James 4:1-10 … A person could profitably spend a good bit more time than we’re able (at present) contemplating the wonderful observations and admonitions that come to us in the book of James. Sometimes (as in James 3:2-12) a number of verses will thoroughly expound an important topic. Other times (as in James 4:1-10) we’ll have multiple subjects to consider. This is a challenging portion of Scripture, so let’s take it in pieces as an aid in getting the message(s).
First, James will address hedonism (4:1-2), the objective pursuit of pleasure, which is a source of conflict within you and with others. Hedonism contributes to envy, arguments, unwholesome lust, hatred and dislike of some people (I don’t think he’s talking about homicide – but killing in the sense that Jesus used it in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:22). All these things speak to motives, which come from within.
The next topic concerns prayer (later, James will have more to say on prayer – James 5:13-18). Here, perhaps again referring to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7), James will point out that we miss out many times because we don’t ask God, and many more times when we ask with wrong (perhaps selfish) motives. James 4:4 will address adulterers, most likely in the sense of faithlessness toward God; that is, turning your affection and devotion from God toward worldly things. James 4:5 expands that thought.
Next, we’re reminded that God gives greater grace, not to the proud, but to the humble of heart (4:6), who are encouraged to submit to God. Perhaps included in the thought of humility (which will continue through 4:10) is an important concept. You’ll see it in James 4:7b … “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Some may think that if the devil is after you, you’re “toast.” But the Scripture says otherwise; here certainly, but also in Genesis 4:7 (Satan can be mastered), and also in 1 Corinthians 10:14, which says, “you can always run away from satanic influences” (my paraphrase). Returning to humility and humbling ourselves before God, none of us might think about being moved to tears over our own sinfulness, but that kind of stark acknowledgment of our condition is healthy. We bring no good thing to our salvation; we’re totally dependent on His righteousness!
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