Today’s Reading: James 4:1-6; Psalm 79
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure. – James 4:1-3
No matter what we have, there is something else we desire. I wonder if God rolls His eyes when we ask for two things that we cannot have simultaneously. Have you ever been on a road trip with kids? Our girls have asked the famous question over and over again on our many trips, “How much longer?” They long to be at our destination but they are tired of riding in the car, so they ask to make a stop. We stop, stretch our legs, maybe do a little shopping or get something to eat. Then we get back in the car and the famous question is repeated, “Now how much longer?” Well, the same amount of time as when we stopped the car! They long to be where we are headed but they also long to get out of the car, even though it keeps them from their greatest longing – to get where we are going. How often do we do the same thing in our prayer life? We pray for one thing and then pray for something else that would keep us from receiving the first thing we prayed for.
I think the greatest problem that James is addressing in this passage is the heart. This is the start of a new chapter but it is really the continuation of what he has been teaching in the first three chapters. The words that we speak, the anger we display, the favoritism we show, the conflicts we have with other people, it all comes down to the condition of our heart.
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” – James 4:4-6
James is again comparing opposites, showing us that we cannot be two things at once. Remember these verses?
– Believe / Doubt – In 1:6-8, James calls the man who tries to believe and doubt at the same time double-minded and unstable.
– World tells us…but God – He told us to get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent. The world tells us we have a right to get angry or that it is not our fault because we were born with the tendency toward anger, but God has planted a different word in us and that word can save us if we accept it (1:20-21).
– Pure / Polluted – Religion that God sees as pure and faultless – to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (1:27).
– Rich / Jesus – Don’t show special attention to those who are rich when they are the same people who are exploiting you, dragging you into court and slandering the noble name of Him to whom you belong. He started out this section by reminding them to whom they belong, that they are believers in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ (2:1-7).
– Knowing / Doing – You can’t just read the word and not do it (1:22-25); you can’t obey some of the law but not all of it (2:8-12); you can’t see someone in need and do nothing (2:16).
– Praise / Curse – Just like a spring cannot produce two different kinds of water and a tree cannot bear two kinds of fruit, you can’t use your tongue to praise God and then turn around and use it to speak poorly of those He has created in His likeness (3:9-12).
– Earthly wisdom / Heavenly wisdom – You cannot have both earthly “wisdom” and heavenly wisdom (3:13-18).
We cannot look around at the world and desire what it has to offer, then turn and ask God to bless us with these worldly pleasures. Let’s read look at James 4:4-6 in The Message:
You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”
So the opposites continue. It’s either our way or God’s way; pride or humility. We are either God’s friend or God’s enemy. What is it going to be? I think all of us desire that close relationship with God but James is warning us that the world and its influence is daily pulling us away from God. In order to stay connected to God we must daily spend time in His presence, seeking HIS way in our lives and intentionally avoiding the many ways the world attempts to pollute us.
Lord, I love you so much and my desire is to draw closer and closer to you. That you call me friend and that you pour your grace on me, these truths overwhelm me. What you give in love is far better than anything else I will ever find. Lord, show me the ways in which my attention is being drawn to earthly things instead of to you. Help me not to walk out of your presence today but dwell in you all day. Amen.