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Bible Commentaries

Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible

James 4




James chapter 3 ends with a contrast of earthly wisdom and wisdom that is from above. "...This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." ( Jam_3:13-18 ) In James four we see the effect of the "wisdom which descendeth not from above."

The wisdom of this world produces wars and fightings among brethren. Wars and fightings can be traced to the lusts of men. Worldly wisdom causes the neglect of prayer. ( Jam_4:2 ) Worldly wisdom causes prayer to be offered through improper motives. The motives of those who pray with worldly wisdom are to gratify their own desires. This friendship of the world makes them enemies of God.

Envy is also a fruit of worldly wisdom. ( Jam_4:5 ) Christians must remember that God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. ( Jam_4:6 ) Grace should cause those seeking heaven: (1) to submit to God, ( Jam_4:7 ) (2) to resist the devil, ( Jam_4:7 ) (3) to draw nigh to God, ( Jam_4:8 ) (4) to cleanse their hands and their hearts, ( Jam_4:8 ) (5) to be afflicted and mourn over their sins, ( Jam_4:9 ) and, (6) to humble themselves before God. ( Jam_4:10 )

Care must be taken that we do not set ourselves up as judges of the law or as judges of our brethren. ( Jam_4:11-12 ) We also must be careful not to plan and leave God out of those plans. ( Jam_4:13-16 ) James four closes with a look at the sin that will mean eternal condemnation for many. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." ( Jam_4:17 ) The things James discussed are things people already knew. Our problem is that often we do not do nearly as good as we know.

Verses 1-5

Do not be filled with pride -- Jam_4:1-5 : Here James deals with the source or origin of altercations among brethren. He listed as causes of these wars and fightings: (1) a lust after worldly things, (2) too much stress on worldly pleasures, and (3) valuing too highly worldly friendships. Lust leads to wickedness, envy, hatred, and even murder. Christians must do what they can to win the war within. Within each Christian there is a conflict between worldly passions of the flesh, and God's spiritual principles that should be allowed to govern the soul.

These Christians kill with hatred, lust, evil words and a lack of prayer. Sincere prayer would have caused their willful selfishness to dry up in their hearts. Even when these brethren prayed they were motivated by selfish greed. God does not answer prayers prayed only for selfish gratification. ( Jam_4:3 )

Some had become guilty of spiritual adultery because of their strong love of and friendship with the world. These brethren had broken their marriage covenant with God by loving the world with a stronger love than they had for God Himself. When a person loves the world too much it draws away the love of that soul from the Almighty. The person, who, with purpose and intention, loves the world, turns away from the Creator. Lust for the world in a heart, and the indwelling Spirit of God in that same heart, is an impossible idea.

Verses 6-10

Do not be guilty of worldliness-- Jam_4:6-10 : James said, "God resisteth the proud." Pride is the great hindrance to righteousness. Pride leads the list of the seven things God hates. ( Pro_6:16-19 ) It led to Satan's fall and has destroyed many humans as well. Our pride puts us at enmity with God Himself.

Christians must forsake the friendship of the world, and in humility of heart submit to God. If we will yield to God in everything, and yield to the Devil in nothing he will flee from us.

We are taught plainly how to act toward God, in order to become submissive to His will. Christians must: (1) Draw nigh to God, draw nigh in worship and daily service, (2) Cleanse your hands, cleanse your hands means exactly the same as "purify your hearts," (3) Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; mourn and weep for your own sins and the sins of others, and (4) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, God will draw nigh to those that draw nigh to Him. As we draw nigh to God in doing our duty, He draws nigh to us in showing mercy!

Verses 11-12

Do not judge a brother -- Jam_4:11-12 : Everything that we say about others must be guided by the law of kindness and the spirit of Christ. Solomon said of the worthy woman, "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness." ( Pro_31:26 ) It must also be so with us also! James cautions us, "speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge." ( Jam_4:11 )

"The law" spoken of in Jam_4:11 is the law of Christ, the gospel, or the law of Liberty. The Hebrew writer wrote, "The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." ( Heb_7:12 ). There is a law that man must obey in order to walk with Christ.

Scripture does not at all condemn distinguishing between right and wrong. In fact it encourages it. ( Isa_5:20 , Heb_5:14 ) On the other hand, there is nothing more decidedly condemned in the Scriptures than the habit of pronouncing a judgment on the motives or heart of others

Verses 13-17

Do not boast about tomorrow -- Jam_4:13-17 : James gives a vivid picture of some who made great plans for the future. Their sin was not in planning for the future, but in failing to consider God in their plans.

The uncertainty of tomorrow is stressed throughout the pages of the Bible. Our earthly life is like a fog or vapor. It disappears so very quickly. The thing that matters is for us, in whatever days may come, to have the right attitude toward God. ( Jam_4:15 ) Our thought must always be -- "If the Lord wills."

This section ends with some of the most somber of New Testament teaching. James said, "therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." ( Jam_4:17 ) To know to do good, and do it not is the greater sin. It is universally true that if a man knows what is a right, and does not do it, he is guilty of terribly sin.

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on James 4". "Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". 2014.