Today we are looking at James chapter 4 and absorbing his wisdom about worldliness and boasting. For insight into all the colors you’re about to see, my method for studying scripture includes the Good Morning Girls highlighting method along with the context and some notes gathered from different translations and resources. Feel free to head over this way to completely check that out.
First, like I said, I think it’s important to absorb context anytime I’m studying my Bible. Taking scripture out of context is a trick the enemy uses to trip us up. He twists it and tries to make us doubt. Not today Satan. Not today.
James is writing this letter to Jewish believers that are scattered throughout the area and living among Gentiles, teaching others about following Jesus. He is talking about the general characteristics of a Christian and exposing some false teachings that were spreading through the early church. I’ve been working my way through James little by little. So if you want to start at the beginning of James and study in order, start here with James 1.
Warning Against Worldliness
1What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask a wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is emnity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us”? 6But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. 11Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against his brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
Everyone’s highlights can vary a little because most verses could fit into multiple categories. Here’s my breakdown:
- Verse 1= teaching
- Verse 2= sin & teaching
- Verse 3= teaching & sin
- Verse 4= sin & teaching
- Verse 5= God
- Verse 6= grace & God
- Verse 7= instruction
- Verse 8= instruction & God
- Verse 9= command
- Verse 10= instruction & God
- Verse 11= instruction/teaching
- Verse 12= God & teaching
I underlined in my Bible the phrase “because you ask wrongly.” I want to make it a habit to analyze my motive when asking for something. It’s about the heart. Why am I praying for what I’m praying for? Am I trying to fit in with the world or am I willing to stand out for Him? Of course God already knows my heart, so I’m sure He has me do this for my benefit. 😉 I want my motive for asking to always be to further the kingdom and give glory to His name. His will be done, not mine.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. I don’t know about you, but reading this gave me a sense of power! I’m not some little helpless target that the enemy is preying upon. I have the power of the Holy Spirit within me! I have the powerrrrr! (Now I want to watch He-Man.) You have the power! We also have the armor of God to put on! Submit yourselves therefore to God. Put on faith, truth, peace, righteousness, salvation, and the word of God.We can cling to that power, resist him, and he will flee from us! Run devil run! And now, I’m singing David Crowder…
Really, though – when battling worldiness, temptation, and the enemy – here’s a secret. Have a regular “prayer song” to drive all that away. When I feel unwarranted anxiety or guilt I’ll sing the lyrics of Nicole Nordeman’s “You Are Holy”. Just a simple offering of praise and recognition of the Most High power. It’s a song that the devil will flee from. Every time.
Verse 9 is really kicking my butt. It addresses how we should feel when confronting our sin. Be wretched and mourn, weeping and gloomy. I have sins that I definitely react to with that attitude. Others I tend to slough off. But look at the verses surrounding it. God will draw near to you. He will lift you up. Such hope! A call for conviction, repentance, and a promise of forgiveness and grace.
Verses 11 & 12 align with what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 7:1
“Do not judge others and you will not be judged.”
Boasting About Tomorrow
13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a Town and spend a year the fair and trade and make a profit” – 14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. 16As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it for him it is sin.
- Verse 13= teaching
- Verse 14= teaching
- Verse 15= instruction
- Verse 16= evil
- Verse 17= sin
I used to really struggle with this section of scripture. When my husband decided to go back to school we had to move. I rented my house out while we were gone because I was bound, set, and determined that we were moving back once he finished. That home, community, and way of life were my world. Well that was a decade ago, he was offered a position before he even graduated, and we eventually sold our house and bought one in our current “hometown.” I had plans y’all!! But alas, God knew where we would end up. Ever since then, I have struggled with setting goals. I don’t want to end up making my own plans again rooted in worldliness and so I just don’t make any. I “go with the flow”, am high flexibility and a free spirit.
But, ohhhhh! Next look at verse 15! “You ought to say…” Wait, I do need to say I have plans?! “…we will do this and that…” Well then! Here’s an instance where a rough situation and some scripture taken out of context allowed me to shut down some of my strengths and lose potential that God had for me. So I’m back to goal setting – with the complete understanding and acceptance that God is in control of any and all plans. His will be done, not mine.
I once read a book that describes great leaders as people with great humility. It fits right in to this concept of boasting with arrogance. A humble leader looks in the mirror when something goes wrong and out the window when something goes right. That is to say, when something goes wrong a good leader doesn’t look at others and point fingers to blame. A good leader looks in the mirror and asks themselves what they did wrong. When something goes right, a good leader looks out the window and credits others. He or she doesn’t boast about themselves.
James 4 has some pretty daunting instructions. Don’t fight, don’t judge, resist the Devil, mourn your sin, don’t boast and brag. But looking deeper, there’s a comforting message. It’s ok not to fit in with this world. That is AHHmazing!! And above all, my takeaway from this chapter of scripture is really rather simple. Examine your attitude and actions. Look at your heart.
Love you friend!
I made these scripture cards to print and put where I need them for everyday life situations. You know, like getting stuck in traffic. I thought maybe you could use them too! Enjoy!!
- A Quick Bible Study Through James 2; Teaching About Favoritism & An Active Faith
- Wisdom From Above; An Excerpt from James 3
- Bible Teaching From James 1; Building Endurance, Wisdom, and Following the Word
- T.H.I.N.K. Think About Your Words; Wisdom on Taming the Tongue From James 3
- James 5; A Warning to the Rich and Questions to Ask Yourself