James 4

Chapter 4

 We begin this chapter with James now directing his thoughts to looking at the root of our conflicts with one another.  He says,”What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you?”.  Then he proceeds to answer it with another question, “Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?”
Could he be referring to the conflict within ourselves? We have warring passions within, don’t we? The longing for security, wealth, material possessions, relationships, etc. all battle within us for control.

The Real War is not with people. It is an internal war to lead us away from Christ being Supreme within us.

A. Desires will consume us  – 4:1-3

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.

God Bless.


  1. Reply
    Paul Appleby says:

    This letter addresses the stuff of life. Many of my problems in relationships can be caused by forgetting my identity and the identity of others. Because Christ reconciled us all to the Father, we now find our identity through Christ as children of God. We have been made new and complete in Him, whether we know it or believe it. Though we may not look complete, we need to see ourselves and others as unique and that, being in Christ, we, right now, are the people we’ve been waiting for. My loving Father has saved me not judged me. I can, therefore, be a carrier of that saving grace to others. What humble boldness I have when I know who I am in Christ! Praise be to His precious Name!

  2. Reply
    Jim says:

    James chapt. 4.
    Thought I would share a few comments,reflections that come to mind as I read about this chapter. The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously…for you and I…that Christ be formed in us.(like the godly jealousy spoken of in 2 Cor.11:2…”For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”) We ought to have that same mindset of Christ…who humbled himself, even unto death…for us. So likewise then, we being humble, live in His grace. (Gal.2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”)
    Again, the war within…is one of desire…and is a heart issue. Is it our desire to intimiately have His desire in us. If we would walk according to His desire in us (knowing Him is eternal life…knowing what He intimately desires in our relationshiip with Him..walkiing according to His will, His purpose, His desire, treasuring Him), we can have what we ask because we ask according to His will, not our own. Let us not walk as an adulterous people…leaving our first love, as we are the bride of and married to Christ. We just can’t live in two worlds at the same time, so let’s get real with God (no turning back) for we have been born again, born from above, and are now aliens in this world. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let the new real you be clothed with Christ, and so your life is hid in Him. Let us submit ourselves to God in humility and draw near. Let’s pay attention to the matter of living a clean life (you are made clean through the Word) and walk with singleness of a pure heart and mind. Cast all your care upon Him for He careth for you. He will hold you close to Himself. Yes…we have a choice. Don’t choose to be a friend of the world and become an enemy of God! (1 Peter 5:6-8 tells us to “therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”)
    Yikes…let us stay the course set before us and run the race! Don’t let the devil trap you by the world and what it has to offer.
    Who are we to judge another man’s servant. We all serve God, Who gave the Law and is Judge. We did not create the Law, The law is good. The Lawgiver is good. When we broke the law, It was the law that was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. If it wasn’t for God who is good and loved us, we would have been destroyed for sin brings death. God saved us through His Son who kept the law, that through His death, God saved.us. We have been saved by One man’s obediance to the law…Jesus, God’s Son. I am not God, Who is the Lawgiver, and so I will not be a judge of the law. (you know, our relationship is with God, not the world…we do not judge those that belong to God, but are to edify and build them up….while we were enemies, and separated from God, God loved us and died for us. Jesus did not come to condem the world…but to save the world through Him) I am not to judge you, We, however, will all appear before the judgement seat of Christ. In 2Cor 5:9-11 we read : “therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;…”
    We are like a mist that appears and is gone. We ought to be good stewards of the time God has given us. How we live the short time we have has implications for how we shall live for all eternity.

  3. Reply
    Jim says:

    James chapt.5 Thought I would share with you some of my thoughts on this chapter…

    Are you rich? Oh…oh….check it out….maybe it’s misery for you! or I…. Looking at “filthy rags” to wear? [ Isaiah 64:6…All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.]
    We are not to put on corruption but incorruption [1 Cor 15:42…The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body ] …and as Matthew 6:19,20 says…”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” We are …to be rich toward God. Why are we caught up in earthly wealth…we can’t take it with us… It is God who owns all. You are God’s servant! How do you treat others that serve you? Do you just take and not give…accumulate and not share? Do you eat and are fat, while others die starving? They were not opposing you! In Rev. 3:14…”To the angel of the church in Laeodicea. I know your deeds….so because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say “I am rich: I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy … so you can see” Being selfishly rich can bring upon your life a blinding deception! Jesus is the Light of the World, so walk as children of the Light! We ought not to sit on the fence (being lukewarm, that is) BUT ARE TO KNOW AND DO WHAT OUR MASTER REQUIRES OF US…TO BE A LIGHT THAT SHINES IN THIS DARK WORLD. THE LORD IS COMING AND HE WAITS PATIENTLY FOR HIS VALUABLE CROP…A HARVEST. We are laborers in His (God’s) field and are to patiently perservere with compassion and mercy (like our Master) and be praying for one another. Jesus is coming again. What have we done with what He has given us? Present the gospel of Truth that will bring salvation to many, making clean (blotting out many sins) those who would receive its message, the Living Word, Jesus. Remember, Jesus said “”Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Do not ignor this Great Commission.
    We are all called to minister, to build up His church…being fellow workers with God. [ 1 Cor.3: 9-11… For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. ] When our Master ( Jesus) comes back He will judge our work….what we have done with what He has given us…[1 Cor.15:14… “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. ..(read the story).] How we spend eternity depends on how we run the race here….so run to win!
    In retrospec…this book brings me face to face with hidden deceptive, adjenda and issues of my heart. When all is said and done…the scripture that most stands out from the study of James for me is this: “from James 4:4 (see also 1 John 2:15-17) “…Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” This blunt reality magnifies God’s call to surrender ALL….soul, spirit, and body as a living sacrifiece. You have been born again (born from above). Jesus said…You are not of this world even as I am not of the world”. You belong to Him. You are not your own. You have been bought with a heavy price. We should take to heart that which was written of Moses in Heb.11:-24-28. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them… ”

    Remember also, Jesus is our Passover! If it was not for Jesus, we would have died in our sins. But He became the Passover lamb for us. His heartbeat is now your heartbeat. Outside of Him is no life. Love and praise to God, our Father for Jesus, His only begotten Son, the very Son of the Living God!

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