order to bring us up.
Submission to His sovereignty is the pathway to true exaltation.