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Is not worldliness
Where do the wars and disputes among you come from? Is it not precisely from your pleasures, the ones at war in your members? You crave and do not have; you murder* and covet and are not able to obtain; you fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may lavish it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? So whoever may want to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that the Scripture says in vain that the Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?§ But He gives greater grace; therefore He says:
“God resists proud ones,
but gives grace to humble ones.”*
Is submitting to God
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Sinners, cleanse your hands! Double-minded, purify your hearts!§ Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into dejection.* 10 Humble yourself before the Lord and He will exalt you.
Does not judge the different brother
11 Brothers, do not speak evil of one another. Because the one speaking against a brother and judging his brother speaks against a law and judges a law. So if you judge a law you are not a law-doer but a judge. 12 The Lawgiver and Judge is One, the one who is able to save and to destroy. So who are you (sg) to be judging someone who is different?§
Does not boast about tomorrow
13 Come now, you who say, “Today and tomorrow let us travel to that certain city, spend a year there, do business and make a profit;” 14 whereas you do not know anything about the morrow. For what is our life?* It is even a vapor that appears for a little time but then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogant pretensions. All such boasting is malignant. 17 Therefore, to the one knowing to do good and not doing it, to him it is sin.
* 4:2 Remember 1 John 3:15, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.” The fighting and warring is not done with guns or knives, but is real none the less. Our churches are full of people who have been wounded by other Christians. 4:4 Some 2% of the Greek manuscripts, of objectively inferior quality, omit ‘adulterers and’ (as in NIV, TEV, LB, NASB, etc.). (This is an easy case of ‘like-beginning’.) 4:4 This is all exceedingly serious—if you make God your enemy, what are your chances? 1 John 2:15-17 is to the same effect. To love the things of the world (especially its values) is to adulterate against God. § 4:5 This appears to be the only reference to the Holy Spirit in the letter. We do not have an exact match with any OT verse, but there are various references to God being jealous of His people. * 4:6 See Proverbs 3:34. 4:7 This is a command, not an optional point. “Submit to God” is also a command, and comes first. To resist Satan in our own strength is to be defeated. To wield God's power against the enemy we must be in submission to God. I take it that the main way to resist is with words—commanding Satan to stop doing some particular thing; we must be specific. 4:8 Note that we have to take the first step, although apart from God's grace few of us will. § 4:8 Notice that these are commands, which means that they are things that we can and must do. We have the Holy Spirit to help us, but we must take the initiative. * 4:9 Dear me, we are not used to exhortations like this! I would rather hear, “Rejoice in the Lord always…” So what does James want? Well, all along his letter has been an exercise in ‘tough love’; we have seen “filthiness and overflow of evil”, “malignant thoughts”, “foolish fellow”, “uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison”, “bitter envy and selfish ambition”, “unruliness and every foul practice”, “adulterers and adulteresses”, “enemy of God”—all in all, not a pretty picture. I take it that James is saying that we have a long way to go in our spiritual growth. There is no room for spiritual pride or self-contentedness, or a conquering hero complex; if we really want to walk with God we need to fall on our faces before Him, put our mouth in the dust—in short, try to see our sin as He sees it. 4:10 If we exalt ourselves, God knocks us down; if we humble ourselves, He lifts us up—I imagine that just how far up He lifts us depends on a variety of factors. 4:12 Some 62% of the Greek manuscripts, including the best line of transmission, read “Lawgiver and Judge”. The Textus Receptus (and all published ‘Majority Texts’) follows the 38% in omitting “and Judge” (as in AV, NKJV, etc.). § 4:12 I was surprised to find the Greek ετερος here, which usually refers to a different kind. I personally do not enjoy dealing with ‘brothers’ who are too different; I would rather question whether they are really ‘brothers’ at all! But James tells me not to do that. Each person is different (background, experiences, personality, training) and we must recognize that God can and will deal differently with different people. He uses one ‘law’ with me, another ‘law’ with you, and so on. A law is a set of rules or demands, so when I judge a brother I am questioning the way (‘law’) that God is working on him. As He is both Lawgiver and Judge, I will have to answer to Him for how I judged my ‘brothers’. (For ‘different one’ the eclectic text currently in vogue has ‘neighbor’, following some 12% of the Greek manuscripts [as in NIV, TEV, LB, NASB, etc.].) * 4:14 I follow some 26% of the Greek manuscripts, including the best line of transmission, in reading “our” rather than ‘your’. I take it that the question is properly inclusive; James includes everyone. 4:16 It is aggressively evil. 4:17 The sin here is of omission, perhaps harder to recognize than sins of commission.