These small group studies of James contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

James 4:11-17 Inductive Bible Study


I. Do not judge one another (11-12)

A. Do not speak against (slander/criticize) one another (11A)
B. Those who do so blatantly disregard the law (11B)
C. God gives the Law (12A)
D. God is the judge (12B)
E. You are not (12C)

II. Remember God is in control of your future (13-17)

A. Those who make prideful plans about the future without taking God into account should take heed (13)
B. Our lives are short and unpredictable (14)
C. Acknowledge God’s control over our futures (15)
D. This is evil, arrogant, boasting (16)
E. Not doing what we know is right is sin (17)

Discussion Questions

I. Verses 11-12

What does it mean to speak against one another? Give some examples. What are some other Scriptures that talk about this?
Then what does it mean to judge a brother? Does this mean we can’t point out others’ sins? Why or why not?
What is the difference between the kind of speaking against/judging here and proper correction? What do you think a person’s motivation might be in each situation?
What does it mean that this person speaks against and judges the law? What law? How?
What is the reminder in verse 12?
So what kind of attitude should we have about judging?
A lot of sinning believers or unbelievers will say that Christians are judgmental and intolerant. They give Jesus’ dealing with the adulteress women as an example that we should we be tolerant. Do they have a point?
How do we balance confronting people with their sin and the fact that God is THE judge? (Use what God said, not our own opinions. Do it God’s way and let His Word do the talking.)


On slander:

Psalm 101:5 – Whoever slanders I will destroy.

Proverbs 10:18 – Whoever slanders is a fool.

Titus 3:2 – To speak evil of no one.

Matthew 5:11 – Blessed are you when others revile you.

On judging:

Matthew 7:1-5 – Judge that you not be judged.

John 7:24 – Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.

Romans 2:1-3 – You have no excuse you who judge. In passing judgment on another, you condemn yourself.

Teaching Points

  1. Do not slander one another – God wants all believers to speak kind and edifying words about others. The solution is not only to not bad-mouth other believers. This comes somewhat naturally sometimes because of our sinful nature. The solution is to intentionally think of positive words you can say to others. Which do you find it easier to do, complain about your spouse or praise your spouse? If you find that you complain more, you should pray and ask God for help to change this habit. Application: You can set a goal for yourself to each day or each week say a certain amount of positive things about the people you live with. Then you should intentionally think of these kind things to say and find opportunities to say them. At the beginning you may feel it is a bit awkward. If you keep doing it, you will find that it will come more and more naturally. And it will begin to heal your broken relationships.

Additional verses on slandering: – (Exo 23:1, Psalms 50:20-21, Psa 101:5, 140:1, Pro 16:28, Eph 4:31-32, Titus 3:2)

  1. When you judge the law you are not keeping it – No one is above the law. We should not pick and choose which Scriptures we will obey. Neither should we find excuses or loopholes. Some people have the attitude that they will try to get as close to the line of sin as they can without going over it. Our goal should not be to see how close we can get, but to see how far we can stay away from it.
  2. Who are you to judge your neighbor? – Should we judge others? The answer is not a simple “no” or “yes.” See the cross-references. John 7:24 says that we are to use righteous judgment, but Matthew 7 says we should be careful since when we judge others will judge us. My belief is that we should not use our own opinions or convictions to judge others. For example, if I have decided that my teenage children should not watch an R rated movie because so of the violence inside, that is OK. But I should not judge and look down on another family who allows them to do so. Why? The Bible does not have a clear standard on this issue. However, I believe that I can and should stand firmly on the truth of God’s Word to warn other believers who are clearly disobeying it. It is not me judging a brother if I tell him that he should not marry an unbeliever, because God makes this clear in Scripture. It is not me judging a friend if I show him that Romans 3:23 says all are sinners. We should not shy away from the truth of God’s Word. When we use God’s Word to correct people, we in fact are not the judges. He is, since He wrote it. But we are acting as His messengers. Application: Do not hold other people to your own extra-biblical standards. But do use God’s Word to challenge and motivate, correct, and rebuke when necessary.

Verses on confronting those in sin – Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Cor 4:14, Col 1:28, Titus 1:13, 2:15, 2 Tim 3:16)

II. Verses 13-17

What does it mean “come now”?
Does verse 13 mean that making plans is evil? Is it that the plan of doing business and making profit is evil? What about if I say, “I will move to Da Xue Cheng and spend one year there, start 5 Bible studies and train leaders and then move on to another campus.”?
What is the point of verse 14?
Do you know what will happen tomorrow? Who does? So what is the problem with making plans on our own?
What is the point of the comparison with a vapor?
Is it enough if I say verse 13 and then add on a “if the Lord wills”? Are those four words the point? Then what is the point? What is the right decision/planning process (seek God’s first not after).
How does James describe the attitude in verse 13?
How about you? When you make decisions, do you follow the self model in verse 13?

Cross References:

Tomorrow – Pro 27:1, Pro 16:9, Pro 3:5-6, Luke 12:16-21, Isaiah 46:9-10, Psa 39:5,11)
Paul submitting his plans to the Lord – (Rom 1:10, 15:32, 1 Cor 4:19)

Teaching Points

  1. Verse 13 – The problem is not making a plan. Many verses in the Bible talk about making plans. Proverbs 16:9. The problem is making plans for ourselves without stopping to consider if those plans match God’s plans. The person in this verse is not praying and asking God for direction. He is not saying “if it is your will, I will go to start this business.” Instead he simply makes his plan according to his own logic of what he thinks is good for himself. This person may later on think to pray and ask God to bless his own plan. Do we sometimes do the same thing? Do we make a decision first and then ask God to bless it? We should consider the example of Nehemiah. He heard of the situation back in Jerusalem. It was a desperate situation. Instead of immediately rushing to the king with a plan, he prayed and fasted. Only after much prayer when the opportunity arose (and after another spontaneous prayer), he finally brought a plan to the king. Application: Before making important decisions, stop and pray. In addition, consult other believers who may share some wisdom with us which we didn’t see on our own.
  2. Verse 14 – We should not take the future for granted. In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus describes a self-made successful man. He accumulated lots of stuff. He made lots of money. He built lots of storehouses to hold all of his stuff. He seemed very successful. But he died. And God looked down and said, “fool.” What would he do with all of his stuff? We are not assured another day in this world. How will that effect how you live? Application: Because we are not assured any more time in this world, we should first of all be thankful for the time we do have. Secondly, we should use the time that we have wisely (redeem the time.) Thirdly, we should always pray more and trust in the Lord for our future.
  3. Verse 15 – If it is the Lord’s will. This attitude should define all that we do. Yes, we should say this. We should not make promises or guarantees easily since we cannot control the future. When I tell my friend I will go to his house I can add “if it is the Lord’s will.” But much more than the actual words which could become a saying devoid of meaning, should be our heart attitude. We should genuinely have this attitude in all that we do. We should be willing to quickly change our life direction if God so wills. Are we willing to give up a job if God leads us to? Are we willing to move to a new location? Are we willing to go out of our comfort zone?
  4. Boasting is evil. Assuming that we are masters of our own fate is a most egregious type of boasting.

Application: I will prayerfully consider and write out a ministry plan.

Study James 5:1-12