James - 4:1-17

The Rebuke of Worldliness

      1 Where do wars and fightings among you come from? Don't they come from your pleasures that war in your members? 2 You lust, and don't have. You kill, covet, and can't obtain. You fight and make war. You don't have, because you don't ask. 3 You ask, and don't receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures. 4 You adulterers and adulteresses, don't you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously"? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 7 Be subject therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11 Don't speak against one another, brothers. He who speaks against a brother and judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge. 12 Only one is the lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge another? 13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow let's go into this city, and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit." 14 Whereas you don't know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. 15 For you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will both live, and do this or that." 16 But now you glory in your boasting. All such boasting is evil. 17 To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn't do it, to him it is sin.

Chapter In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of James 4.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

In James 3:13-18 the apostle had contrasted the wisdom which is from above with that which is from beneath. The former is peaceable, pure, and gentle, leading to universal kindness and order; the latter earthly, sensual, and devilish. The points suggested in this chapter grow directly out of the remarks made there, and are designed to show the effect of the "wisdom which descendeth not from above," as evinced in the spirit of this world, and thus by contrast to show the value of true wisdom, or of the spirit of religion. Accordingly, the apostle illustrates the effects of the wisdom of this world, or the spirit of this world, by showing what it produces, or what they do who are under its influence. We are not to suppose that the persons to whom the apostle addressed this Epistle were actually guilty of the things here referred to themselves, but such things had an existence in the world, and it gave more life and spirit to the discussion to represent them as existing "among them." In illustrating the subject, he refers to the following things as resulting from the spirit that is opposite to the wisdom which is from above, namely:
(1) Wars and fightings, which are to be traced solely to the lusts of men, James 4:1-2;
(2) The neglect of prayer, showing the reason why they did not have the things which were necessary, James 4:2;
(3) The fact that when they prayed they did not obtain what they needed, because they prayed with improper motives, in order to have the means of gratifying their sensual desires, James 4:3;
(4) The desire of the friendship of the world as one of the fruits of being under the influence of the wisdom which is not from above, James 4:4;
(5) Envy, as another of these fruits, James 4:5.
In view of these things, and of the danger to which they were exposed of acting under their influence, the apostle proceeds to give them some solemn cautions and admonitions. He tells them that God resists all who are proud, but gives grace to all who are humble, James 4:6; he counsels them to submit to God, James 4:7, to resist the devil, James 4:7, to draw nigh to God, James 4:8, to cleanse their hands and their hearts, James 4:8, to be afflicted and mourn over their sins, and to become serious and devout, James 4:9, and to humble themselves before God that he might lift them up James 4:10; he commands them not to speak evil one of another, since by so doing they in fact set themselves up to be judges, and in the circumstances became judges of the law as well as of their brethren, James 4:11-12. He then rebukes the confident spirit which lays its plans for the future with no just view of the frailty and uncertainty of human life, and shows them that all their plans for the future should be formed with a distinct recognition of their dependence on God for success, and even for the continuance of life, James 4:13-16. The chapter closes with an affirmation that to him that knows how to do good and does it not, to him it is sin, James 4:17, implying that all he had said in the chapter might indeed be obvious, and that they would be ready to admit that these things were true, and that if they knew this, and did not do right, they must be regarded as guilty.

The origin of wars and contentions, and the wretched lot of those who are engaged in them, James 4:1, James 4:2. Why so little heavenly good is obtained, James 4:3. The friendship of the world is enmity with God, James 4:4, James 4:5. God resists the proud, James 4:6. Men should submit to God, and pray, James 4:7, James 4:8. Should humble themselves, James 4:9, James 4:10. And not speak evil of each other, James 4:11, James 4:12. The impiety of those who consult not the will of God, and depend not on his providence, James 4:13-15. The sin of him who knows the will of God, and does not do it, James 4:16, James 4:17.

In this chapter the apostle gives the true cause of contentions and strifes; and cautions against intemperance, covetousness, pride, detraction, and vain confidence. Having, in the latter part of the preceding chapter, inveighed against strife and contention, he here shows from whence they spring, from a covetous desire of riches and honour; and which yet are not obtained, because they did not ask these things of God with submission to his will; or they asked with a wrong view, namely, to gratify their lusts, James 4:1 and he dissuades from such unlawful desires, partly because they were no other than adultery; and partly because indulging them was declaring themselves enemies of God, James 4:4 and he deters from pride, under the name of envy, proud men being generally envious; from the sense of the Scripture, which says, not in vain, that the spirit lusts unto it; and from the consequence of it, such as are proud being resisted by the Lord, when he gives more grace to humble ones, James 4:5 hence follow several exhortations, and various duties relating to humility; as to submit to God, and resist the devil, encouraged thereunto by this motive, he will flee, James 4:7, to draw nigh to God in a way of religious worship, who will draw nigh in a way of grace to his people; to purity of action, and of heart, or to that which is outward and inward, James 4:8 to be humbled, mourn, and weep, instead of joy and laughter, James 4:9 to lie low before the Lord, who will raise such up, James 4:10 and not to speak evil of anyone, since this is judging a brother; nay, a speaking evil of the law, and a judging of that; which is to invade the prerogative of God, the lawgiver, who is able to save, and to destroy; and therefore one man should not take upon him to judge another, James 4:11 and as another instance of great neglect of God, and his providence, and disrespect unto it, the apostle takes notice of a common practice among men, and even professors of religion, who resolve to go to such a place, and continue so long, and there make merchandise, and promise themselves success; not considering what frail short lived creatures they are, and how much all depends upon the will of God; and which they should consider, submit to, and be determined by, James 4:13 and he reproves them for their boastings and joy in them, as evil, James 4:16, and observes, that it is not enough to know what is right and good, unless it is done; and that such knowledge is but an aggravation of the evil of sin committed, James 4:17.

(James 4:1-10) Here are cautions against corrupt affections, and love of this world, which is enmity to God.
(James 4:11-17) Exhortations to undertake no affairs of life, without constant regard to the will and providence of God.

SUMMARY.--Strifes from the War of Passions. Fornication with the World. Seeking the Grace of God. Humbling Ourselves Before the Lord. Evil Speaking of Brethren. The Uncertainties of this Life.

*More commentary available by clicking individual verses.

Discussion on James Chapter 4

User discussion about the chapter.

*By clicking Submit, you agree to our Privacy Policy & Terms of Use.