James: A Slave of Christ Day Five: Chapter 4
Life is hard, and some of the circumstances we face can really get us down. All around us, we see people arguing, countries at war, broken marriages, disobedient children, and plenty of other difficult situations. But let’s be real here. We don’t have to look outside of ourselves to see quarrels and fighting and evil desires. We are well acquainted with our jealousy issues, and how we want what we want when we want it. Chapter 4 opens with some pretty harsh statements against our worldly passions—the desires we have for “things” and not for Christ. James calls us out on it all, and even refers to us as “adulterers.”
An adulterer is someone who is unfaithful, and when we indulge in worldly pleasures, we are indulging in things contrary to the Spirit. In essence, we are being unfaithful to God, which is clearly a form of adultery. Our passion for the things contrary to the Spirit makes us do foolish things; we even find ourselves praying for those foolish things, to our shame. James reminds us that we can’t be a friend of the world and a friend of God. This doesn’t mean that we cannot be friendly to those in the world, but it does mean that our desire should be for Christ and not the world and the pleasures it offers.
Our worldly passions are born in our sinful flesh, and Satan capitalizes on those passions. He knows our greatest weaknesses and, as Scripture points out, he seeks to devour us. With this knowledge, we can be aware daily that we are at war against Satan. This could be very discouraging without the truth found in James 4:7: “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (NLT). Remaining humble before God is part of the solution, along with daily resistance. We know from Ephesians chapter 6 that we must remain armed at all times with the armor God has given us. When we continually wear our armor and look to God for daily help and guidance, Satan will move on to someone else. Never allow your guard to drop, however, because we do not know when Satan will attack again—and rest assured, he will. An encouragement to us is tucked into this solemn chapter: Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (v.8). We are not alone in the battle against our flesh and our adversary.
Verses 11 and 12 address our words to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should never be critical or harsh in our speech toward them nor about them; we should not be tearing down our fellow believers. When we do, it reveals a sense of pride in our hearts, which God hates. While correction has its place in the life of a believer, it should always come from a place of loving humility. Harsh judgment toward a fellow believer who is redeemed by the blood of Christ points to an issue in the heart of the speaker. Remember this when pointing fingers outward: we all were guilty before God, and all of us required a high price for our redemption. We all need to show the same grace God has shown us.
The final section of this chapter certainly makes me “face palm.” How often I spew off plans for tomorrow or next month or next year. I make a lot of assumptions, and oftentimes I’m guilty of not bringing my plans first to the Father. I have to remind myself that before I rush forward, I need to ask the Lord for direction. Sometimes, that means what I want is not in line with His ultimate plan for me, so I will have to switch directions, which can be tough. But when I ask for His will (like I should), and He shows me the way, it is always best to follow. The closing verse of this chapter, in its wisdom and truth, comes to my mind often: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17, ESV). May we insert this truth into every word we say and every action we take.
Please read James chapter 4 in addition to today’s devotion.