In our study of James chapter four, we are reminded that we are not God and so we should not act like we are. We look at the cause of all the struggles in the world and the answer to them which is only found in resting in the will of God.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?
James gets right down to the point that the problem is with our own hearts and our flesh. Paul told us of the same struggle, in Romans 7:7 - 25, between godliness and the flesh.
You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
The root of the problem is that we seek the things of the world and don't look to God and trust Him to provide. The picture here is of a little child that wants something and throws a tantrum in hopes of getting it instead of pointing or asking the parent for it.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.
James tells us the third part of the problem and that is our motives. Instead of having our will replaced with God's will, we seek to follow our own will. We don't ask for the things of God but instead focus on the things of the world and satisfying the flesh. God simply does not give us whatever we want because He knows what is best.
You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?
God is a jealous god! He always has been and always will be as it says in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:5). James is reminding us that God will not be happy with second place in our lives. We can either pursue the things of God or the things of the world but not both. He uses some very strong words (hatred, enemy) to get the point across. We all have to continually ask ourselves who our friends are and remember Proverbs 18:24.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'
We all fall short of the requirement that God be first in EVERYTHING but the good news is grace. James uses Proverbs 3:34 to remind us that, if we humble ourselves and know that we need grace just as much as anyone else, God will give it to us and forgive us. If we think that we are all of that and forget that we need God's grace, He will oppose us. My friends, I don't think that we want to be in a position where God opposes us.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James urges us to make a choice and that is to submit our lives totally to God. If we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, we are to let God control our lives and we can have freedom in knowing that we report directly to Him and not to men. The best way to resist the devil is to turn control over to God.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Verse ten is often quoted because of the promise it contains but, to understand it, you must combine it with the other verses. James is telling us here that we need to see sin as it is (detestable in the sight of God) and be serious about getting the sin out of our lives. First of all we must accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and start a new life. Then, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit which will guide us and empower us to deal with the sin in our lives. Dealing with the sin is an act of humility because we have to admit that we are sinners and we can't fix it on our own. When we humble ourselves and admit that, then God will lift us up because of Jesus Christ.
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?
Now, James gets down to the heart of the matter and that is we want to judge others and their actions. We are reminded first of all that, in doing so, we are not only judging the person but we are passing judgment on the law itself. We are also reminded that there is only one rightful judge and that is God. The problem is that we want to climb up on the judgment seat and take Jesus' place but, just as James said before, God is a jealous God and He will not share His place with anyone. We would do well to keep the question: Who do you think you are? in our minds to keep us from trying to be the judge.
Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James now turns to another area where we tend to brag and boast. Once again, he leaves us with the question: Who do you think you are? He reminds us that we can't boast about tomorrow and what we will do because we are not even sure that we have a tomorrow here on the earth. God is the one that has numbered our days from the beginning and knows all that He has planned for our lives.
Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
We have all done what James is describing but it is still wrong. Assuming that we have tomorrow when we are not the ones in control is an issue of pride and is boasting. It may seem like a minor point but just adding the phrase that James gave makes a big difference and can serve to remind us that God is in control and only He knows about tomorrow.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
Sin is not only something that we do that is against God but it can also be things that we do not do. If the Holy Spirit tells you to do something and you do not do so, then you are in disobedience to God and that, my friends, is sin.