James 4

Worldly and fleshly lusts are the distemper which will not allow contentment or satisfaction in the mind, and rise up to the exclusion of prayer and the working of our affections toward God. Let the Christian be free from the friendship of the world, and be submitted to God, thus shutting and bolting the door against the devil.

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

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

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

4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

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

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

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

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

11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

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

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

17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

James 4:1-10 – ​“Draw Nigh to God”

   The Apostle returns to the “bitter envying and strife” of the previous chapter (James 3:14) and says that these evils are traceable to lust, that is, to inordinate desire. The restless inward war is the prolific parent of failure in speech and act. If we would pray more and better, we should soon find the inner fires dying down.
   In James 4:5, we learn that God has placed His Spirit within us, and that He yearns for complete control over our hearts. He can best overcome inordinate desire and teach us how to pray. God wants more of us. His love is insatiable in its yearning for every room and cupboard of our inner life, and He is ever wishful to give more grace.
   There are four conditions which we must fulfill, if God is to have full possession:
       1. We must be subject to the will of God, James 4:7; 
       2. We must draw nigh to God, James 4:8; 
       3. We must cleanse our hands and purify our hearts, James 4:8; 
       4. We must humble ourselves in His sight, James 4:10.
Then God will fill the soul, the sluice gates of which are open to Him. —Through the Bible Day by Day

James 4:4 – ​It is like the ivy with the oak. The ivy may give the oak a grand, beautiful appearance, but all the while it is feeding on its vitals. Are we compromising with the enemies of God? Are we being embraced by the world, by its honors, its pleasures, its applause? This may add to us in the world’s estimation, but our strength becomes lost. (Denham Smith)

James 4:5—The Spirit that dwellers in us lusteth to envy?

​   A very deep and remarkable verse! The apostle is contending against the worldliness which was so rife among the believers he was addressing. They were set on pleasure; they sought the friendship of the world, and became unfaithful to their divine Lover; they were proud and high-minded. He went so far as to speak of them as adulterers and adulteresses; and then adopting a gentler, pleading tone, he says, “You are grieving the gentle Holy Spirit who has come to dwell within you, who yearns with a jealous envy to possess your entire nature for Himself.”
   The Spirit of God dwells within thee, O believer in Jesus Christ. If a man have not the Spirit of God, he is none of his; and since thou art undoubtedly one of us, thou hast most certainly the Holy Spirit. But the mistake of thy life consists in this, that He hath not thee. Some part of thy heart is given, but not all; and this causes Him the most intense pain, resembling that which we suffer from jealousy.
   No keener pain is possible to the heart of man than to have good reason for the belief that a loved one is not wholly true; that there has been an alienation of affection which was once whole and entire; that another is receiving a part at least of the heart’s devotion. The fire and screw are light in comparison with our anguish then; but, this is what the Spirit of God suffers when we share between Him and the world that love which should be all his own. “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9), is as true as when first spoken from Sinai. The person of Jesus Christ must be the Sun of our system, though that system may include many planets beside. —Our Daily Homily

​James 4:6 – Many a poor man makes a bright Christian; God keeps him humble that He may dwell in his heart, and that the beams of His grace may shine in his heart. See yon evening star, how bright it shines, how pure and steady are its rays; but look, it is lower in the heavens than those stars which sparkle with a restless twinkling in the higher region of the skies. God keep you low, that you may shine bright. (Salter)

James 4:8 – ​How foolish are we if we attempt to entertain two guests so hostile to one another as Christ Jesus and Satan! Rest assured, Christ will not live in the parlor of our hearts if we entertain Satan in the cellar of our thoughts. (Spurgeon)

James 4:11-17 – ​“If the Lord Will”

   When we speak evil of another, we usurp the functions of the only lawgiver and judge. If that other is endeavoring to model his life by the law, to speak evil of him is to question not his action alone, but the law he is trying to observe. Let us turn the light in upon ourselves and be merciless in self-criticism, while merciful to all others. When you see another doing wrong, always ask yourself whether the same evil is not hiding in your own character. Do not speak of men, but to them, when their faults confront you.
   We are prone to make plans without reference to God’s will. Life is so transient and brief that if we are to make the most of it, we should ask the divine Spirit to choose for and guide us. Our one endeavor must be to discover God’s will and do it. If we are not constantly saying, “If the Lord will,” the sentiment it expresses should always be uppermost with us. “Thy will be done” in me as in heaven! —Through the Bible Day by Day

James 4:14 – ​“Tomorrow” is the devil’s great ally—the very Goliath in whom he trusts for victory. “Now” is the stripling sent forth against him. The world will freely agree to be Christians tomorrow, if Christ will permit them to be worldly today. (Arnot)

James 4:17 – ​Thousands of men pass off the stage of life, and are heard of no more. Why? they do not partake of good in the world, and none were blessed by them; none could point to them as the means of their redemption; not a line they wrote, not a word they spake, could be recalled; and so they perished: their light went out in darkness, and they were not remembered more than insects of yesterday. Will you thus live and die, O man immortal? Live for something. Do good, and leave behind you a monument of virtue that the storm of time can never destroy. Write your name in kindness, love, and mercy, on the hearts of thousands you come in contact with year by year: you will never be forgotten. No! your name, your deeds, will he as legible on the hearts you leave behind you as the stars on the brow of evening. Good deeds will shine as the stars of heaven. (Chalmers)