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Commentary On The Book of James

Chapter 4

THEME: Emptiness of worldliness

James deals with several questions in this chapter: #1 What is worldliness? #2 How does a Christian fight the Devil? #3 What is your life? . . . All of these will go back to the subject of worldliness.

What is worldliness? There is no simple answer to the question. James will give what I think is a very definitive answer. What is worldliness? James says that worldliness is strife and envy. We need to go back to chapter 3 to pick up his thoughts. James 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (KJV)

Faith is a major topic with James. James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (KJV) TRUE faith is being meek or humble, and humility means submission to God.

James 3:16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (KJV) . . . That is worldliness. And it is worldliness in the churches that have produced all the cults, denominations, factions, divisions and elite gangs which have risen and abound in the church today. All this is "devilish" or demonic (Jam.3:15), which is absolutely horrible, my friend.

What do envy and strife produce in this world? They produce "confusion and every evil work."

Emptiness Of Worldliness (4:1-17)

James 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? (KJV)

In chapter 3, James spoke against fights, since they come from envy, and urged us to have a Godly wisdom. Now he simply continues on.

Beware of any delight in sin, when acts of uncleanness or thoughts of revenge are sweet to you, or when you take proud pleasure of your honor and greatness in the world. These things to a TRUE believer should be a burden, NOT a pleasure. It is sad when a child of God rejoices to do evil.

In a TRUE child of God, the war is between sin and grace, between worldly counsel and Godly wisdom. These battles are within our menbers (Rom.6:13). James means the strong desire of the will against the knowledge of the truth.

James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. (KJV)

Selfish desires lead to fights and war. The spirit of strife is worldliness; it is not Christian, and it is not the Christian way to do things. These represent the old nature. A person must be regenerated by faith in Christ and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:9).

James is describing the spirit of the world. When the spirit of the world gets into the church, you have a worldly church. Following are many scriptures concerning the spirit of the world (Mat.13:22; Rom.1:29-32; Gal.5:19-21; 1 Cor.6:9-11; Eph.2:2; 4:17-19; Phil.2:21; 1 Tim.5:6; Tit.3:3; 1 Pet.4:3).

Yet ye have not because ye ask not . . . our desires should be taken to the Lord in prayer. When we do this, He will either say "yes" or "no" or "wait a while." We need to accept the answer we receive from Him. What is the cure for worldliness? PRAYER! It is in reality, faith in God. 1 John 5:4-5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (KJV)

When you feel strife and envy in your heart, talk to the Lord about it. Tell God all that is in your heart, unload to Him! Tell Him your troubles, that He may give you comfort and strength, tell Him your joys, that He may rejoice with you; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; tell Him of your temptations, that He may help you overcome them. Admit the truth about any malicious thoughts, depraved tastes for evil, and your instability. He knows all this, but He wants to hear from you. (Heb.4:13; 1 Jn.3:20).

We have not because we ask not! Many do not use the the right way of prayer. IF prayer is demanding worldly ends, it will NOT be heard! The supposed prayers of worldly desire are not prayers in God's eyes or ears! He will NOT hear (Ps.66:18; Isa.1:15; 58:9; Jn. 9:31).

James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (KJV)

Ye ask . . . that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. Haven't we all been guilty of this at some time in our life?

Ye ask amiss . . . our ends and aims must be right in prayer. We must consider our motives in prayer . . . NOT just the manner, not just what you are asking for, but the purpose for the prayer! It must be godly prayer. Prayers with worldly motives are unsuccessful. God's glory is the end of prayer and the beginning of hope. God does NOT undertake to satisfy our worldly desires. He will own no other voice in prayer but that of His own Spirit. Rom.8:27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (KJV)

When we ask for anything "worldly" our request will be met with a divine denial. With God, Spiritual sighs and whisperings are heard rather than loud, worldly roars. If our prayers are not directed to God's glory, there is little hope that when we receive the answer, we shall use it to glorify the Master.

Most people want to commit sin and then want God to bless them in it. It is bad enough that we are servants of sin (Jn.8:34; Rom.6:16-20), but we should not make God an accessory to our sin. Let us not come to God with an evil mind! Holy desires are answered (Ps.1017; 145:19), but wanting evil desires are asking amiss!

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (KJV)

Ye adulterers and adulteresses . . . not who were literally such, but in a symbolic way; as he an adulterer, who removes his affections from his own wife, and puts them on another woman. And an adulteress chases a man not her husband. James here calls such people adulterers and adulteresses, who, instead of loving God, whom they should love with all their hearts and souls (Mat.22:37), set their affections on the world, and the things of it . . . worldly things (1 Jn.2:15)..

Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? . . . when people try to please their friends, they become friends of the world for they try to please worldly people and worldly desires. There are many ways that we can use things of the world but we must NOT seek friendship with it. People who want the world's friendship, will lose Jesus' friendship (Gal.1:10). It is the same with satisfying worldly desires. We cannot serve the Lord when we serve our own evil lusts and pleasures (Tit.3:3).

Any time that you please the world, you wage war against the Lord, and openly defy the Lord of hosts. The love of God and desire to obey Him declines, and things of the world take over your heart (Rom.8:7). You not only withdraw your heart from God . . . you oppose Him. He becomes your enemy! We CANNOT serve two masters (Mat.6:24). Covetousness and Christianity are irreconcilable.

Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God . . . IF you choose to be a friend of the world, you are God's enemy! Whoever chooses to be a friend of the world is a worldly person (1 Tim.6:9). People who lust for riches fall into great temptation (Pro.23:4; 28:20). A TRUE Christian must remain true to the Lord with ALL their heart (Mat.22:37; Mk.12:30; Lu.10:25-28; Ac.11:23). Worldliness makes a person hate God and be hated by God. Serving the Lord will either make us very weary of the world, OR the world will make us weary of duty. Obedient children of God experience the first one, and hypocrites experience the other.

James 4:5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? (KJV)

The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? . . . Some think James refers to the Old Testament (Job 5:6; Pro.21:10), while other say he had in view, text in the New Testament, possibly either (Rom.12:2 or Gal.5:17).

The spirit that dwelleth in us . . . is either the Spirit of God, who is said to dwell in believers (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Rom.8:9), OR the spirit of men, as defiled by sin, and acted by the devil, who works in men while children of disobedience (Gal.1:4; 1 Cor.2:6,12; 3:18-19; 1 Jn.5:19), which is the same as corrupt nature.

Lusteth to envy? . . . meaning the depraved spirit of man, the spirit of an unregenerate man, prone to every lust, and prompted to every sin, the imagination of the thought of man's heart being evil, and that continually (Gen.6:5).

Ephesians 2:1-2 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (KJV) . . . We have an evil nature BEFORE Christ comes into our heart! 1 Cor. 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (KJV) . . . And the spirit of God does NOT lust to envy!

James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (KJV)

Our wondrous God has an over abundance of grace. Grace has been defined as unmerited favor, but I think a better description would be love in action. God did NOT save us by love. He gave us His Son, and it is by His grace that we are saved. He will give you grace. He is the living Christ, interceding at God's right hand for you.

But he giveth more grace . . . God's grace is a much greater benefit, than ALL that this world can ever give you! Only God gives genuine joy, which this world cannot possibly give! I think James may mean, ever increasing grace . . . the farther you depart from "envy". . . the more grace He gives.

Wherefore he saith . . . Pro. 3:34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly. (KJV) Peter states the same truth in 1 Pet.5:5.

God resisteth the proud . . . the proud are those who have excessive self-esteem; who have a high and unreasonable conceit of their own excellence or importance. This may be anything: beauty, fame, education, power, attainments, family, rank, etc. On the other hand, someone who attaches no undue importance to himself because of what he is or has is humble. His heart is not lifted up; he gives all credit of what he is to God. He is humble before God, feeling that all that he has, and is, is nothing in his sight. God looks at things as they really are; and therefore He hates any and all arrogant claims: Lev.26:19; Job 33:17; Ps.59:12; Pro. 8:13; 29:13; Isa.23:9; 28:1; Dan.4:37; Zec.10:11; Rom.1:22; 11:25; 12:3,16; 1 Cor.3:18; 8:2.

Pro. 26:12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him. (KJV)
Gal. 6:3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. (KJV)
This resistance of pride God clearly shows not only in the explicit declarations of His Holy Word, but in the arrangements of His providence and grace.

But giveth grace unto the humble . . . the sure way to please God is to submit (cooperate voluntarily) to His grace and providence. When a person acknowledges Him in all His ways, He will direct all his steps (Ps.37:23; Pro.16:9). The envious and greedy man grasps at a shadow, and gains nothing!

To the humble, God shows favor; bestowing on them the grace needed to secure their salvation. Thank You Jesus!

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (KJV)

Submit yourselves therefore to God . . . ONLY the humble will ever SUBMIT to God! (Jam.4:6,10; 1 Pet.5:6). A proud sinner will never submit to God!

Submit yourselves to the will of God, with respect to worldly things, and be content with such things as you have (Phil.4:11; 1 Tim.6:8; Heb.13:5). Very few people today are satisfied with the portion that is allotted to them. It is right and best for the people of God to leave themselves in His care, allow Him to choose their inheritance for them (1 Pet.1:4). WHY? Because none of their anxious cares, none of their striving and struggling, none of their impatient desires, wars and fightings, can add one cubit to their stature (Mat.6:27).

When we submit to the Father's way of salvation by Christ Jesus (Jn.3:15-18; 14:6; 1 Jn.5:11-13), claiming the righteousness of Christ for our justification (1 Cor.1:30; Rom.3:24-25; 5:1), and depending on Him for a non-stop supply of grace in times of trouble (Jam.4:6), we are humble in God's eyes!

The devil's banner is pride and envy. HOW? do we as God's children resist his temptations to these. The FIRST and MAIN thing is SUBMIT TO GOD! Faith, humble prayers and heavenly wisdom are our weapons of resistance. "Submit" as a good soldier puts himself in complete subjection to his Captain, then "resist" by standing bravely against the enemy.

And he will flee from you . . . Satan is God's enemy, and he is our enemy too. Please take this into consideration. Even though God and the devil are at war, we do NOT have to wait to see who will win. God has already defeated Satan (Rev.12:10-12), and when Christ returns, the devil and all he stands for will be eliminated forever (Rev.20:11-15). BUT . . . beware! Satan is here NOW in this world. And my friend, he is really working over time trying to win us over to his evil side in this war! You cannot win over him alone, and neither can I! But, with the Holy Spirit's power, we can resist the devil, and he will flee from us.

HOW? do we resist such a foe? We resist, by our faith, we overcome (1 Jn.5:4-5), and we resist with the spiritual armor provided for us (Eph.6:13-14), and we resist by prayer (Rom.8:26-27), and we resist by NOT giving in to his evil temptations, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and we resist by being humble, so God can bestow His abundant grace on us.

James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (KJV)

The Lord Jesus comes to the door of your heart. There He stops! He will NOT go any farther. He will NOT force Himself on anyone! He will knock, but YOU have to let Him in. Your heart's door has just one door knob, on the inside! YOU have to open the door to Jesus! That is the only way He is going to get in, my friend.

Draw nigh to God . . . we must cleave to Him (Deut.30:20), prayerfully (Jam.4:2-3). Coming near to God means we have left our evil ways (Ps.58:3; 138:6; Isa.59:2; Jer.17:5). From the day we are born, we go astray, and when we do, our iniquities separate us from our God. God's holy nature hates sin, and He will have no communion with a proud spirit. Only faith can make us come close to God.

Cleanse your hands, ye sinners . . . we must be holy before we can come near to God. Conforming to God's will is necessary: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Mat.5:8). "He is a holy God"(Jos.24:19). God will not "help evil doers" (Job 8:20). NO hypocrite will be able to stand in His Presence (Isa.33:14). We must "wash our hands in innocency" (Ps.26:6).

Psalm 24:3-4 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. (KJV) . . . If we want to be at ease with God in our ways, we must walk in a holy way.

Purify your hearts, ye double minded . . . James says this because he is dealing with hypocrites. A hypocrite's life may SEEM to be right, but their hearts are not right! And everything comes from the heart.

To have a holy life, you must have a clean heart. TRUE conversion starts in the heart! A right spiritual life with God, as well as our natural life, starts in the heart first. Peter says: "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;" (1 Pet.2:11-12). We must mortify sinful desires, if we want to cure the disease. Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (KJV) . . . Please note: it is not only his "way," but his "thoughts," which come from his heart. Mat. 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: (KJV) . . . Thoughts are the first things . . . then unholy corruption!

What God looks for and loves is "truth in the inward parts" (Ps.51:6). We should NOT be concerned just for honor before people, but . . . HOW is your heart before God?

Ye double minded . . . is a mind and a heart that is DIVIDED between God and the world. The "double-minded" is at fault in heart. A hypocrite has a heart which is hated and repulsive to God. They waver between God and idols and deny the Lord who bought them (2 Pet.2:1; Jude 1:4). They profess Him (say they are Christians), but by their works deny Him! Double minded means their thoughts are divided, and their affections are always hovering in a doubtful suspense between God and the world. James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (KJV)

James 4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (KJV)

Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep . . . it is a necessary duty; those who want to be TRUE Christians MUST mourn for their sin! Mat.5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (KJV)

God's glory is violated when your heart is not afflicted by your sin! "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law" (Ps.119:136). "Mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears" (Jer.13:17). "Weep with them that weep" (Rom.12:15). "Woe unto us, that we have sinned!" (Lam. 5:16). "With strong crying and tears" (Heb.5:7). We must admit, like David, that "my sin is always before me" (Ps.51:3).

Let your laughter be turned to mourning . . . worldly rejoicing in their external comforts and possessions, meaning carnal joy, because of their friendship with the world, and their enjoyment of the things in it. When we mourn for our sin, God will give us what the world CANNOT give us . . . . joy, peace, serenity and contentment. Do not measure things by the present sweetness but by the future profit. "Woe to you who laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep" (Lu.6:25) .

Sin is the condition which calls for mourning, not joy. Sin is NEVER to be treated lightly. You are NOT to treat sin lightly, my friend. You are to mourn over your sins. The problem today is that Christians are NOT mourning over their sins. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep . . . we need to mourn over our sins.

James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (KJV)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord . . . HOW do we do this? When we go before the Lord, and confess from our heart, the sincerity of our souls, admitting our sinfulness and unworthiness, our vileness, our wretchedness, and BEG for the grace and mercy of God in Christ, as did Abraham, Jacob, Job, Isaiah, Paul, and the publican; and when we walk humbly with God, acknowledging we can do NOTHING without Him; and owe all our dependence on His amazing grace, and give Him credit for all we have and are, we are "humble" in God's eyes!

And he shall lift you up . . . people today have a BIG problem! They think they are smart. They think they are strong. They think they have ability. They think they are good. BUT . . . God says that there is no good within us (Ecc.3:12; Rom.7:18). There is no good thing in us that attracts Him to us. My friend, it is our great need for Him, that draws Him to us. When we are willing to humble ourselves and get down where He can lift us up, He will lift us up. But, He cannot lift up a proud person because they REFUSE to get down!

James 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. (KJV)

Speak not evil one of another, brethren . . . James returns to his former subject, the vices of the tongue (Jam.3:5-12). Here he mentions one, which professors of religion were/are very much guilty of, speaking evil one of another. James forbids all detraction, rigid censuring and rash judging the hearts and lives of others. People condemn whatever does not suit them, and make their own resentment the rule of other men's manners. Speak not evil of another (Eph.4:31; 1 Pet.2:1).

Judgeth his brother . . . finds fault with and condemns him for those things which the law does not condemn in him, or forbid to him (Rom.14:3-4).

Judgeth the law . . . either by practicing and approving what the law condemns, or: by condemning that which the law allows.

But if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge . . . instead of showing loving feelings of a brother, he sets himself up as judge, and not only a judge of his brother, but a judge of the law. The law here referred to is probably the law of Christ, or the rule which all Christians say they obey. James elsewhere calls it the "law of liberty" (Jam.1:25), meaning the law which released us from the Jewish Law, and gave us liberty to worship God without restraint and bondage (Ac.15:10; Gal.4:21-31).

James implies here that it is the duty of every Christian to obey the law. He is not to assume the office of a judge about its propriety or fitness; but he is to do what the law to require of him, and is to allow others to do the same. Our business in religion is NOT to make laws, or to declare what they should have been, or to amend those that are already made (like many cults do today); it is simply to obey those which are set in the Holy Word of God, and to allow others to do the same. It would be well for all individual Christians to learn this.

James 4:12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? (KJV)

IF you judge others, you disobey the law, because you place yourself above the law and treat it with contempt. In other words, WHO do you think you are? When you begin to think and talk like that, you are moving into the position of God. There are two groups of people today who seek to take the position of God. One group is those who say, "I'm not a bad person, I am good enough to be saved. I don't need Jesus."

Then there is another group, these sit in judgment on everyone else. He does NOT judge himself, but he judges everyone else. James is saying that judgment is God's business. Jesus said: John 5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: (KJV) James says that we are to judge ourselves and to go to Him in humility. Mat. 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (KJV)

James 4:13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: (KJV)

Here is something else that Christians do . . . make big plans for the future. It has taken me a long time to finally learn to just take one day at a time! I taught Bible classes for well over 20 years. My health took a nose-dive and I had to quit quite unexpectedly. I miss it terribly. I loved the people. I loved serving the Lord. I really thought I would be doing it for a long time to come. Now, I see I won't!

James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (KJV)

James says that we do NOT know what tomorrow holds. "For what is your life?It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." Life is like a mist above a stock tank in the early morning . . . fleeting, uncertain and temporary. Pro. 27:1 Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. (KJV)

James 4:15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. (KJV)

For that ye ought to say . . . what we OUGHT to say and do, is not always what we end up saying or doing.

Our dependence of all our affairs should rest upon Him. In our speech, we should glorify God, keeping ourselves far away from those that are profane, and agreeing that if it is not God's will in a matter, we do not want it (Ac.18:21; Rom.1:10).

If the Lord will . . . His providential or directive will, we do not as yet know. We simply must accept it in our lives. Both our life and actions depend upon the will of God, and NEITHER one is in our power. We must consider the frailty of our life, and we must depend on God's will, because BOTH are in His hands!

James 4:16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. (KJV)

But now ye rejoice . . . or glory; you please yourselves with boasts of what you think that you will do.

In your boastings . . . all your carnal projects, and hopes of what you intend to do, and expect to get out of life. People vainly boast of their plans and successes, never considering God's will and providence.

All such rejoicing is evil . . . for two reasons: #1 being contrary to the Word of God, which assures us SO often that it is vain to promise ourselves long life, or prosperity in our worldly business, without God's will and blessing (Ps.127:1; Pro.16:9,33), and #2 because it comes from pride and self assurance. Boasting is sin.

James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (KJV)

Many think that doing wrong is sin. Yes! It is, BUT, James goes farther. He tells us that sin is also not doing right. #1 Sins of commission and #2 sins of omission. It is a sin to lie; but it is also a sin to know the truth and not tell it. It is a sin to speak evil of someone; but it is also a sin to avoid someone when you know he or she needs your friendship.

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good . . . we cannot plead ignorance of God’s sovereign plan for our life, because we should depend on God in all things. The word “knows” means to have a deep knowledge of something, not knowledge in the process of learning. The word “good” pictures what is qualitatively good, worthy of honor, upright, morally excellent. “Good” means fundamentally good: fair, excellent, surpassing, honorable, praiseworthy. The “good” circumstance here is the good of our operating “IN” the will of God.

2 Cor.8:21 Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. (KJV)
Gal. 6:9-10 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (KJV)

Knowledge of God’s principles implies responsibility to apply truth to experience. The sin of pretending to know God’s will and not doing it is bold, arrogant sin.

We are NOT to do things that displease God. Once we admit to knowing that we must depend on God in everything we do and then NOT do it . . . we sin.

John 15:22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. (KJV)

Book of James

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