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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

James 4

Verses 1-12

Worldliness and its results (4:1-12)

Continuing his teaching on the evil results of worldly attitudes, James explains why fights and quarrels occur. Selfish ambition fights against the more spiritual motives. Some Christians are constantly looking for more power, increased possessions and higher status. Because they want the wrong things, they do not pray. If they pray, they find their prayers refused, and so try to do things their own way (4:1-3). This is worldliness, and it is opposed to the ways of God. God has given believers the Holy Spirit to control their lives and he wants no rivals, such as the spirit of worldliness, to turn them away from him (4-5).
God opposes those who, in their pride, ignore him and act according to their own ambitions. He strengthens those who, in their humility, draw near to him and resist Satan’s temptations to rely on worldly methods (6-8). Those who gain pleasure from ungodly attitudes are rejoicing in their own foolishness. They should rather be sad and repent (9-10).
One matter in which they should immediately begin to change is that of unkind talk about others. This is another example of worldly pride, for the offending person, instead of obeying the law, claims the right to judge others. This right belongs to God alone (11-12).

Verses 13-17

Personal advancement without God (4:13-5:6)

Another sign of worldliness appears when Christians arrange their lives as if God does not exist, as if they control the future. Christians should view life differently from non-Christians. They should not live as if their lives on earth are going to last for ever, but should consider the eternal purposes of God and arrange their affairs accordingly. Their chief consideration should be to do God’s will, not to look for personal gain and advancement (13-16). If they know this is the way they should live, but do not put their knowledge into practice, they are guilty of sin (17).
Then follows a pronouncement of judgment on the greedy landowners. These people hoard wealth and goods that only perish with age and disuse, but show no interest in helping the poor and needy around them. They grow rich through oppressing and cheating their workers. But God takes notice of all this. They are only building up evidence against themselves, which will bring for them a heavier punishment (5:1-4). Like animals they are fattening themselves only to be slaughtered. Because of their wealth they have power to do as they wish, but all their achievements will not save them on the day of judgment (5-6).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on James 4". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.