James 4:1-9
James 4:1 (KJV)
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Wars - Battle or fights
Fightings - quarrels, battles, conflicts
War - One who serves as a soldier
Members - A part of the body
James now asks a poignant question concerning the source of the contentions which are among the people. He is introducing the reason that this assembly had so much contention. James then goes on to answer that question with the very answer that we see even down to this very day. It comes from the very lusts inside us which when ignited makes us become soldiers in the army of desire. The word “members” speaks of a part of the human body but is being used to show that when one part of the body is warring against the rest of the body, there is danger. Sin is always in opposition to the body of Christ and is the cause of many churches splitting. Now these things do not show up out of nowhere, it is normally introduced into the church by someone who has their own agenda and these people normally begin to polarize the church by gathering allies. When this person’s agenda begins to spread in the church, then there is going to be a war and each person is going to become a soldier, for whatever side, depending upon their understanding of the situation and the Scriptures.
James 4:2 (KJV)
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Obtain=Succeed or “Obtain for one’s own possession”
Even after all the fighting and killing to obtain possessions or positions, a person cannot hold them because physical life is temporary. James is not necessarily speaking of physical killing but it is always possible to murder someone’s reputation and to kill them in such a way that you silence them from bringing in a true Gospel. If there is one enemy of wars and fighting, it is the truth of the word of God. One of the keys in this verse is the last phrase “because ye ask not.” Here we have an insight into the situation. Instead of the people or the church praying for something and then giving God time to work out the request, they are going about doing their own thing according to the ways of the world. Even after all they have done, they still do not possess whatever they were looking for. The only reason that force is in view is because who ever was precipitating the wars was probably trying to stake a claim on something which did not belong to them. A church that prays is a church that maintains a reasonable amount of stability.
James 4:3 (KJV)
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Amiss - Wickedly
Consume - Waste or spend
Lusts - Pleasures or strong desires (The word is related to hedonism.)
The principle in this verse is very important because it gives a major principle of prayer. What is your motive for asking for what you are asking? James is saying that these people were asking for things but not to the glory of God, it was for their own desires. Improper motives in prayer is akin to wickedness, because this is what the unbeliever does. They ask in wickedness with their prayer beads, prayer shawls, or statues, and then expect God to answer them. How many pray that God would let them hit the lottery? People pray like this because they simply do not know who God is and what His standards are. It is one thing when unbelievers pray like this but when Christians pray with improper and ulterior motives, it shows how weak one is in the Scriptures and how weak their understanding of God is.
James 4:4 (KJV)
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
It is interesting how God refers to them as adulterers and adulteresses. We are spiritually married to Christ and God is pointing out that if we start acting like the world in our erroneous prayer expectations, then we are as those who adulterate the relationship with Christ by disobedience. He reminds us that if we are acting like the world, then we are making friends with the world and if we do that, we become the enemy of God, the position from which we were delivered. (1 John 2:15-16 KJV) Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. {16} For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. We must have holy motives in our praying and have no desire for camaraderie with the world. (Rom 8:5 KJV) For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
James 4:5 (KJV)
Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
When we look at this Scripture we see a great principle in view. God is jealous for His people which He has redeemed through the Lord Jesus Christ. He does not want us walking in concert with the world, because He knows that the world holds nothing for us but trouble. (Deu 32:16 KJV) They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. (Psa 78:58 KJV) For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. We will also provoke God to be angry with us in the sense that we could expect to be chastised for seeking the world. When we seek the world, we are, in essence, seeking the kingdom of Satan again. It is like telling God that He doesn’t satisfy us. It is like saying that Eternal Life is not as good as a new car with hell on our doorstep.
James 4:6 (KJV)
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Resisteth - Sets Himself Against
Humble - Undistinguished or downcast
Now James gives an alternative to seeking the world’s goods. He tells us that God will set Himself against the proud person and will even come against the Christian, but not as an enemy, but as a Father who must tend to a wayward child. God continues to give grace to those who are humble in spirit. He gives this grace to those who are in humbling circumstances. (1 Pet 5:5 KJV) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.  This humbling grace is given to keep the believer faithful during times when it seems advantageous to seek the ways of the world. (Prov 3:34 KJV) Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly. The proud are those in unbelief who think they can command God to do what they want Him to do. The humble person comes to the Lord and waits upon Him for an answer to their prayer.
James 4:7 (KJV)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Submit - Be subject or put in submission
Resist - Oppose
Here James is giving two principles in living a stable Christian walk which will keep the Christian from going awry. First, we must submit ourselves unto God. This means we must give up all ideas of independence and place our mind in subjection to God and then our actions will follow. Both obedience and disobedience begins in the mind. Secondly, we are to steadfastly resist the devil. The word “resist” is very strong in that it alludes to having radical surgery in both thought and deed. We are to immediately cut off any sinful ideas which enter our mind so they can never become actions. If we continue to resist the devil, he will flee every time. He will not just flee one time, he will continually try to get you to sin and that is why we must have the radical spiritual surgery in our minds. We get into trouble when we submit to the devil and resist God’s attempt to keep us from sinning. He who has ears to hear!
James 4:8 (KJV)
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
Draw Nigh - Approach
Cleanse - Free from dirt and stain
Purify - Inner purity
Double Minded - Two Minds
James now gives another method on how to avoid the lusts of the flesh and that is when a temptation crops in the life of a believer, they should approach or come near to God. Sometimes when we face a temptation, we forget all about how God will help us in those times. The promise is that if I approach God during these times, then He will, in turn, approach me or come near to me. We must keep in mind that we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit who is eternal God. What God has in view here is that He needs to be the first one we come to when a temptation emerges in our life. Sometimes if the temptation is small we may feel we could handle it but the opposite is true. Since we are in the flesh, we are still susceptible to being overtaken by sin as it mushrooms in our life.
Not only do we draw nigh to God but we are counseled to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. Cleansing means a freeing from dirt and stain. (Isa 57:20 KJV) But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. The sinful waters of the wicked will raise the mire and dirt of sin in the life of a believer if they are not careful. We are to keep our hearts as pure as we can in the face of all temptation. We saw previously about a person who is double minded. They are the ones who seem to sin one day and then be obedient the next. This is not the way the Christian life needs to be lived. There must be a constancy against sin which protects one from having the two minds which can cause a Jekyll and Hyde personality.
James 4:9 (KJV)
Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
Heaviness - Shame or Sorrow
Instead of a Christian toying with the world, they need to be in a state of affliction when it comes to sin. (Luke 6:25 KJV) Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. We need to be in a state of vigilance for our sins and we need to reconsider our ways every day of our life. (Hag 1:5 KJV) Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
This does not mean we walk around with a long face but we need to be in a constant state of awareness that our sins can overtake us at any time. This verse is also warning the Christians who were partaking of the sins that James was speaking of. Instead of reveling in those sins and using sinful methods to try and conquer each other, they should be in a mournful, penitent state about their attitudes and how they affect not only the Christians but their testimony to others around them. They needed to humble themselves and draw nigh to God so He would fix those problems in the church that they were facing.