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"Grumbling in The Doorway"
James 5:9

Wednesday AM Bible Study
October 22, 2003

The Bible's teaching of the second coming of Jesus Christ as Ruler and Judge of all the earth is a fundamental tenant of the faith. But it's not a mere abstract piece of theology. The Bible teaches that if we truly understand that Jesus is coming soon, and if we truly understand that when Christ comes, we'll be made like Him, then such a glorious expectation will dramatically affect the way we live right now (Col. 3:1-4; 2 Thess. 1:3-10; 1 John 3:2-3).

The prospect of the return of the Lord is just as real as ever. But under trying circumstances, human nature being what it is, even godly Christians - living in the prospect of the Lord's soon return - sometimes give way to such feelings as jealousy, suspicion, envy, greed, resentment, bitterness, anger and contempt. The practical value of the doctrine of Christ's return was very much in the mind of Pastor James when he wrote this section of his letter (i.e., 5:1-12). And in the particular case of the verse before us, he demonstrates its value respect to how we are to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.


James has already had quite a number of things to say about folks getting along with each other in the church family (2:1,15-16; 3:13-14; 4:1; and especially 4:11). But notice some of the details about this particular warning.

A. James calls his readers "brethren" - emphasizing the "family" context of his instruction. The word "brethren occurs four times in verses 7-12. Because we're family members together - children together of the same Father; siblings together of the same Brother - How inappropriate it is to complain against each other!

B. He tells them specifically not to "grumble" or "murmur" or "grudge" or "complain." This is speaking not so much of an outward act as an inwardly grouchy attitude. Literally, the word means "to groan" (see Heb. 13:17).

C. When James gives this command, his words grammatically assume that it was going on at the time. He wasn't saying, "Now, don't you start complaining against each other." Instead, it's as if he says, "You've got this practice of complaining and grouching and grumbling against each other. Stop it! Put an end to this practice. No longer complain against each other."


This shows how serious this is. It may be true that times were hard, and that the pressure was on. But still, brothers and sisters in Christ are called upon to treat each other with brotherly love. And complaining against each other - even with non-verbal expressions of this attitude, like the rolling our eyes the shaking of the head - is inconsistent with that love.

A. Our love for each other - genuine, Christ-like love - is to be our identifying mark as a community of believers (John 13:34-35; 1 John 2:7-11; 4:7-12). And when we're not behaving in a loving manner to each other, or when we refuse to view each other with love, we're disobeying Jesus' command.

B. When we grumble against a brother or sister in Christ, we behave in a way that constitutes the opposite of Christ's command to love one another as He has loved us:

1. We're communicating rejection of that brother or sister to some degree; and forgetting that Christ has accepted them - and us - faults and all.

2. We subtly elevate ourselves as better than them; and forget Christ's patience toward us.

3. We call the providence of God into question in thinking that we're "stuck" with this other person; and forget how much God has forgiven us, and how much He has welcomed and received us to Himself.

C. This helps us better appreciate the reason that stands behind this warning. We are not to "grumble" against our brother or sister in Christ, James tells us, so that we ourselves may not be condemned (Matthew 7:1-2).


What happens when you're driving; and you check your teeth in the mirror and you notice that there's a state-patrol car behind you? What is the first thing you look at on the dashboard? (Be honest!) There's a cop nearby; and so, suddenly, you're a well-behaved driver. In a much more serious way, living with the ongoing awareness that Jesus is coming soon is to have the same sort of motivational effect on us with respect to how we treat each other and the attitudes we have toward each other?

A. James first catches our attention with the word "Behold". It's as if he is saying, "Hey; psssssst -! Look over there! It's the Judge."

B. He calls Jesus "the Judge". Not merely "a judge"; nor even "a better judge than you"; nor even "the really best and most qualified judge." His words exclude anyone else: He is "the Judge" - the only One who may act the part of the judge of our brother or sister - and of us as well.

C. He says that the Judge is "standing right at the door". Literally, James uses the plural - "doors". Its as if he's saying, "He's standing there, waiting right at the very gates - all of them!" (Matthew 24:32-33; Phil. 4:5). Our thoughts are no secret to Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

Our secret, quiet grumblings and murmurings may pass the notice of other people; but they rise up to the holy and all-hearing ears of King Jesus - He who is the righteous Judge of all.

Perhaps the Spirit of God is communicating to you, right this minute, that you are guilty of "grumbling" against another brother or sister in Christ. You have harbored some level of contempt in your heart toward them. Perhaps you resent something about them. Perhaps you are envious toward them, or bitter toward them, or jealous toward them. Perhaps there's just something about them that rubs your fur the wrong way. James warns us that this is not our right.

Such attitudes are the opposite of the love that, by definition, is to characterize us as Christians. And what's even more serious is the fact that it puts us in the position of harboring these attitudes and muttering these disobedient attitudes in the "ear-shot", as it were, of the righteous Judge of all; and this puts us in the danger of being judged for our wrong-doing.

The Bible warns us that he begins His work of judgment within His own "household" (1 Peter 4:17). Let's present ourselves to Christ for His cleansing of our hearts toward each other, and the renewal of our hearts for genuine love toward each other; because He is standing at the door. Let's stop grumbling in the doorway.

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