Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 19
Speak not one against another, brothers. He who is speaking against a brother, or is judging his brother, speaks against תּוֹרָה, Torah and judges the תּוֹרָה, Torah. And if you judge תּוֹרָה, Torah, you are not a doer of תּוֹרָה, Torah, but a judge of it. One alone is the Giver of תּוֹרָה, Torah and Judge who is able to save and to destroy. But you—who are you to be judging the neighbor? (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:11-12, mjlt)
In times of tension and stress, it is not unusual to respond aggressively to disagreement and discord. It is not unusual, but it is unhelpful, as aggression rarely yields a harmonious outcome. The words we speak to one another, then, become influenced by our distorted views of our perceived opponent. This unrighteous evaluation affects whether we deem that person worthy of our civility, honesty and respect—as if our judgment should have the power to adjust our kindness. While it may seem natural to have such a bias toward those we view as enemies, it is especially heinous when we practice this behavior with our own “brothers” and “neighbors”—when we speak against our fellow believers in Messiah.
Arguments and disputes among believers are, of course, nothing new—nor are they necessarily wrong. As human beings, believers quarrel over things common to all people; as followers of Messiah, we also enter into conflict over internal spiritual and theological matters. But while having disagreements is to be expected, speaking directly against one another makes the matter inappropriately personal. When we speak against one another, it comes not from a place of measured and sound judgment, but of unfair and unequal judgmentalism. It’s when we allow the color of our perspective to influence the soundness of our judgment that we get ourselves into trouble.
The Master Yeshua teaches us not to judge each other in this way because it makes us worthy of the same poor judgment in return. If you are going to speak judgmentally against a brother, then you also deserve to receive the same inequity, for “with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you” (Matit’yahu 7:2). We are “speaking against” our brothers when we lie about them, or misrepresent their position, or condemn them without just cause. But we are also speaking against them when we attack them for the speck of sawdust in their eye while refusing to address the log that is in our own. Before we can legitimately confront our brother on anything, the Master says we first need to “see clearly”—and we can’t do that through emotions, dishonesty, a sense of moral superiority, or any other measure of inequitable judgment.
Indeed, when we are “speaking against a brother, or… judging [our] brother,” we are doing far more damage than we realize. Not only are we disparaging a family member—a member of Messiah’s own Body—but we are “speak[ing] against תּוֹרָה, Torah and judg[ing] the תּוֹרָה, Torah.” The same accusations and judgmentalism that we levy against our brother is then transferred to God’s written word. We cast judgment on the Scriptures themselves, and arrogantly blame them for an insufficiency that it is impossible for them to have. When we speak against our brother, we are displacing God—we are judging according to our own subjective judgment, and not by the objective standard of Scripture—and in so doing, we fail to do that same Torah which teaches us righteousness, forgiveness, kindness and unmerited favor. We cannot at the same time be both a doer of God’s word and its judge.
When we “speak against” our brother—when we judge our neighbor with aggressive, distorted, inequitable measures—we are attempting to occupy a seat that God will never vacate. We are assuming an authority to which we have no claim, for “one alone is the Giver of תּוֹרָה, Torah and Judge who is able to save and to destroy.” No matter what wrong you may feel has been perpetrated against you, or what position you will defend to the death, it is not for you to decide whether your brother should be torn down, or if he is worthy of kindness. Only God can judge. Indeed, “who are you to be judging the neighbor?”
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!