Our English Bibles place an unfortunate chapter break in this week’s text. In our Bibles, it is the start of James Chapter 4, but keep in mind that the original letter written by James had no chapter or verse identifies. It was one continuous line of thought.
This helps us as we enter into James 4 to see the context of what James is driving at in James 4. He started this line of though back in James 3 with his discussion concerning the destructive nature of the tongue. He identifies “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” as the source of the destructive power unleashed by the tongue. Throughout, he is contrasting the fruit of a false faith that is rooted in worldly wisdom verses godly faith rooted in true salvation.
With James 4, he continues this discussion, only the target of his pen in this week’s text is the outward quarrels and fights that come from the sinful, lustful desires that war within us. James does not mince his words. He calls Christians who continue to nurture selfish desires guilty of spiritual adultery.
Just as the divisive tongue was a clear sign of a worldly focus, so the existence of interpersonal conflict is a sign of a worldly focus. Why is this?
James argues that true faith produces a humble spirit, but worldly, non-saving faith results in arrogance and pride. Arrogance and pride cause us to drive for what is best for us, to seek out only those things that benefit us. Conflict is the result of two or more people seeking only to serve themselves. James says this should not be! This kind of self-serving arrogance is symptomatic of the world, and by embracing this kind of worldly belief system, this places us in direct opposition to God.
Simply put, to be friends with the world is to be enemies with God. There is no middle ground.
We end this week’s discussion with a strong assurance from James–“But He (God) gives greater grace.” Augustine said it well– “God gives what He demands.”
This is why, again, James forces us to examine our faith and the fruit of our faith. Real, saving faith, will not be comfortable with pride or arrogance. Real, saving faith, will not pursue self-serving desires. Real, saving faith produces humility and the kind of peace that only comes when one’s heart and soul is devoted to pleasing God. In order to get there requires a lot of God’s amazing grace.
Join me in praying this week that God will pour out His amazing grace on each of us as we continue to humbly submit ourselves to His Spirit’s teaching, leading, molding, and shaping.–Chris Eller
This Week’s Core Virtue
Peace (Philippians 4:6-7): I am free from anxiety because things are right between God, myself and others.
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