Lesson 23. The Source Of Worldliness (James 4:1-10)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Text: James 4:1-3 (NIV)

part 1

1. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

2. You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

3. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

INTRODUCTION

1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud

but shows favor to the humble. c

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

8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.

10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James 4:1-10

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?” James begins chapter 4 with this question, and from this point on to the end of verse 3, he answers that question.

When the Apostle Paul wrote his Epistle to the Philippians, he addressed many of the same issues, and he used Jesus Christ as his excellent example to simplify his teaching.

COMMENTARY

1. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

2. You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God

3. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

What was true for Jesus’ original disciples is no less true for the rest of the Church that Christ bought with His precious blood. In Philippians 2, Paul presses forward with his appeal for living worthy of the Gospel by encouraging his readers to interact humbly with one another. A unified mindset requires humility because humility is the essence of a Christlike disposition. The like-mindedness Paul commands all believers to have is low-mindedness. Paul describes this gospel-focused humility in Philippians 2:3-4 and illustrates it in verses 5-11 with the example of Jesus Christ. The Greek moralists despised humility because they regarded it as a humble subjection at odds with their freedom concept. It was Christ who made it a mark of the noblest character.

The Bible supplies an excellent example of a person who is motivated by “vain conceit.” After the Pharisees gave their money to God, a trumpet was blown in the temple to announce their contribution. Jesus declared, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:2). Again, this kind of pride is the manifestation of our flesh. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:26). If we do not want to be proud, we must “walk in the spirit.” “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). Humble people are never motivated by self-interest because their minds are set on advancing the Gospel, not on their agendas’ progress. Paul forbids these forms of pride in the strongest of terms. The only rivalry which is proper in Christians is that each seeks to outdo the other in valuing the other. One is not to be concerned about receiving honors or advantages for himself. He is to be worried that his brethren be honored and served.

We can often detect pride, especially in other people. A basketball player brags about how many points he scored. A musician smugly assumes her position as first chair. A politician runs a smear campaign against his opponent. A student laughs about how easy a particular class is. But what is humility? Is it merely avoiding “strife and vainglory”? As Paul continues his appeal, he alludes to these THREE POSITIVE ELEMENTS OF HUMILITY.

First, Paul describes “humility” in terms of WHAT WE VALUE. The antidote to selfishness and pride is placing the importance of others ahead of our own. Paul is not suggesting that we grow careless about our own physical or spiritual well-being. It is virtually impossible, not to mention personal hardship and sickness, not to have any concern for yourself. We need to prioritize our values by putting others ahead of ourselves. In other words, when humility is our attitude, we will regard our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as the standouts, not ourselves. We will sincerely celebrate the success of others instead of maneuvering so that they notice our own. We will praise God for what He is doing through others and not take credit for what He may be doing through us. We will honor the accomplishments of others instead of insisting that everyone is aware of our own. This is what Paul means by his phrase in Romans 12:10, “in honor preferring one another.”

Text: James 4:4-10 (NIV)

part 2

4You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?

6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

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

8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.

10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

4. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

When we hear, “You adulterous people!” we either respond, “Yeah, those adulterous, worldly people!” or “Not me, how dare you question my faith!” or “who cares if some book calls me an enemy of God.” All responses are wrong because they are rooted in religious/ factional self-righteousness, anger over our imperfections being exposed, or just plain worldly god-denying pride. We very seldom respond with grief over sin/rebellion or humility before God. In part, this is because we don’t have a good understanding of “the world” from a biblical standpoint, a clear concept of God as the Creator of the universe, and why James would use words like adultery, enmity, enemy, or jealousy.

If you grew up in church, you knew “the world” as “evil” cultural things/people, cable television, R-Rated movies, dancing, having non-Christian friends, and music that wasn’t played on Christian radio. You likely went to a youth retreat, heard about the “evils” of the world, and came home and burned up your CDs. Luckily for me, the only time I did, I had MC Hammer, Janet Jackson, Bobby Brown, and Roxette in my collection that should have been burned anyway. The “world” or “culture” was something to be feared and retreated from. Sinners were those people “in the world” to be avoided, rebuked, not engaged, loved, and redeemed. It’s just “us” and “them,” “friends” and “enemies.”

If you didn’t grow up as a Christian in the church, you likely approached culture and the world very differently, with little regard for seeing things as right or wrong, but more likely from a place of self-fulfillment and self-preferences so “does it work for me, do I like it, does it feel right, what’s in my best interests” becomes the framework for engaging with others and the world. Christians were probably those socially and culturally ignorant and intolerant people who did silly things like throwing away their CDs and calling people sinners while claiming that a God saved them you’re not even sure exists. Being ignorant of what their faith truly believes, you decided you tolerate the rest of the world but not them. So again, it’s “us” and “them,” “friends” and “enemies.”

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