Jacob (James) is setting before his people the Jewish Believers a basic question-whether their aim in life is to submit to the will of God or to satisfy their own desires for the pleasures of this world. This passage has to do with the subject of fighting as opposed to yielding or surrendering.
James 4 actually builds on the issues dealt with in James 3 that our problems begin with our tongues and follows through on the kind of heart and life that we have. It’s the pollution of our hearts that results in quarrels and fights which come from our tongues. Jacob discusses in this chapter the real reason for most of our fights, and the damage that it causes to us, others, and to the kingdom.
Jacob also leaves us with some answers on how to stop these battles that have left all kinds of wounded believers and unbelievers laying it its wake. First Jacob calls our attention to the problem by asking and answering two questions. Who is fighting, and what are the battles?
James 4:1-3 The words “among you” refer to the believers living in James’ day and the battles that he names are two kinds: quarrels and conflicts. A quarrel is a general term given for a fight or battle. In contrast, the term conflict is narrower in scope and refers to a particular skirmish or an individual battle.
James then tells us about the source of these fights and skirmishes presenting two causes and a multitude of effects. The first cause is Inner Desires spoken of in James 4:2-3. The Greek root of the word that is translated lust refers to desire or passion. Though we tend to attach a negative connotation to it, it really is neutral; it depends on the context that it is used.
There are legitimate desires, i.e. work, education, family etc. The problem occurs in how we deal with these desires when they are frustrated or unmet. Our natural reaction is to fight until we get what we want. The natural man says I’m going to figure a way to get what I want. The result according to Jacob is murderous thoughts, words, and actions; arguments; failure to pray; or prayer with wrong motives. So the first cause of these battles and skirmishes in our lives and in our churches comes when our inward desires become frustrated.
James 4:4 A second cause comes from our worldly affections. This reference to adultery is not speaking of physical adultery but spiritual adultery and harkens back to the marriage relationship that we enjoy with the Lord. Like the Jewish marriages at the time of Jesus there was a period of engagement, or betrothal. The groom would leave his fathers house and go to the home of the woman he sought to wed, and enter into negotiations with the father of the bride.
A dowry price was agreed to and a Ketubah or wedding contract was drawn up. The groom would then leave to prepare a place for his bride to be. Some time later the groom would appear at an unannounced time to come for his bride and bring her to the home that he prepared for her. Her duty was to remain faithful until her groom came.
The parallels are similar to our relationship with our husband the Lord. He left His Fathers House and paid the dowry for us to be His bride, our Father was the devil and the price he paid was His own blood. He gave us His Ketubah, the New Covenant and left to prepare a place for us a place, and sometime soon He is coming to bring us to be with Him. Our duty is to remain faithful. .”Your Maker is your husband; the Lord of hosts is his name”.
This idea of the Lord as the husband and the nation of Israel as the wife, explains the way in which the Old Testament constantly expresses spiritual infidelity in terms of physical adultery. To make a covenant with the gods of a strange land and to sacrifice to them and to intermarry with their people is “to play the harlot after their gods” (Exodus 34:15, 16).
It is God’s forewarning to Moses that the day will come when the people “will rise and play the harlot after the strange gods of the land, where they go to be among them,” and that they will forsake him (Deuteronomy 31:16). It is Hosea’s complaint that the people have played the harlot and forsaken God (Hosea 9:1). To disobey God is like breaking the marriage vow. It means that all sin is sin against God’s love. Our relationship to God is not like the distant relationship of king and subject or master and slave, but like the intimate relationship of husband and wife.
When we sin we break God’s heart, just as the heart of one partner in a marriage may be broken by the desertion of the other. This is why Jacob is telling us that to love the world is to become an adulteress. In doing so we negate the relationship that we are called to be faithful until our husband comes. This includes conforming ourselves to the world and its thinking.
Worldly thinking is based on the philosophy that God helps those who help themselves. When we come against resistance we fully believe that it is man who is in our way, when in reality it just may be God who is closing the door for His reasons; when this happens most of us rather than seeking the Lord for answers run to the world and its techniques to get what we want. In essence we make friends with the world in order to accomplish our objectives.
The best commentary on this saying is that of Jesus: “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Worldliness is telling the Lord that He is inadequate for our needs and that we will work things out ourselves. What is the cause of temptation and wrongdoing? This passage has told us there are four causes:
1) Lust: the passion for pleasure and gratification.
2) Distrust: desiring something and not trusting God or asking Him for it.
3) Praying amiss: praying with the wrong motive.
4) Worldliness: friendship with the world.
These are the causes of temptation and wrongdoing. Now, what is the cure for temptation and wrongdoing? We learn this In James 4:5-6.
James 4:5-6 Jacob tells us how to come to terms with our problem. He reminds us that the answer is found through the power of the Holy Spirit and through humility. The first part of the solution is from the power of the Holy Spirit. When we are double minded we lose God’s power in our lives and actually find ourselves in the unhappy position of fighting against the Lord.
Only when we surrender our lives into God’s control can His Spirit lead us into the restful and joyful walk that God desires for us. Believers must know this: the Spirit of God yearns over us with jealousy. When does the Holy Spirit pine over us with jealousy? All the time, but in a special way when temptation confronts us to do wrong; The Holy Spirit is always yearning over us and jealous for us.
If we turn away from Messiah and become a friend of the world—if we become adulterers and adulteresses—the Spirit of God does not cast us off and turn away from us. He loves us and cares for us and wants to come to our aid. When the believer is heavily tempted and does wrong, he is not cast off and rejected and forsaken by God. God still loves the believer—no matter what he does.
God longs for the believer to return to Him with deep, intense jealousy. The first great cure for temptation and wrongdoing is knowing the nature of God’s Holy Spirit, that He is filled with love and mercy. The result is that we are far more able to repent and return to God.
Why? Because we know that we are deeply loved by God. And His love attracts and pulls us back to Him.
The cure for temptation and wrongdoing in James 4:5-6 is the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we are filled and yielded to Him. A second cure for our being sucked into the world is knowing that God gives the humble believer grace and more grace, but He resists the proud. Grace means the favor and blessings of God.
When the believer faces temptation or does wrong, God meets the believer’s need, no matter what it is: strength, wisdom, power, perseverance, patience, and forgiveness. The believer does not deserve God’s grace and blessing, but nevertheless God loves him. Therefore, God gives him what he needs. But God’s grace is dispensed in greater measure where there is humility.
James 4:7-10 Humility is found when we yield and confess our sin to the Lord. Humility draws God to our side, whereas pride causes God to become our opponent. Humility is a necessary prerequisite for grace. When you are humble grace is on the way. It is only the one who can see the value of being humbled that he can move closer to the path that leads to life. The humble person has changed humiliation into humility. God meeting our needs is not an automatic thing.
If a person is proud, stiff-necked, haughty, and rebellious he will find God resisting him. What is this destructive pride? The word for proud literally means one who shows himself above other people. Even the unregenerate Greeks hated pride. The Greek word, hubris, is having a “a certain contempt for all other people.”
Pride shuts itself off from God for three reasons:
1. It does not know its own need. It so admires itself that it recognizes no need to be supplied.
2. It cherishes its own independence. It will be beholden to no man and not even to God.
3. It does not recognize its own sin. It is occupied with thinking of its own goodness and never realizes that it has any sin from which it needs to be saved. A pride like that cannot receive help, because it does not know that it needs help.
Pride is the only disease that everyone around you suffers from except yourself. Muhammad Ali was in his prime, and as he was about to take off on an airplane flight, the flight attendant reminded him to fasten his seat belt. He came back brashly, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.”
The flight attendant quickly came back, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.” Ali fastened his belt. In summation Jacob tells us to Submit to God, this is done by ending our fighting and surrendering. Resist the Devil – Rejecting his plans, because they encourage us to assert our wills and plans as opposed to God. Draw near to God – We’re to stay close to Him and develop companionship and our relationship with Him.
James 4:11-17 – This section has to do with the Sovereignty of God in our lives. Will we allow God to be our king? This has been a persistent problem in the lives of God’s people. We tend to choose to run our own lives and the result is a great mess.
It began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and take charge of their lives. The result was a mess for them, their children and ultimately all of mankind. It didn’t end there, their action brought trouble upon the animals and even the environment. All because they chose to follow their own inclinations rather than trust and obey God.
Later Israel sought to do things in their own way rather than God’s. Instead of allowing God to be their King they wanted a worldly king (1 Samuel 8:4-8). Jacob (James) in writing to the believers in Jerusalem warned them of similar consequences as a result of failing to allow God to be Lord of their lives. There are two specific warnings; one concerns wrongly judging brethren, and the other self-sufficiency. God hates all sin, but there are a few that are strongly condemned by Scripture. Judging others in a sinful way is one of those sins.
This is not to say that we are not to judge, but rather not to judge in a sinful way. This includes: condemning, criticizing, backbiting, gossiping, speaking evil, and talking about others. There is a strong tendency for the good person to judge and criticize the bad person or the gifted person to judge and criticize the less gifted; or the wealthy person to judge and criticize the poor; or the energetic person to judge and criticize the less energetic. All of us are really guilty of the sin of evil speaking against others, but the temptation strikes at the gifted more often.
Judging others is speaking evil of brothers (James 4:11). Judging others violates the law of God (James 4:11). Judging others sets one up as judge, as a law-giver (James 4:11). Judging others usurps God’s right and authority (James 4:12).
In James 4:11 we are warned not to slander one another – This is a call not to criticize, backbite, gossip, condemn, and grumble against another person. Slander means to talk about and tear down another person; to cut and hurt him and lower his image and reputation in the eyes of others.
The word usually means to talk about a person behind his back, when he’s not present. How do criticizing, backbiting and judging a brother make us judges of the law? When we criticize a brother, we are saying that the law he has broken is important, and we judge the law he has broken as important.
This is a common practice of people. We choose which law should be kept and which can be occasionally broken. It may be the laws governing gluttony, anger, worship, sex, controlling what we look at and desire, drunkenness, covetousness, or the great law of love.
But no matter what the law is, we judge the law when we pick and choose which laws are important and which are not. Which laws are binding and which are not. Which laws deserve our utmost attention and which don’t which laws should be kept and which can occasionally be broken. When we pick and choose, we set ourselves above the law of God.
We make ourselves the judge of the law and this is not our function. Scripture declares plainly that our duty is to obey the law, not to be a judge of the law. This is exactly what James says at the end James 4:11. If all of us would devote ourselves to obeying the Word and not investigating to see how well others obey it, we would avoid much conflict.
James suggests in James 4:12 that the only one with the right to judge is the one with the power to punish, God. There are several reasons why people tend to judge and criticize.
1) Criticism boosts our own self-image. Pointing out someone else’s failure and tearing him down makes us seem a little bit better, at least in our own eyes. It adds to our own pride, ego, and self-image.
2) Criticism is enjoyed. There is a tendency in human nature to take pleasure in hearing and sharing bad news and shortcomings about others.
3) Criticism makes us feel that our own lives are better than the person who failed.
4) Criticism points out to our friends how strong we are. Criticism gives us good feelings because our beliefs and strong lives are proven by our brother’s failure.
5) Criticism is an outlet for hurt and revenge. We feel he deserves it. Subconsciously, if not consciously, we think, “He hurt me so he deserves to hurt, too.” So we criticize the person who failed. Judging others usurps God’s right and authority. This verse is clear and forceful; it is a very strong warning to the criticizer and backbiter.
God alone is the great Lawgiver He alone has given the laws that are to judge and condemn our neighbors. When we judge, criticize, and backbite our brothers, we are usurping God’s right to judge men. We are setting ourselves up in the place of God, making ourselves God. Judging, condemning, criticizing, and talking about a person destroys the person. This is exactly what this verse says.
There is only one Person who is able to save and destroy, and that Person is God. God alone can save and destroy, not man. Remember we are talking about judging in a sinful manner. There are specific guidelines by which we are called to judge in Scripture lawfully. This sinful manner includes: condemning, criticizing, backbiting, gossiping, speaking evil, and talking about others. Judging in this way then usurps the authority and sovereignty of God in our lives.