Monday, December 11, 2023

You're Not the Boss of Me!

Suggested Reading: James 4:7-12

One of the struggles parents can face is teaching their children about the different roles that must be played in life. Children understand this concept of differing roles instinctively but do not always know where the boundaries for those roles lay or when they should play those roles. So they sometimes do things that they shouldn't be doing in their role as children. This fuzzy understanding is where the phrase "you're not the boss of me!" comes from. Children understand the role of the boss in theory, but one of the children has either decided to be the boss or is doing things that should be reserved for a person in authority, like setting down rules or issuing commands. Variations include, "You're not my father!" and "Who made you king?" These phrases are all indications of either a disagreement about the boundaries of a role or whether someone should actually be playing that role.

James points out one area where Christians tend to get in trouble for playing a role that doesn't belong to us. James writes, Don't criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12, HCSB). James points out that judging someone - or even criticizing them - is to take on a role that doesn't belong to us: Lawgiver and Judge, a role that belongs only to God. In the following chapter, however, James encourages his readers to turn back those who have strayed. How can we do this without judging or criticizing? We make sure we are playing the proper role.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge. We are not to play either of those roles. We can, however, play the role of fellow children, trying to keep each other out of trouble.  We can go to people, not in judgment, but because we love them and don't want them to get hurt. Those two approaches are very different. One places you in a position of authority over the other person, and is likely to make them respond, "You're not the boss of me!" The other places you in a position alongside the other, where no one is making demands and where they have the option of listening to you or not. One position comes from a misplaced feeling of self-importance and the other flows out of loving concern for a fellow child of the Father.  We have no place playing lawgiver or judge, criticizing people and pointing out faults. We can, however, love people enough to try to help them stay out of trouble.

Who have you criticized lately? How can you play the role of a fellow child rather than judge and lawgiver?

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