The Real War is not with people. It is an internal war to lead us away from Christ being Supreme within us.
B. Opportunity for Spiritual Adultery
C. Friendship with the world means being enemies of God – Verse 5
Our desire for both intimacy and independence from others can cause us to send mixed messages because we are mixed ourselves as to what exactly we want from our relationships. This internal conflict enables our insecurity and so lead us to take more extreme measures in our relationships with others. We have much conflict within ourselves and we often have a head on collision with the passions of others when we interact.
Often our passions or desires lead us to believe we need to possess, or control in order to have peace. But these lead instead to destruction and discontentment. “You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war.”
Could our envy of others lead us to kill our relationship with them, to gossip about them to others in an effort to “kill” their reputation, or simply to “kill” our feelings towards them because we are so unhappy that they have it better than we do.
I find it so amazing that in the midst of a period of persecution and the church being at a point of thriving, these issues still come up. We often have a messed up concept of the early church and see it as a perfect church, but it was so far from that. It was a group of people who loved Jesus so much they were willing to die for him, but still struggled to work out the war they were in within their own lives. This offers us so much hope. It is not about being a perfect people, but about being a people who love Jesus and are letting him address our stuff. What hope.
Humility is the way of the Kingdom. To enter in one must go lower.
James goes on to tell us that the best way to deal with life in this fallen world is humbly before God. When we humble ourselves, we are not seeking a way to think poorly of ourselves. Rather humility is turning our eyes away from ourselves and on to God. True humility is a self-forgetfulness. We can only know ourselves truly as we know ourselves in Christ.
In humility we receive God’s presence, and can only truly love as we focus on Him and surrender our lives to Him. When we no longer are busy trying to exalt ourselves or getting others to exalt us but are willing to humble ourselves before God, James says in v. 10, then God “will exalt you.”
When we forget who we really are before God, we are tempted to be jealous and envious of others. We stop meditating on, receiving from God and focus on those around us. We compare our lives with theirs and burn with dissatisfaction that we don’t have all that they do. But in that process, we have turned from God.
Many times people run around addressing the devil and trying to get him off their backs. I find it so interesting that James places before us a strategy for opposing the enemy, but the thing that saddens me is that so often I only hear a part of this used. I have often heard people say, “resist the devil and he will flee”. This is not the whole truth. The Word says, Submit to God, Resist the devil, and he will flee. I believe the first step is key to the others. My submission to Christ is the power over the enemy’s assaults upon my life. If I live how I want to and am in disobedience do I really believe that I can walk in authority over my enemies? We might hope, but the truth is submission to Christ, is empowerment over our enemy and in that order too.
Words are powerful and judgement is left for Christ.
James also deals with speaking evil against one another and judging one another. He does not intend for us to see these two things–speaking evil and judging–as two totally separate practices. To speak evil against another is to judge them. The kind of judging James has in mind here is when we speak a “final” word about another’s character, behavior, or value. We want to put them down, maybe because they seem so much better off than we think we are and we are angry and upset. It makes us feel superior to someone else when we speak as if we know who he or she is and act like we know their “real” problem.
James points out how highly presumptuous this attitude is in his next sentence. “He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.” When we set ourselves up as “the expert” in speaking against another, James says we are actually claiming to be an expert on the very law of God and judging it. Rather than putting ourselves under God’s law along with everyone else, we put ourselves above the law and use it as we see fit to judge others. And once we do this, we are no longer in right relationship with the law or God. Our relationship to God’s law is to be people who obey it out of love, trust, and hope in the One who created us and teaches us how we are to live. But we are not trusting in God our Father when we set ourselves up to “know” exactly what is going on with another and so dismiss them with our word of judgment. The only One who truly sees all and knows all and can see into the heart of others is the Lawgiver, “he who is able to save and destroy.” Since we do not have ultimate power over life and death, we should be very careful when our words convey “the final word” about another.
We looked in the previous chapter on the power of our words, but it needs to be addressed once again. We often do not realize that the judgements we make against others with our mouths are empowered words. I remember a friend telling me one time that his dad use to tell his mother all his life that she was stupid. He watched a very bright woman begin to make decisions that her intelligence was far above because she actually began to believe the judgement that was being spoken over her life over and over again. We have been called to be releasers of life, not judgers of our brothers. This is a deep challenge for our hearts, but one to take very seriously. Imagine how beautiful the body of Christ will be with a group of empowered people who believe with Christ they really can do anything.
James has so much to say in this chapter. But I am left thinking very deeply about three specific things. 1. The War, 2. The road to Humility, 3. My Judgements of others.
May we be willing to take our hearts before the Lord with his Word and let him clean up anything in us that is in opposition to the nature of who he is and who he desires to be in us.