Your Choice Makes a Difference
James 4:4-12, NIV
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? a 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.” b
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you — who are you to judge your neighbor?
Verse 4-6: Choose your friends wisely
Notice James drops the gentle “my brothers” and instead began to get down to “brass tacks”. He proclaims then as “adulterous people”. Often our relationship with God is described as a marriage. We know God is the perfect husband so guess who commits adultery and strays? Yep, we do.
Using Jewish parallelism (common in Hebrew writing like the Proverbs), James is giving extreme comparisons: friendship with the world/hatred to God and friend of the world/enemy of God.
It is important to note that James is not simply drawing a comparison, he really means it! To become like the world (be its friend) is disgusting to God. God wasn’t kidding when He said “be holy as I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44) Therefore, you must choose your friends wisely. Be careful. If you choose the world, which is your choice dear child of God, you put yourselves at the end of God’s wrath. If you find yourself easily being like the world without conviction by the Holy Spirit, then perhaps you should check your salvation. Verse 5 is telling us the Spirit of God is envious against our trying to “cheat on God”. God told us in Genesis 20:5 He is a jealous God and He will punish unfaithfulness.
In verse 6, James is quoting Proverbs 3:34 He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. James is reminding us that just as choosing the world’s side puts us at odds with God, so choosing to remain faithful to Him rewards us with grace.
Verse 7-10: Choose a humble outlook
Continuing the idea, James lays out the roadmap back to God:
· Submit: we are expected by God to obey Him
o 1 Sam 15:22, Complete Jewish Bible
§ Surely obeying is better than sacrifice, and heeding orders than the fat of rams.
· Resist: we are to “stand against”—stand up to—the devil.
· Come near: in other words, God isn’t forcing you to come to Him. You must choose to approach Him. But the awesome thing is, “He will come near to you as well”!
· Wash your hands and purify your hearts: refers to the cleansing that God must do so you can approach Him
Verses 9 and 10 remind us of the attitude we should have in the presence of God Almighty—not proud or in merriment. We should humble ourselves before Him.
Verses 11-12: Choose your thoughts carefully
Verses 11-12 are often very misunderstood and misquoted. Without reading the context of these verses, James is simply saying “don’t judge each other”. To a degree he is warning against it but the text is not that simple. Let’s read it again: (11-12)
Here’s what James is saying:
1. Don’t lie about each other.
2. If you speak against your brother (or sister) with false accusations to condemn him, you are actually casting a sentence on the Law (Torah) itself.
3. Since you are lawbreaker yourself (you are lieing, after all), you are in condemnation against yourself by your own actions.
4. God, the author of truth, is capable of sorting fact from fiction and He will discern the truth.
In verse 12, James is asking another rhetorical question: who are any of us to cast judgment on each other anyway? The word for “judgment” is more than just an opinion. It is implying that we are acting like judge and jury over each other. Be careful