James 4:1-12

Worship -or-tacky-entertainmentWhat causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against 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 only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Interpretation

  • Your passions cause you to fight with others.
  • Your coveting causes you to fight and argue with others.
  • You do not have because you do not ask.
  • When you do ask you ask only to fill your passions.
  • To be a friend with the world mean being and enemy of God’s.
  • Even though we are enemies with God, He gives more grace.
  • God yearns jealously over us.
  • You are to submit to God
  • If you resist the devil he will flee from you.
  • If you draw near to God, He will draw near to you.
  • You are to cleanse your hands and purify your heart.
  • We are to turn our laughter into mourning and our joy to gloom.
  • If you humble yourself before God, He will exalt you.
  • You are not to speak evil against others.
  • If you speak evil against another you judgment them.
  • if you out against the law you are judging the law.
  • If you judge the law you are not a doer of the law only a judge of the law.
  • There is only one judge.
  • There is only one lawgiver.
  • The One who gives and judges the law is the One who saves and destroys.
  • You have no authority or right to judge your neighbor.

Interpretation

Envy and jealousy are at the root of almost every division and fight within the church. You let your lusts go unchecked and they boil over. You always want more. You want what you do not or cannot have. If God gave you the whole world, you would want another world too.

This propensity goes beyond the material. If someone gets credit or honor you desire that honor and more. You may justify it by saying to yourself you do not want to take the others honor away from him. You just feel you deserve honor too. You want what others have. That is envy.

When James refers to fights he is not referring to warring armies. He is referring to the violent contentions that lie within us.

“You do not have because you do not ask” (v 2b) This is one of the sentences that people love to quote. Then they add “You should just ask God. The reason you don’t have what you want is you have not asked God for it. God will give you what you ask for. See it says so right here.” That is pure blasphemy! This demeans God. It makes God nothing but your private genie who grants your every wish. It makes you god. Rather than you serving God, God now serves you.

I have said it before and it is time to reiterate it again. The book of James is an exercise in maintaining context. For whatever reason, we find it easy to loose James’ context.

What is James talking about? He is talking about the evil of envy. The next verse makes this clear. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Why does not God give to you when you ask? You only want to fill your unbridled passions. You have no fear of God. In short, you have no respect for Him.

What should your passion be? God! Seek His grace and mercy. You are to desire to reflect His glory. You are to desire to bring Him honor. But your corruption is so deep even when you desire God, you desire Him for your advantage. You do not seek His glory.

James calls us adulterers. The scripture often uses marriage as a metaphor for your relation with God. God would have you be a chaste virgin. Impure affections to the world break that chastity . Even friendship with the world is contrary to this purity.

Contemporary church services are a clear example of this adultery. The reason for adopting a particular style of service is not worship but the attraction to the world. How often have you heard the need to be like the world to draw the world to the church? Congregations often change their service away from the worship of God to the entertainment of men. Leaders consider light shows, rock and roll music important in getting people into the church. The world will always do a better job putting on a show. They are better at it. That is their job to attract with lights and sounds. The job of the church is to lift up Christ and He will draw people to Himself. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Matthew 12:32) Drawing people to Christ is not the job of the church. Christ will do that Himself. But for some reason, we feel He needs our help. So we stop being the Church and become another entertainment source. As a result, there is no difference between going to Church and going to a rock concert,  Oh, there is one difference. The rock concert is better talent and higher quality entertainment. The church loses its purpose which is worship. We have become centered on men and no longer on God. Entertaining and pleasing carnal men has become the goals of many churches. That is why James says to be the world’s friend is to be God’s enemy.

But God is gracious. He gives the grace needed to come to Him. So you are to submit to that grace. Submission is a willing act of accepting God’s authority. You are under His authority regardless rather or not submit to it.

James tells you to resist the devil. The devil does not need to tempt you. You do not do evil because the devil made you do it. You can rebel and sin without any of his help. But what Satan does is accuses the saints. He reminds you of all the wrong and evil you have done. He does not need to make things up. He does not even lie when he tells you, you are not worthy of forgiveness. He lies when he tells you, your sins are not forgiven. He lies and says God’s mercy cannot overcome your sins because they are too great. Resist the devil as Christ did in the wilderness. To do so, you need to go to the scriptures. You need to cling to the promises of God. That is how you resist the devil.

As you read, study and learn the scriptures you draw closer to God. As you submit to His word He draws closer to you. By this James is not implying God abandons or withdraws from the Christian. God is always near. You alienate yourself. You do not avail yourself to His grace. So he appears distant to you.

Some claim God can only do what you allow Him to do. In saying so, they deny God’s sovereignty. God’s grace is not dependent on you or your actions.

James teaches the true nature of repentance. Repentance is resisting the devil, submitting to God and cleansing our hands. True repentance is both an outward change in the direction of your life and an inward cleansing of the heart. Repentance is serious. It reaches deep into the soul. That is why James says let laughter turn to mourning and joy to gloom. When you repent you realize the depth of your sin.

James takes a lot of effort to correct slander and lust. You are, by nature, a hypocrite. You are glad to exalt yourself and condemn others. You impose on others rules established for your own life. Paul addresses an almost identical issue in Romans 14. In that passage, superstition in the eating of meat prohibited some from eating meat. What they thought was unlawful for them, they condemned in others. Paul reminded them there is only one God and we must all stand before Him. James makes the same argument. Only James addresses those who operate under the pretense of sanctity rather than superstition.

James wraps it all up in a nice bow. He reminds you that there is only one God. There is only one judge There is only one lawgiver. And you ain’t Him.

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