James 4:1–17comment (0)
August 20, 2009
By Jay T. Robertson
Related Scripture: James 4:1–17
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
WHO IS YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Reject Worldly Behavior (1–5)
The church that operates on the basis of earthly wisdom will be riddled with conflict. In verse 1, James began by revealing the outward symptoms of a church controlled by earthly wisdom. There are “wars” (long-standing grudges, chronic hostility) and “fights” (flare-ups, individual run-ins) occurring among members of the church. These wars and fights indicate a deeper spiritual problem that originates from “the cravings” at war within the members. These self-centered desires cause people to make war with each other in the church. This is extremely violent language for dissension, leading some scholars to interpret the verse literally, but it is best to view this language as a metaphor for the devastating effect of unrestrained hostility.
These church members coveted, which led to the terrible infighting in the church. “You do not have because you do not ask” is a reminder that believers should ask God for what they seek rather than fighting each other.
Prayerlessness results in failure to receive many of God’s blessings. James did not suggest God wants to grant sinful, selfish desires, but bringing requests before Him can have a purifying effect on one’s desires. Verse 3 indicates not all prayers are pleasing to God. Rather than seeking to honor God by spreading a passion for His glory, such prayers seek only to gratify self-centered desires. James was not saying all pleasure is wrong, only pleasure that does not have the glory of God as its goal.
In verse 4, James called the believers “adulteresses,” referring to their unfaithfulness to the Lord. They were choosing “friendship with the world” by imitating worldly activities, making them enemies of God. The “world” is the world of people and things as estranged from God, the world as regulated by principles contrary to His will. It is thus the personification of all that is opposed to God. The Christ-follower should not adopt worldliness as a way of life. God yearns jealously for us to be faithful and worship Him supremely.
Draw Near to God (6–10)
The greater our needs, the greater is God’s supply of grace. But God sets Himself in battle array against the proud. He confronts them as an adversary and deals with them so as to defeat their plans and frustrate their aims.
We must develop an attitude of submission. After setting ourselves under God, we are to stand against the devil. We resist him when we refuse to yield to him, when we fearlessly defy him. Submission to God involves not only resisting the devil but also drawing near to God. James assured us of God’s gracious response to our need. The closer we live to God, the more we know of His support and power and the easier it is to resist the devil.
We must develop an attitude of confession. As we draw near to God, we become ever more aware of our sin. James exhorted Christ-followers to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts. We never move beyond the gospel in the Christian life; therefore we confess our sins to our merciful Father who forgives them. We also must develop an attitude of contrition and humiliation. Repentance must be real, deep and thorough.
Recognize God Is Judge (11–12)
We are not to assume the role of God in relation to others. We should not speak against others with outward action nor should we judge others with inward attitude. This command forbids any speech (true or false) that runs down another person. Faultfinding is not a spiritual gift. Since God is the only One who can save and destroy, only He has the right to judge. For us, to judge one of God’s creatures is to usurp a right that only He has.
Seek God’s Will (13–17)
On the surface, verse 13 sounds like good business sense, but it masks a secular worldview that ignores God. These business people think they can control events but fail to recognize God’s providential control and the temporary nature of life. Planning and investing are not wrong, but arrogant self-confidence and boasting are. The Lord’s will is the key (15). Every business decision must be based on submission to God’s will.