James - Chapter 4

by Charles E. Bryce

James — Chapter 4

Greetings everyone. Today we’re going to continue with our Bible Study through the book of James. As we have said before, this book was written by the apostle James and he was the brother of Jesus Christ. And God inspired this book. So let’s pick up where we left off before beginning in chapter 4 of the book of James. Please get your Bible and follow along and prove what we’re saying. Don’t just take our word for it. Look for yourself and prove it to yourself right from the pages of your own Bible.

James 4:1

1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

Now, James is addressing a problem here of violence, really. Violence in the home, violence in the community, violence in the nation and violence internationally regarding wars and rumors of wars, brush fire war, so to speak, and so on. And he’s saying, “Where does that all come from?” What causes wars? Why do people fight? Why do they enter into conflict? Why does it happen in marriage? Why does it happen among families? Why does it happen between neighbors and communities and cities and nations? Well, he addresses that question and he answers it.

Notice James 4:2.

2 You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not.

In other words, we want to work it all out our way. We want to build up more power than our enemy or adversary and then overwhelm him and get what he has, or win the argument, win the conflict—whether it be between two individuals or between people at work or between nations or between alliances of nations. It all gets down to what James is talking about here.

We, human beings, want what we want when we want it and we want it now. And if you have something that somebody else wants, not everybody is this way but all too often, he’s going to get that from you one way or the other. And if he has to go to war to do it, so be it. Isn’t that the way it is on the international scene? Look at what causes conflict among nations. You have border disputes and you have people who want the riches of their neighbor in a country that may have more resources than they have. So they’re going to go get that. Or it could be over religion. Or it could be over historical hatred that never gets solved and so war erupts over and over again. Just look at the hot spots on the face of the earth today and you will find that the heart and core of all of these conflicts is the problem being addressed here by James in this book.

3 You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts.

Oh, you may have a benevolent–sounding cause to go to war. And sometimes one nation just simply overpowers the other and bullies them and invades them for no reason except they just desire what they have. But on other occasions, both nations are wrong and they’re each trying to outdo the other. And that can also happen between two people or families of people or neighbors. At the heart and core of it is pride and vanity and lust and self. There’s a scripture in the Bible that makes this plain.

Let’s go over here to Jeremiah 17:9 and just notice what God’s Word says right here.

Jeremiah 17:9

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

We all have human nature. We all have fleshly desires. We all have pride, and we all want to be better than the other fellow. We all want to look after number one and take care of self, and so God’s Word succinctly describes that here.

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Now, there are people who work on changing that and they become less deceitful and less wicked. And with God’s help, finally, they overcome deception and wickedness altogether. And they begin to live life the way it should have been lived all along, by following God’s Word and keeping God’s law and reflecting Jesus Christ. And those who change and overcome and grow and develop that holy righteous Godly character should be admired and respected. But all too many people never get around to doing that. And to one degree or the other they’re just simply driven by their human nature and by their own personal desires—some far worse than others, but everybody to one degree or the other. Now, multiply that into the nation that they live in and you have the root cause of war, of conflict, of invasions and destruction and counterattacks and all such things that go along with war. And even when we desire things and even ask for things, quite often we don’t get what we want because God knows we would misuse it and it would be all about us, instead of about Him and about others.

Notice James 4:4.

4 You adulterers and adulteresses, —

Now, if this doesn’t apply to you, fine, James isn’t talking to you. But if it does apply, then we need to listen and notice. It’s not just men that commit adultery, women commit adultery as well. And it’s a heinous crime and it breaks the seventh commandment. And it breaks up families and it breaks up marriages. It can be repented of and overcome and forgiven. But it can also carry with it scars and pain and suffering for the rest of the individual’s life that commits this kind of sin. It says here:

4 You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world —

Or with the world

4 — is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Now, we’re to let our light shine so that others can see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. And we’re to set an example for any and everybody whether they be in the church or in the world or in whatever walk of life. But this world is not God’s world today. This society is not the society that Jesus Christ is leading and directing. Mankind has cut himself off from God and he’s going his own way. And so the values and standards and modus operandi and way of doing things, including business or pleasure or anything else that you see in this world, is not God’s way.

And what he’s saying here is: Don’t go the way of the world. Don’t go the way of the ethics and standards and values of the world—all of which are wrong and selfish and based on pride and greed and acquisition of things. Rather go the way that you find in the Bible, which is God’s way—following God’s law, and coming out of this world and coming out of the paganism and the secularism and the godlessness that you find in societies all over the face of this earth. And that’s what James is saying. Don’t be like the world. Give them the proper example so they will want to be like you. That is a practicing true Christian.

5 Do you think that the scripture says in vain, The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy?

In other words, it’s just that human nature that we read about already in Jeremiah 17:9. And that’s what we have to define and then overcome and get rid of, and replace it with God’s nature through the power of His Holy Spirit. So that instead of trying to get everything that we want by whatever means it takes to get it, we want to be filled with an attitude of giving and serving and helping and caring for others.

Now this attitude of violence and of lusting and of fighting and or warring and misusing and abusing what otherwise could be blessings started right from the beginning in the Garden of Eden. And you read on a few verses there in Genesis and you’ll see that Cain killed his brother, Abel. Right away, this attitude of violence and of warring and of lusting and of envy entered the human race and began to grow on the face of this earth.

And notice what it was like by the time of Noah’s day and the flood. Just turn to Genesis chapter 6 and see where men went from the Garden of Eden, straight down into the cesspool of the kind of society that we have around us today.

Genesis 6:11

11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.

Isn’t that what we see around us today? Doesn’t corruption and violence reign supreme? This kind of society that we’re reading about here thousands of years ago continues right down to our day and our time.

11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.

12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.

Now, you know some good people and I know some good people. And there are people who are trying to do the right thing and trying to live life in the right way. But as a whole, the societies and the nations around the world that are in our day and time are aptly described right here in Noah’s day and time just prior to the flood. Filled with corruption and violence and wars and crime and murders. And all of this kind of conduct is depicted on television all the time.

Do you know of any television shows or movies that you can go to or watch today where violence will not surface sooner or later? Sometimes it’s just nothing but depicting violence from start to finish. Other times it will go along okay and then all of a sudden there’ll be somebody getting beat up or shot or stabbed or run over or thrown over a cliff or something.

The same is true in sports today. Some sports do not involve violence, but all too many do. It’s everywhere. It’s all through our society today, corruption and violence. And that’s what James is talking about here. And it applies to many walks of life. And it’s all about the self, pride, vanity, lust, coveting and getting while the getting is good, and looking after number one—which is opposite to what Jesus Christ said a Christian ought to be like.

Now, let’s notice back here in James 4:6. Continuing.

6 But he gives more grace. Wherefore he says, God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble.

How many humble people do you know today? How many people do you know of that talk about humility and that put humility high on the list of something to seek for. Now, when he talks about humility here, he’s not talking about somebody who is broken down and afraid to be full of life and energy and drive and enthusiasm and accomplishment. He’s not talking about someone who is discouraged and downtrodden. No, that’s not what God wants and that’s not what God means when He says he gives grace unto the humble.

A humble person knows their place and knows God’s place and keeps the two clearly in mind. They don’t try to push themselves on other people. They don’t walk around bragging about themselves and trying to have their way and trying to bully others out of the way. But they work hard, they love life, they’re full of joy and happiness and achievement. But you won’t see them in fights, you won’t see them in wars, you won’t see them trying to impose their will on others. They just take care of their responsibilities and try to help others where they can.

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Well, there’s a lot of people don’t even believe there is such a thing as the devil. And other people who do believe there’s a devil don’t really have a true understanding of what he’s like. But we need to be aware of the fact that yes, Satan does exists and he is influencing this world. And he will try to influence your life. But he doesn’t have to. What we need to do in that regard is simply resist the pulls of this world and resist the influence of Satan the devil. And if we do that, he will flee and leave us alone. You don’t have to be afraid of him. You don’t have to be walking around uptight that he’s going to do something bad to you. You just have to be aware of him and his way and don’t buy into it. What is his way? Well, it’s all about getting and violence and corruption and breaking laws and cutting corners in order to get what you want or who you want and do what you want to do. That’s Satan’s way. Well, as we resist pulls to do that, we’re going to be resisting him and he will flee from us. And then this is what we all need to do, especially if we’re trying to live by the Bible and be Christians and set examples for our family and for our friends and other people.

8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. —

If you put God first in your life and you take a good part of your day and devote it to worshipping God in prayer and to reading His Word and then putting into practice what you prayed about and what you read about, you’re going to be drawing close to God. And He’s going to draw close to you. And instead of walking in the ways of this world, you’re going to be walking in the ways of almighty God. And He will guide and direct and bless you. And things will go well for you because God then will protect you and guide you and provide for you, as you do your part.

8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.

9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

Now, that doesn’t mean do that as a way of life. That means do that if you recognize that you need to change and you need to go God’s way instead of the ways of this world and of the flesh and of Satan. You may have to, in a very sober, sincere, and even emotional way, repent and make a turn and go the right way and overcome the pull toward the wrong way.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Eternal, and he shall lift you up.

Humility is something that is the opposite to pride and vanity. Meekness and humility is not natural. It’s natural to a human being to be full of arrogance and pride and vanity and ego, and to compete and get the best of the next fellow, or to try to make your company better than the other company and so on. But God’s way is to humble yourselves, do whatever you do with all of your might, take care of your own business (and God will bless you) and hope the other fellow prospers as well. You defer to other people. You let them do some of the talking. You don’t do all the talking. You learn from them. You don’t just lecture them. And this matter of humility makes all the difference in a marriage, in a family, with your neighbors, with your fellow workers, and it especially makes all the difference in your relationship with almighty God.

I want to read James 4:10, it’s so important.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Eternal, —

Now, you don’t try to do it in the sight of people. If you do it in the sight of people, it’s not real humility. It’s just vanity. It’s false humility. But here’s how we do it.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Eternal, and he shall lift you up.

Bow down on your knees in private and pray to almighty God. Pull out your Bible and even study it on your knees sometimes. Submit and surrender to Him. Develop the attitude of “not my will but your will be done. I don’t want to go my way; I want to go your way. I don’t want to do it my way; I want to do it your way. Help me to do it your way.” That’s when things really open up and the abundant life begins to be the way of life you and yours will live.

11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law: but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge.

See, the law has to do with loving God with all your heart, mind and soul, and loving your neighbor as yourself. Those are the two great commandments that the Ten Commandments hang on. They summarize the Ten Commandments.

Well, if we are judging and condemning and criticizing and accusing other people, we’re not loving them. And we become a judge of the law as well as the judge of them. We’re going to decide what’s right and wrong, not the law. And we’re going to decide if they’re right and wrong, not God making that decision—because He’s their judge not us.

I want to turn to a scripture that quotes Jesus Christ as He addresses this very problem. Let’s turn to Matthew 7:1. Look at what Jesus Christ said about this matter of judging or condemning others. He said:

1 Judge not, that you be not judged.

See, if you point a finger at other people and start accusing them and judging them, making fun of them, undercutting them, stabbing them in the back, gossiping about them, criticizing them, that’s all going to come back on you. It’s all going to come back.

1 Judge not, that you be not judged.

2 For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in your brother’s eye, —

A little speck.

3 — but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?

A big plank. In other words, you see something that you think your brother is doing wrong or your friend is doing wrong or your neighbor or your spouse is doing wrong or your boss is doing wrong, and you make a big, huge issue out of it. When in fact, in your own life, there’s so many things you’re doing wrong that overshadow any small, little mistake you may think you see in somebody else that you don’t see that in yourself. That’s what He’s saying here.

3 — why beholdest thou the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?

4 Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the mote out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye?

“Let me show you how you can overcome this problem you have,” when in fact, you’ve got several problems that are even much bigger than the one you’re trying to tell him to overcome.

Here’s what Jesus Christ says:

Matthew 7:5

5 You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye.

In other words, you mind your own business and you work on your own problems. And when you get a handle on them, you might be able to see much more clearly the problem that the other person has. And I’ll tell you something else. Most of the time you’ll find out it’s not even a problem at all. The problem was you, not them. That’s what you’ll find. Now, it takes courage to do this. But that’s what Jesus Christ tells us to do.

Let’s go on back now to James chapter 4 and pick it up in verse 12.

James 4:12

12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who are you that judges another?

Remember what He said in verse 11? If you judge the law, then are you not a doer of the law, but a judge, and you become a law unto yourself. But what He wants us to do is obey His law, His Ten Commandments, both in the spirit and the letter because that’s love.

Love is the fulfilling of God’s law. That then means that we love God with all of our heart and we love our neighbor as ourselves. And that’s when peace comes and not war. And that’s when happiness comes and not sadness. And that’s when serving others comes, not violence and injury and even murder and crime and death. All of those break the law. But when we obey the law, that replaces all of that horrible ugliness with pleasantness and joy and peace. And then we’re not going to be judging other people. We’re going to be caring for other people and making sure that we’re doing what we ought to do that’s right in God’s eyes. Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have righteous judgment. Yes, we should. We should be able to tell the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, of course.

Righteous judgment is based on God’s Word. And we don’t call evil good and good evil. But what this is talking about here is having a judgmental attitude toward other people, which leads to condemning them. And it’s accusing them and picking on them and criticizing them and finding fault with them. Instead of taking a look at the self and overcoming what we see that’s wrong in us. That’s what James is talking about here in these verses that we’ve been going through. And, once again, he’s talking about the law, the law of God, the law of love, the Ten Commandments.

12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: —

You better worship Him, you better obey Him. You better heed what He says. You better draw close to Him. You better do what He wants you to do and enjoy the blessings, rather than opposing Him, disobeying Him, rebelling against Him, and then falling into disfavor with Him and experiencing the penalties and the punishments and the pain that come from disobeying God and thumbing our nose at Him and walking away from His law. He’s able to save; He’s also able to destroy. Who are we to be judging another? He’s their judge, not us.

Now, let’s notice verse 13.

13 Go to now, you that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

14 Whereas you know not what shall be on tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.

You know, we leave God out of the picture and we just assume, “Oh, we’ll do whatever we want to today and we’ll go wherever we want to go and be whatever we want to be.” Well, what about God? Does He have a say in the matter? Yes, He does. He’s in charge. And our lives hang by a thin thread. But, you know, we just can’t imagine anything bad would happen to us. It always happens to other people somewhere else, but it would never happen to us. When, in fact, it could happen to us at anytime.

So therefore, we had better realize the fragility of our life and be getting it in line with what God says. And we had better be putting God first and making sure that we’re walking with Him. Because life is like a vapor and it can be here today and gone tomorrow. You can’t just keep putting off your relationship with your Creator, and somewhere down the road when you’ve done what you wanted to do, you’d come around to doing what He wants you to do. No, we have to do what He wants us to do on a day by day basis and do it now because there may not be a tomorrow.

So let’s make the most of today. That’s what James is telling us. We have to make the choice. Nobody will make that choice for us, not even God. We have to make that choice. So what choice are we going to make? That’s what God is watching and waiting to see.

15 For that you ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Now, that doesn’t mean every time we say something, we say, “God willing” or “if the Lord will.” It has to do with an approach to life. And we don’t just arrogantly assume that we’re going to be able to live for years to come and just do whatever we want to do. But our approach to life is, on a day by day basis, we want to obey God and please Him, and we plan to do this and that and the other thing, God willing. It’s an attitude and an approach.

Let’s notice verse 16.

16 But now you rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

Isn’t it amazing how many people just go around bragging and boasting and spouting off how great they are and how beautiful they are and how strong they are and how they can beat this person and that and win over here and outdo that person over there. And they think that just makes them something that is really special. And you see it in so many different facets of our society today. Well, it’s the opposite to what God says we ought to be like. Rather we ought to be clothed in humility. And we ought not be bragging and strutting and full of arrogance. But we ought to be caring for other people and setting the example. And as we have fun, we don’t try to crush somebody else or put somebody else down. We consider them and we respect them all the while we’re having fun. And they can have fun right along with us. And they can have the joy and the enjoyment of living life properly the same way we do.

Notice the last verse in this chapter, verse 17. God inspired James to write this.

17 Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.

So, you know, there are people who brag about knowing what they ought to do and they know what God’s Word says. But they never get around to doing what they ought to do. And they never get around to obeying what God says. Did you know knowing the truth is not enough? We have to obey the truth. Did you know going to church is not enough? We have to do what God says in His church. It’s not just the hearers. That’s not enough. We have to be the doers as well. That’s what it says here.

17 Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.

A lot of times we know what we’re supposed to do, but we override that. And we neutralize that and just go and do what we want to do. And if we do that enough, what will start to happen is, we will sear our conscience. And we will no longer have a tender conscience that is very responsive to right and wrong. Rather we will blur the lines between right and wrong because we’ve overridden what we know we ought to do with what we want to do. And that’s when we’re putting ourselves in mortal danger. I hope we will not allow that to happen. But, rather, I hope we will be alert. And I hope we’ll be tuned into God’s Word and responsive to what He wants us to do. And then we will always be aware of doing the right thing with God’s help instead of the wrong thing with the pull of Satan and this world and our human nature.

Until next time, this is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.

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