James Chapter 4

1-5 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 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. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"?

Conflicts and quarrels arise because of the lusts in our flesh. We want something that we don’t have, and if we don’t get it we try to take it forcefully. If we cannot, then we fight and quarrel because of our envy of others who have it.

But we don’t get what we want either because we don’t ask God for it, or because we ask with the wrong motives. God does not give us what we ask for if we desire to use it to fulfill our lusts.

"Pleasures that wage war with our members" is James’ term for what Peter and Paul call the flesh. James identifies the flesh as the source of quarrels.

Consider the implications of this verse carefully. This is a verse by which we can examine ourselves. Are we enemies of God?

What is the meaning of ‘to be a friend of the world’? It means to sympathize with, or align oneself with the values of the world, to consider valuable and desire what the world considers valuable (physical beauty, intelligence, material riches), to honor people because of their importance in the world, etc.

It also equates to a tendency to please ourselves. When we mostly do the things that give us pleasure then we are being friends of the world.

We need to judge and cleanse ourselves from ‘friendship with the world’.

1 Jn 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The lust of the flesh represents the things that our bodies ask us to do – eat, drink, have sex, etc. The lust of the eyes represents the desire to own or have what we see – a big house, a fancy car, a beautiful woman, etc. The pride of life is the desire to show others what we have and what we have accomplished so that they will esteem us highly. To do these things when God does not want us to do these things or in the manner that God does not want us to do these things equates to friendship with the world.

6-10 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." 7 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. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

If we see our lack when we read verse 4 then verses 6-10 tell us what to do about our lack.

We can get grace (help from God) if we humble ourselves, resist the devil, draw near to God, have an attitude of repentance, and mourn over our failures. Then God can exalt us over the temptation to be friendly with the world.

How does one draw near to God? By cleansing our hands (i.e. stopping wrongdoing) and purifying our hearts (i.e. doing the right things with the right motives); in other words, we draw near to God by repenting.

Note the parallel with 1 Pet 5:5-10. We submit to God by humbling ourselves under His mighty hand (i.e. things that are not in our control – the behavior of people, the breakdown of the car, etc.). We are able to submit to God because we know that He cares for us, and therefore we can cast all our anxieties upon Him. We will resist the devil if we understand that he is like a roaring lion trying to destroy us. We will be firm in our faith if we remember that our brethren all over the world are also undergoing the same experiences of suffering.

We will come out victorious if we keep in mind that God is a God of all grace (1 Pet 5:10) and that the end goal is that God Himself will perfect, strengthen and establish us.

11-12 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

In a trial it is easy to speak against the person who you think is the root cause of your trials. You need to be careful to not do this, especially when talking to a close friend. A humble person will not judge anyone else. Pour your heart out to God instead of back-biting to your close friend.

To judge another means to assign rightness or wrongness to another’s action, or to assign motive to another’s action.

Only God can judge accurately.

A Christian should only judge himself (Jn 8:15,16), and perhaps those who are under his spiritual authority. We should judge others only if their actions have direct or indirect bearing on us.

Even then, our judgment must be with an attitude of mercy and restoration rather than accusation and condemnation. This is to judge righteously (Jn 5:30; 7:24; Jn 12:47,48).

We will be judged in the same manner that we are judged (Mt 7:1-5).

When we stop judging unnecessarily our life becomes much simpler.

Being quick to judge is a sign of pride, stemming from an attitude that one is capable of judging accurately. Being slow to judge is a sign of humility, and then God’s grace can be upon our lives. That is why James talks about judging just after he has talked about humbling ourselves (Jas 4:6-10).

13-17 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

Another aspect of humility is to acknowledge that we cannot control the universe. Knowing that we cannot control the universe we have the attitude of not wanting to oppose God but doing everything if God permits or wills it. Thus, even though we approach our tasks with confidence, we keep in mind that for it to succeed God must permit it.

Also, after we have done something we are quick to acknowledge in our hearts that it was only successful because God allowed everything to work smoothly. Otherwise many things could have gone wrong.

When in conflict we should not be telling (boasting to) the other person about all the good we did for them. If there was any good that we did to them we should give the glory to God.

The attitude is more important that the actual words. Thus, we should not just say, "God willing" but have an attitude that reflects such a spirit.

We are judged according to the light that we have, and we should not judge others according to the light that we have.

17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

God has now taught you how to handle trials. So He expects you to handle it properly. If you don’t handle it properly then you are sinning.

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