If I read this passage in the scriptures a few years ago, I would have been bothered a bit. I wouldn’t have had the perspective that James was just a dude,filled with the Holy Spirit, spilling his guts over this heart wrenching topic: Your Choice (Free will): God or The world.
If it had been years ago I would have thought James was a holy roller on something. I would have thought he sounded super judgey and preachy and it would have made me want to say yick.
People who follow Christianity or are Believers (as well as some other religions) are probably pretty familiar with this God/World issue. Others think we’re quacks. We sound like weirdos to nonbelievers and you know it! Kind of funny.
Anyhow, here’s what James was talking about:
“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.”
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” James 4:4-10
Dude. What was his issue!? <—— That’s what I would have said a few years back.
I would have been mad that he was calling people sinners (especially since his next topic is on not judging others!) and that he was telling them to be sad and basically shaming them for being lovers of the world when the Lord just loves them to death anyway. (my emphasis of course)
STOP. STOP. And stop. Missed the point. Missed the whole doggone point because of my silly pride and shame issues. People with insecurities and shame issues are sometimes the first ones to stand up ready to brawl when they think someone is shaming another. (this is me) This isn’t a bad personality trait!
But, still I would be missing the point.
James and his wording can come across a little forward but you have to understand a little perspective and his passion behind his preaching. Take my feelings and insecurities out about what is being said and ask me WHAT is being said and I will attempt to explain.
I can be the first to admit that I’ve chosen the world over God a few (billion) times in my life. Undoubtedly. Some days are still a struggle. I’m pretty sure that when James was speaking they didn’t have cable television, cell phones, instagram, facebook or advertising as we do today. So what on earth is he referring to then? We choose the world today in order to look better and feel better about our selves,right? Not necessarily. Whenever we chose anything over God and being in relationship with Him, we are choosing the world. Oh, and James was talking to Believers in Jesus so he has this “don’t you know by now” passion. James was reminding them that God built us with a spirit that would definitely want to “feel better” or “look better” or generally to be “self” centered. BUT-that he gave us more than enough grace to turn away from the tendency to look to ourselves rather than our Creator.
He makes his plea by reminding us that we can call out to God at any moment for a life preserver.. and that the enemy will slink away from us.
You know, so much of this can be victoriously overcome if only we identify where the problem is coming from. Anything that makes us feel like we need to feel, look, act or be a certain way is only a tool that the enemy uses to hinder our victory over him. But if we can just identify in these moments: This is not God- then we can recenter ourselves by calling for help. God is eager and loving and DESIRES that call. It in turn creates a trust and amazement factor in our walk with God. We learn that we can trust him to come to us in our time of need. If we ask him to deliver us He WILL. When we don’t ask him for help or need on Him as any child needs on their parent…we eventually fall down.
But why is James calling us sinners and telling us we should cry? He sounds like a prison warden right now.
Sin means missing the target or mark. James has a filter issue, but in this case we need him to have a filter issue. (Rabbit trail moment…I wonder if James’ unfiltered mouth ever got him in trouble at home or with Jesus since they were brothers!)
We need James to have no filter sometimes, and the people he was addressing in this letter did too. He actually refers to himself in the beginning as James: “a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. So, he resigned a long time ago from any position of worrying about being all nicey-nicey. He had a Master to serve!
His entire point was so passionate in that he’s saying that we are SO missing the mark here if we think we can be pleasers of this world and be in God’s complete Love. It isn’t possible. That doesn’t mean that we are to be enemies of the people in the world, but if we truly are One with God and have reverence for Him and Him alone, then we will not serve this world or need the things that help us to focus on ourselves. We won’t need that because God is all we will find satisfaction in.
I remember recently when I realized how much the enemy was trying to pull me back to the surface of this world. I was questioning everything I knew and believed. Somehow God sent me the Message or Word I had been longing for. It was…Jesus. I was starting to bury Jesus and question my salvation. But, I utterly need Jesus. I decided that I need to call out to Him to save me even though I know that He already had. But, I needed to reaffirm within myself that I needed Jesus and that in Christ was the power to make the enemy flee from me.
I prayed and the enemy slunk away quite quickly.
Then, I cried.
I shed good grief tears when I realized that I was pushing away God’s Perfect sacrifice for my life. I broke down in a way that a child does after they run into the arms of mom/dad when they’ve messed up and finally released their pride and realize they were wrong and needed to feel the arms of the One who Loves unconditionally. Did I feel condemned? No. Did I feel ashamed? No. I felt him “lift me up in honor” (James 4:10b)
Oh the peace my soul has felt. The graciousness my soul has experienced.
I choose Jesus Christ as my Savior today and forever.