Welcome back! I hope you have enjoyed James thus far. This post is going to be a bit long because James unpacks quite a bit. Please bear with me as this is a very important chapter.
1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires. 4 Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. 5 Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously? 6 But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
If you remember James 3 ended with the statement that wisdom and righteousness are from above. Continuing that theme James asks what the source of their fighting is. James points out that the fighting with others actually is a product of the fighting within themselves. They say they are Christians, but they have let the world influence and even stop them at times. Their Christianity wars with the desires of their flesh. They use wicked methods to get what they want. The irony is that by doing so they do not receive it. James says they must ask God, and he foresees their biggest complaint. “I have asked! They would likely cry and James answers by pointing out their motives were selfish and wrong. Why do you want a raise? Is it to glorify God or simply to make your materialistic life easier? We ask for more and turn around and use it to further our investment in this world and our own pleasures rather than giving it to God and helping those in need. The scary truth is we would rather let people starve than be even a little inconvenienced and that is wrong. By seeking our own ends and neglecting God and those in need we commit adultery against God. We cheat on God with the world! Not surprisingly that makes us an enemy of God because we no longer care to serve Him. Jesus told us we cannot serve two masters and that is what James is illustrating. If you desire the world you will shun God, if you desire God you will reject the world. God is jealous of our love and does not want to see us pour it out on things that He made rather than He Himself. James balances this by telling us of the great grace God gives. Turn and repent and a greater grace than you can imagine will be there for you. Do not be prideful of the things you have, but be humble remembering that all of it comes from God. Jeremiah 9:23-24 tells us the same thing, boast only in God.
7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. 11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother 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. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
So, what are we supposed to do? The world pulls and pulls how can we fight it? James’ gives us the hard but simple truth, submit. This is a work that our pride hates! The idea of lowering ourselves and listening to someone else kills our sinful nature. However, there is a second part, resist. We are called to resist the Devil. Notice it does not say fight or defeat, only resist. We cannot fight him, much less defeat him, but we can resist and we are held accountable for that. How do you resist? Draw near to God. Spend time in prayer seeking God and obeying His commands and will. Ask for forgiveness for your sins and confess to God who will clean you. We ought to weep and mourn over our sinful state. No longer laughing, but feeling the full despair that we might turn to God who comforts. We must humble ourselves before God. We criticize and enact judgment on others for their failures, but judgement belongs to God. There are times when we are called to carry out a judgement, but that judgement is from God and given to us in His word. We are fallen and sinful, how can we judge others for stumbling? Only God knows the heart and if a person has truly repented and so we leave final judgement to Him.
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. 15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.
Not only are we to trust in God for the strength we do not have, but also for all our plans. James points out that we make plans as if they are definite, but God may have different plans. It is arrogant to think that we can control what will happen. Now he does not say that planning is wrong, just that all plans are subject to God. Therefore, when you plan anything you must do so remembering that if God desires to change it He will. Finally, James caps off the whole section by pointing out a sin we often ignore. If you know what is right, what you are supposed to do, what God desires you to do and do not do it, then you have sinned. Never forget that.
What do we do now? Well there are several points of application here.
1 When we ask God for things we must do so with a desire to see His plans fulfilled, and not just the furtherance of our own entertainment. If you get a raise praise God and give to those in need. Praise God for provision and take care of those in need rather than over indulging in things that you do not need and will not last.
2 Submit yourself to God by spending time reading His word. Spend time in prayer with Him. Learn His character and obey His commands. We must love God and show that love. Our words mean nothing if our actions do not support them. Show your love for God and resist the Devil. The only way to resist sin and the Devil is by God’s strength, gained by being in a real relationship with Him.
3 Submit your plans to God. Never think that you cannot change a plan. Remember, Paul wanted to minister in Asia, but God redirected Him several times before he finally went there.
4 This is one of the most important. If you read about something that God commands, if you know about something you ought to be doing, then do it. If you do not, then you are sinning. There is no middle ground. If you do not do what you know you should do, then you sin.
Well, I know that was serious and very long. I just want to thank you for reading, and please take these words seriously. It could mean your very soul.