Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
As the early Christian community is growing, James is admonishing them about certain behaviors unbecoming to a believer. However he needs to be careful that this doesn't create a legalistic environment. When legalism hits a church, it is all about what we do and keeping a checklist of do's and don'ts. James teaches that the our behaviors flow out of a right relationship with God through Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, not mere human effort. But our tendency as human beings is to create our own law, based on our own preferences. And our flesh is likely to judge by our own standards not God's.
The end result of this kind of mentality is that we can start becoming judgmental. Our conversations become, "Did you see what so and so did? I can't believe it!" If we judge, by what standards are we using? Usually it is easy for us to judge people in areas we believe to be most important. But often in the church we overlook sins like jealously, greed, gossip and gluttony. We judge people on outward behaviors, but neglect the matters of the heart, that only God can judge. God alone knows the thoughts and attitude of our hearts. By overly focusing on externals, it leads to people looking good on the inside, while being dead on the inside. Then, when they have some sort of moral breakdown, we say, "They looked like they had it together! What happened????"
So James says there is only one Judge and one Lawgiver, and it is not us. We are to love our neighbors, not judge them. When we are tempted to judge someone and play God, we should ask ourselves, "What is going on inside of me that I want to judge this person?" Perhaps that would be the best to begin the process, for after all, Jesus gives us a warning in Matthew 7:12 when he says, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
We might want to look at this before we are tempted to judge a brother or sister in Christ!