We ended James chapter three with an admonition to walk in wisdom instead of letting our tongues destroy us, and those around us. This wisdom, as James states, is from above and looks like this when it shows up: it is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. If this body in Christ could have lived in this manner, there would be no need to address wars and quarreling within the body of Christ, but it is not just within the body of Christ, it is our everyday lives.
Writing to a mixed body of believers, primarily Jewish, James has a need to address the quarreling and bickering he has learned about. Eugene Peterson’s Message says it best.
Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from?
Do you think they just happen? Think again.
They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.
James 4:1 MSG
Doesn’t that seem odd that James would have to address their bickering as wars and quarrels?
He then says, in case you had not figured it out yet, these boisterous battles are happening because you want your own way, and you, from your gut, are willing to fight for what you want.
I want to show you the shameful version and then one that is less harsh.
You lust and do not have; so you commit murder.
You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.
You do not have because you do not ask.
James 4:2 NASB
Almost all of us lust for what we do not have, but few of us commit murder to get it. What is going on here? Perhaps they have not come to murder as yet. Since the context of the verse has to do with envy and the inability to fulfill lusts, would God have us clamoring with Him, in an effort to get Him to satisfy our lusts? Surely, most of us, have at some point asked God to fulfill our desires. In my case, I got what I wanted. I later came to understand that my lust was not what I needed.
You want things, but you cannot have them, so you are ready to kill; you strongly desire things, but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. James 4:2 GNB
So if we have considered it, we have done it, right? Well, that is the picture Jesus painted when He said,
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28 NIV
I don’t see these people asking for anything, I do though, see them bickering and demanding. Wars do not just happen on battlefields.
I might like to think that James just shifted the focus.
James 4:3 NASB You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Ah, there is the answer, they are asking God to satisfy their stupid cravings.
“You ask” is the Greek word aiteo and means to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require.
“and do not receive,” Greek lambanō meaning to take in whatever manner.
James 4:2,3 from the Message Bible, tells us: “You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.”
“because you ask with wrong motives,” Gk, kakos, kakos – sick, sore, amiss, diseased, evil, badly (physically or morally), wrongly.
“so” Gk, hina – in order
“that you may spend” Gk, dapanao – 1) to incur an expense, expend, spend; 2) in a bad sense: to waste, squander, consume
“it on your pleasures.” Gk, hedone – (to please); sensual delight; by implication desire: – lust, pleasure. This is the same word from which we derive hedonism; which is, the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence. Synonyms: self-indulgence, pleasure-seeking, self-gratification. More it is the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.
James 4:4 NASB You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
That seems harsh. Let’s look at the Greek dictionary and see what they say.
moichalís; gen. moichalídos, fem. noun. An adulteress (Rom_7:3; 2Pe_2:14, “eyes full of adultery,” meaning gazing with desire after such persons. See Sept.: Eze_16:38; Eze_23:45). Used figuratively to indicate one who is unfaithful toward God as an adulteress is unfaithful toward her husband (This can apply to wives as well.) In the Greek OT it is spoken mainly of those who forsook God for idols (Isa_57:3, Isa_57:7; Ezek. 16, 23; Hos_3:1). In the NT, the word is generally used of those who neglect God and their duty toward Him and yield themselves to their own lusts and passions (Mat_12:39; Mat_16:4; Mar_8:38.
In James_4:4 the word moichalís stands as a characteristic of infidelity, faithless, or idolatrous).
Having been cheated on by a wife, this passage takes on a depth that most will not understand. After my first wife had her first blatant infidelity I struggled to trust her words and actions. The relationship was never right, as we never truly communicated. Later, she told me that her dad had asked her, as she was walking down the aisle to give her “vows”, “do you really want to do this?” Is this not a picture of how many of us are with the Father?
And in Zechariah 1:14 NASB we can understand that God is “exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.” All this makes me think of Oprah Winfrey. She said, when she learned that God was jealous, she perceived that God was jealous of her, this understanding put them in conflict. She said she would not tolerate such a sick relationship and walked away from God. Consider that she is heavily involved in the plans for globalism and the New World Order, which includes the murder of babies under the guise of health issues.
Look at this verse once again.
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4 NASB
How quickly we turn our backs on God. I can’t imagine anybody not having some longing. For me, it was a 24-foot inshore fishing boat. This then evokes some questions: Does God hate me for admiring the fishing boat? Is there anything I can do? Where does one get a camel hair coat so that they can look like John the Baptist?
Enemy, BTW, is echthros and means to hate; hateful (passively odious, or actively hostile); usually as a noun, an adversary.
Never stop until you get the full context, and that brings us to James 4:5.
James 4:5 Williams Or, do you think that the Scripture means nothing when it says, “He jealously yearns for the Spirit that He causes to dwell in your hearts”?
There it is, He is madly passionate about that Spirit that He has caused to dwell in our hearts.
Why? That Spirit is a part of Him, no less than the Son is a part of Him. Genesis 2:7 tells us that God breathed His own spirit into the man; and in Zechariah 12:1 we learn that the Lord formed the spirit with us. No wonder God is jealous for us, for we too are a part of Him, which He lost through Adam’s treason, and regained through Jesus Christ’s actions on the cross. The only problem is that He gave us the choice to return to Him. We can voluntarily return to Him by receiving Him once again.
So here I am struggling to understand what God wants from me, knowing full well that I am messed up, although I seem to be getting better at following His voice and staying out of trouble. And He knows all that.
What does James 4:6 have to say about this? While most translations say, He gives more grace, look at how the CEV translation puts it.
James 4:6 CEV In fact, God treats us with even greater kindness, just as the Scriptures say, “God opposes everyone who is proud, but he is kind to everyone who is humble.”
Knowing that we are messed up, God treats us with greater kindness.
Notice how it says, “God opposes everyone who is proud, but he is kind to everyone who is humble.” Have you given much thought to what it means to be humble? My mother thought it meant to dress and rags, not wash much, and be proud of it. There is something horribly twisted in this logic; and, it has the idea of pride mixed, as though that whole John the Baptist look makes you Holy – it does not.
In trying to grasp this humble thing, I have learned that Moses was the most humble man on the earth; really? Yes, the baby in the grass basket maneuver, was surely humbling, but maybe, in his case, it was just too cute and therefore gained Moses access to Pharaoh’s palace, where he had the finest education of his day. We fail to remember that Moses was nursed by his real mother until it became ridiculous. During that time she told him who he was. How and why he remembered any of that information is beyond belief. If anything, being raised in Pharaoh’s court would have made him prideful; and, if you know the story, Moses, having learned what his true heritage was – hated sheep farmers who seemed to have God’s calling upon their lives, rises up and slays an Egyptian man. In his pride, He thought that he would be, at least, one man’s redeemer; but that did not work out so well and he had to flee for his life. For the next forty years, in the desert, he tends sheep – one of the most hated things in Egypt. The Pharaoh who wanted him dead is now dead himself, and so God sends Moses back to Egypt, with this message – Let my people go!
What then caused him to gain this humble status?
After becoming the leader of God’s people, he was overwhelmed by the daily issues and threatened several times, one of those threats came from his own brother and sister. In the face of ugly situations, we find that Moses turned to God. This turning to God became a pattern for him, and it demonstrated that he knew where the power and answers truly lay.
So what does it mean when God opposes us?
From the Greek Antitassomai to range oneself against, that is, oppose: – oppose themselves, resist.
The first thing I want to look at is this idea of God setting himself in opposition.
The definition of oppose also includes the idea of being a counterbalance. So, while we may sit there scratching our heads, wondering why God is against us when we should be asking, what is God trying to teach me.
James 4:6, in the NASB, tells us that God gives more grace. Consider what we know so far.
- We are messed up, although many of us think we have got this living large stuff down pat.
- In spite of our being messed, and because we have accepted Christ into our lives, God has placed His Holy Spirit inside of us. If you only knew the treasure that lives inside of you. And, God is exceedingly jealous over that Spirit; that means He is jealous over you and will go out of His way to protect and cover you.
- And, as you can see from the NASB, that God, knowing who we are, just pours out more grace.
It is difficult to comprehend at times, but He loves us. The proof we have of that is that He was willing to allow His Son to experience the gore of the cross so that He could open the door for us, to come flooding back to Him.
In our efforts to be real, we can’t ignore the negative side of James 4:6.
“GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
Try searching for this sentence and you will only find it in two places, James 4:6 and 1Peter 5:5. I can assure you that James would not have quoted Peter’s words. Everyone that references an Old Testament passage refers you to Proverbs 3:34. Because it makes more sense and holds to the context, I will show you the Good News Bible version. Besides that, none of them precisely match those words.
“He has no use for conceited people, but shows favor to those who are humble.“
One definition of the word conceited explains the word like this: “Entertaining a flattering opinion of one’s self; having a vain or too high conception of one’s own person or accomplishments.”
Just remember, everything in this world is at odds with God’s ways and plans. Pursuing them will make you God’s enemy.
Does this sound like a setup for failure?
It is not. God knows what became of us, that is why He sent His Son, and in so doing He poured out His grace upon all who would accept it. How can an assured hope of an eternity with the Father that loved you, be a failure?
In light of that grace, James tells us to,
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (8) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:7-8 NASB
If you get involved with recovery, you learn quickly that bold, blatant, honesty brings about the most healing. No, don’t go blabbing everything in front of strangers, but in time, you will have to spill your guts to a trusted person. This is the direction James goes next.
James 4:9-10 NLT Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. (10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
In other words, own the damage that you have done, even if it is idolatrous living. You know, that stuff you put before God. When you are done, (in recovery it is usually your sponsor who tells you when you can graduate,) humble yourself before the Lord.
What did we learn from Moses?
To throw everything before God. He has grace waiting there for you.
Lastly, knock off the judging. You are certainly no better than anyone else. This is an important message that the world currently is refusing to hear.
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.
If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law.
But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.
God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge.
He alone has the power to save or to destroy.
So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?
(James 4:11-12 NLT)