Today: [James 4:] Identifying Friendship with the World. In this chapter, James identifies for us the underlying forces at work in the world to draw us away from our faith in Christ. The world around us and its representatives demand to be the center of our attention. When you choose to live for Christ, you will come under subtle and at times not so subtle pressure to nonetheless make room in your life for the world and its demands upon your life.
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[Jas 4:1-17 KJV] 1 From whence [come] wars and fightings among you? [come they] not hence, [even] of your lusts that war in your members? 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. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume [it] upon your lusts. 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. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. 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. 12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? 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: 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. 15 For that ye [ought] to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin.
In v. 1 of James 4, the writer exposes the broader cause of quarrels and contention as arising from the sin nature of man. He points out that many things that men enter into strife over are denied them because they do not take their needs to God in prayer. Here we find direct and straightforward answers as to unanswered petitions. We often have not because we ask not. We pray and do not receive because we ask amiss. What does this mean (to ask amiss)? To ask amiss is to ask for something that panders to our lower nature. There is much unrest among men because of a lack of contentment in life. Materialism cannot bring peace of mind. We must give thought not to look to the things of the world for the security that can only be found in Christ. When we attempt to extract from a relationship or some material acquisition that which we should be looking to God for that constitutes spiritual adultery. If we are going to be a friend of God we cannot be a friend with the world. That word friend was used more strongly in ancient times than it is today. It carries with it a covenantal context.
In the culture of our marketplace, many Fortune 500 companies brand themselves after a religious fashion projecting to their customers a sense of tribe and belonging. This is one aspect of what James is speaking against. Examples would be Starbucks, Harley Davidson and the clothing brand (unambiguously named) True Religion. They are crossing over the boundary between the marketplace and religion to co-opt the faith of some who are more faithful to their brand than they are to their church. During the 70’s Jesus Movement the music industry did this with songs they themselves named “crossover songs” such as “My Sweet Lord,” “Jesus is Just Alright with Me,” and “Bridge over Troubled Waters” and many more.
The market forces recognized that the Jesus Movement was abandoning consumerism as a lifestyle and came up with these strategies to seduce them back into the world and away from dependence on Christ because their new found faith was deemed counter to their corporate bottom line. This same strategy is being used against the church in the political realm with profound effect since the days of Ronald Reagan. The message of James couldn’t be more relevant – friendship with the world (the system) is enmity against God.
What is the alternative for men and women of faith? Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and cleanse our way and our thinking from the double-mindedness brought on by the dual initiatives of the enemy who attempts to use carnal strategies to attain faith-based outcomes. The world and its systems will humble us and leave us ashamed and disgraced. When we humble ourselves to God conversely He will lift us up.
Knowing that such statements provoke objections from those entrenched in the snare of the enemy in these areas James follows up with speak not evil against one another. Here he continues with a reproof that speaks to the litigious society we live in today. People in our culture take one another to court for any random reason. The political correctness issue that was a nuisance ten years ago has become a cultural behemoth that veritably is driving our society off the rails. James insistence is in terms of judgment we are first to hold ourselves accountable not taking upon ourselves the presumption of judging others when we ourselves will never do likewise. The law is to hold ourselves and not our brothers accountable to God.
In v. 13 James warns us against making plans without God. This is framed in market-based of buying and selling making everything James is saying in the context of ungodly attitudes toward acquisition and conspicuous consumption expressed in the remarks made at the beginning of the chapter. The reminder for us is this – life is a vapor that appears and then is gone. For this reason, every plan and initiative of life we engage in should be walked out (v. 15) in the context of God’s will and not merely in pursuit of our own pleasure. To him that knows to do good and does it not – James reminds us – to him it is a sin.
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