Do not complain about one another, brothers, so that you will not be judged. Look, the Judge is standing at the door!
I. A WARNING AGAINST IMPATIENCE WITH ONE ANOTHER. (Ver. 9.) "Murmur not, brethren," implies that believers are apt within their hearts, if not also openly, to complain of each other. Indeed, it sometimes requires greater patience to bear with composure the little frictions of feeling to which close contact with Christian brethren exposes, than to endure open and overt wrongs at the hands of persons who are not such. The warning has a lesson:
1. For the family circle. What a happy society is that of a well-ordered family, where love reigns between husband and wife, and where the parents enjoy the confidence and obedience of wisely trained children! But this fireside happiness can be enjoyed only in connection with constant mutual forbearance. How prone, sometimes, are even husband and wife to misunderstand each other! And how often are households made unhappy by envying and quarrelling among the children! Let us remember that the persons who live in the same house with us are in the very best position for appraising the value of our Christian profession. They know at least whether we are learning to bear kindly with the infirmities of our own relations, and to endure with patience petty discomforts in domestic life. The grace of God within the soul will enable us to "walk within our house with a perfect heart" (Psalm 101:2).
2. For the business circle. How many offences arise among Christian men when engaged in the toil and strain of commercial competition! One brother grudges the worldly successes of his neighbor; and perhaps his heart harbors against him uncharitable accusations of dishonest dealing. But, as Abraham long ago was content that Lot should appropriate to himself the best of the land rather than that their herdmen should quarrel, so still it will do a Christian man less harm to make sometimes what is financially a bad bargain, than to soil his soul by cherishing evil thoughts regarding any brother believer.
3. For the Church circle. There is apt to be murmuring and grumbling in ecclesiastical life. Sometimes the spiritual office-bearers of a congregation get but little thanks for the work which they do. Sometimes, also, the people forget that they ought to have large mutual patience with one another. The liberal progress-loving member is apt to groan over the attitude of his conservative let-things-alone brother; and the educated and cultured Christian may fail at times to forbear with the man of narrow and exclusive views. The exemplary Church member, while ready at all times to maintain and defend his own opinions, is yet willing gracefully to yield (wherever conscience does not forbid) to what the majority decide upon, that thereby he may promote the general peace and edification.
II. THE SANCTION BY WHICH THIS WARNING IS ENFORCED. (Ver. 9.) James employs a sweetly persuasive motive in the word "brethren." To complain of each other is to sin against the highest and most sacred brotherhood. This motive, however, is only lightly touched, in passing. The apostle backs up his warning with a solemn sanction. Echoing, as he does so often, his Master's words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1), he speaks of the bar of God, and of the Lord Christ the Judge. To refuse to forbear with brethren, he says, amounts virtually to an assumption of the judicial office, and will expose one's self to be "judged." For what right have we to judge our brethren? We lack the necessary discrimination; our own hearts are impure; and we shall very soon have ourselves to appear before the judgment-bar. Already, indeed, "the Judge standeth before the doors." He is near at hand, to discharge perfectly those functions which we are so prone to usurp; and, in doing so, to condemn all who may have been guilty of such usurpation.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT AFFORDED BY CERTAIN OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES. (Vers. 10, 11.) It should cheer us, under this and every other form of trial, to remember how the great seers and saints of old endured their afflictions.
1. The example of the prophets. (Ver. 10.) The Jewish Christians had a deep reverence for the memory of these noble men. The prophets had been the religious teachers of ancient Israel; through them the Divine Spirit himself had spoken. The influence which they exercised while they lived had sometimes been prodigious; indeed, their power was often greater than the power of the sovereign. Yet the lot of the prophets had been one of sore affliction. They were an example to the New Testament Church:
(1) Of suffering. Their trials came upon them as the result of the fidelity with which they "spake in the name of the Lord." It was so with Moses, Elijah, Micaiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel. The Jews indeed were accustomed to confess that the prophets generally had been persecuted (Matthew 23:30, 37; Acts 7:52; Hebrews 11:36-38). No wonder, then, since trouble fell on these great men, that it should fall on us. We may be well contented to follow in the faith that has been trodden by "the goodly fellowship."
(2) Of long-suffering. We are to think also of the meekness of the prophets when enduring their unparalleled afflictions. They were sorely tried by the murmurings of their "brethren," to whom they spoke the Word of God; yet how patiently they bore it all! They laid hold upon the Divine strength, and thus learned to bear and forbear. And so, despite their infirmities and occasional lapses from patience, of these men "the world was not worthy."
2. The example of Job. (Ver. 11.) Although the Book of Job is a poem, our apostle evidently believed it to have an underlying basis of veritable history. The man Job actually existed; and his proverbial patience is an example to the Church. Think of the dreadful distresses which came thick and fast upon him. By successive strokes he was deprived of property, family, health, reputation, and true sympathy. Yet Job left his sufferings with God. He learned to forbear with the bigotry and stupidity of his friends. He evinced at last, in spite of some serious failures, a spirit of perfect submission to the Divine will. He interceded for his misguided comforters; and God forgave them. Job's case, however, is introduced here chiefly with the view of pointing to "the end" or conclusion which the Lord gave to him (Job 42:12). His God, whom he feared, rewarded signally, even in this life, his wonderful patience. And the great lesson which we should learn from Job's career is "that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful." He is so in the very sending of trial, in the measure of it, in the grace which he gives to bear it, in the unraveling of its merciful purpose, and in the happy issues with which he rewards his people, when they "have been approved" (James 1:12). Trial is a goodly discipline intended to prepare for the "goodly heritage;" and thus they will be "bleared' who shall have "endured." - C.J.
Grudge not one against another.I. EXPLAIN THE EXHORTATION.
1. The exhortation implies that we are apt to be secretly discontented with our condition and circumstances in the present life; that we are prone to become fretful when things do not correspond with our wishes.
2. It is implied that we are prone to envy, or to look upon the prosperity of others, either real or imaginary, with a spirit of secret discontent.
3. We are in danger of cherishing a spirit of resentment towards those who have injured us, whether intentionally or not, and so of having a "grudge one against another."
II. ENFORCE THE EXHORTATION.
1. The disposition here forbidden is intrinsically evil, and is one of the corruptions of the human heart.
2. It is expressly contrary to Divine command, which requires us to esteem others better than ourselves, to rejoice in their prosperity, to participate of their sorrows, and to make their interest our own.
3. An envious and rancorous disposition is marked with folly, as well as stained. with guilt. It argues an unacquaintedness with ourselves, who in every condition of life deserve to be in worse circumstances than we are; nor does such a disposition contribute in the least to our comfort and happiness. It cures not the wound, but makes it more painful and dangerous; does not lighten the burden, but renders it still more intolerable.
4. It is both injurious to ourselves and others, as well as sinful and unwise. Envy makes us our own tormentors; it robs us of that peace and satisfaction which we might otherwise enjoy. "Wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one." It embitters his enjoyments and gives a keener edge to his afflictions. It is a sin which often leads to cruelty and injustice, and is seldom found to exist alone.
5. It is a sin which, if not repented of, will subject us to final condemnation.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
(C. F. Deems, D. D.)A carping spirit rarely goes with a working spirit. It is easier to find fault with what some one else does than it is to do something oneself; hence a man who enjoys doing the easier thing is disinclined to do the harder one. As a rule men are divided into two classes, of those who growl and those who work; and each class is alike devoted to its own mission. But, when it comes to the relative worth in the community of the two classes, everybody can see the difference.i.e. "Grumble not."
(A. Plummer, D. D.)
The Judge standeth before the door.
(J. M. Ludlow, D. D.)
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