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Bible Commentaries
James 4

Dunagan's Commentary on the BibleDunagan's Commentary

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1. Outline:

1. The Real Cause Of Their Problems: 4:1-3

2. Friendship With The World: 4:4-5

3. Genuine Repentance: 4:6-10

4. Sobering Thoughts: 4:11-12

5. Trust verses Arrogance: 4:13-17

1. Introductory Comments:

In this chapter we find the disastrous consequences involved in following the wrong kind of wisdom. We cannot think like the world and yet not act like the world or avoid the type of problems which plague those in the world. In addition, we cannot think like the world and avoid problems in the local congregation.

"James is here setting before his people a basic question-----Whether is your aim in life to submit to the will of God, or to gratify your own desires for the pleasures of this world? And his warning is that, if pleasure is the policy of life, then nothing but strife and hatred and division can possibly follow' (Barclay p. 115).

"What we do results from what we are. Characteristics flow from character. Human actions are the product of the ruling principles that guide us. It is not true that we sometimes "act without thinking". Every action is the result of a decision. It may be a hasty decision or one prompted more by emotion than by reason, but in every case the mind has had a choice, which has then been pursued. James has been describing these ruling principles as "wisdom" (3:13-18)…….As Christians today assess their lives, there are some questions to be asked that may help identify the ruling principle behind their actions. What activities do we tend to emphasize? What matters upset us most easily? When crisis comes, what factors take precedence? In unpleasant situations, does our personal contribution tend to pacify or to cause strife?" (Kent pp. 139-140).

Unfortunately, some people read the following chapter and conclude that since these Christians had some big problems, we can persist in our own sins. Or, since various Christians in the First Century were worldly-minded, we can remain worldly-minded. Such a view of these and other passages fails to realize that God was expecting such individuals to repent or else (4:4).

Verse 1

4:1 "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?"

"What is the source" -"from what source, brought about or given by whom, born of whom" (Arndt p. 680). What a great question! "James is not content to concentrate on the strife; he compels his readers to think about the cause " (Kent p. 141).

Point To Note:

How often we fail to even ask such a question. We tend to become so focused on the strife, or some side issue, such as, "I've been under a lot of pressure lately, things are stressful at work, the children have really been a handful, my mate has been unsupportive, or, they just make me so mad". Draper notes, "If our homes are not running smoothly, it is easier for the husband to blame the wife or the wife too blame the husband, but the source of conflict is within us . It is our spirit, our attitude. It is….selfishness within us that wants to be pleased and pampered. We must face the truth" (p. 112).

"quarrels" -"Where do the conflicts, where do the wrangles come from" (Mof); "What is the cause of the fighting and quarreling that goes on among you" (TCNT). "Strife, conflict, quarrel" (Arndt p. 685). Notice, James is not talking about war between nations (even though the principle is often the same), or strife in the non-Christian community, rather, he is talking about strife and infighting among Christians!

"conflicts" -contention, strife, disputes ( 2Co_7:5 ; 2Ti_2:23 ; Tit_3:9 ).

"among you" -which makes it clear that James isn't talking about conflicts among non-Christians, but the conflicts that were taking place among professed Christians. "James is thus depicting situations in which occasions of disagreement result in continuing hostility, even after the battle is over. Armed camps develop, and true peace is not achieved" (Kent p. 141). "James refers to long drawn-out resentment, and a spirit of bitterness and anger toward others……across America today there is as much conflict within the church as there is outside it. That is why Christianity limps along and why there are such sad caricatures of Christians. A godless world looks in and sees nothing different than what they see outside" (Draper p. 111).

"Is not the source" -"The community conflicts come not from a passion for truth or godly wisdom" (Davids p. 156).

"your pleasures" -"desire for pleasures" (Thayer p. 276); "evil pleasure, lust" (Arndt p. 344); "sensual pleasures" (Vincent p. 755). "The Greek word translated 'evil desires' is the world from which we get 'hedonism', which means an unbridled search for pleasure. This philosophy is based on what pleases me" (Draper p. 111). "James uses the word to describe the sinful desire for satisfaction, which is self-seeking and causes those who yield to it to wrangle with one another in order to get their own way" (Kent p. 141). ( Luk_8:14 ; Tit_3:3 ; Jam_4:3 ; 2Pe_2:13 ).

"that wage war in your members?" -"It is not to be found in the desires which are always at war within you" (TCNT). The word "members" in the above verse doesn't refer to the members of the congregation, but rather, the members of our body. "Every conflict we have begins with us: in our bodies, in our minds, in our emotions….Why does such a spirit create dissension? Because we can please ourselves only at another's expense. Every part of life is a battleground. There is a war taking place for our minds right now. There is a battle raging for our emotions every day. There is a battle raging for our strengths and our energies, for our dreams and our visions. Our bodies are battlefields. Pleasure-seeking destroys our love for spiritual things . We may still keep on doing them, but we do them out of duty and not love….When we love Jesus, the easiest and most joyful thing in the world is to serve him and obey him. But when the goal of our lives is obtaining selfish pleasures, our obedience becomes simply a disagreeable duty" (Draper pp. 111-112) (See Col_3:5 ; Rom_6:13 ; Rom_6:19 ; 1Pe_2:11 ; 1Co_3:3 ).

Verse 2

4:2 "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask."

"You lust and do not have" -present tense, "to lust after, covet" (Thayer p. 238). Notice the words, "and do not have": "When men live merely to satisfy their desires, they never realize their goal. He who lives for the satisfaction of his pleasures and desires will always "have not" . The more he gets the more unsatisfied he will be" (Roberts p. 153).

"so you commit murder" -While the literal taking of life is often the result of lust ( 2Sa_11:1 and following; 2Ki_21:2-4 ). Murder in this passage is probably being used in a figurative sense ( Mat_5:22 ; 1Jn_3:15 ). Surely, the Roman government would have intervened if these Christians had been actually killing people. A powerful point is that the same selfish desires which move us to lash out at our brethren in words, are the same desires that move others to actually kill. In addition, the tense is present, the "murdering" they were doing was ongoing. Barclay notes concerning such selfish desires, "It sets men at each other's throats…..When all men are striving, each one to possess all for himself the same thing, life inevitably becomes a competitive arena. Men trample each other down in the rush to grasp the same things. Men will do anything to eliminate a rival for the thing or for the person they are on fire to possess" (p. 117). Selfish and sinful anger is going to be one of the consequences when we are bent on pleasing ourselves. When we are selfish we will develop a hatred for those who stand in the path to our goals, we will destroy the reputations of others by gossiping and so on.

"And you are envious" -"Envious"-"to be heated or to boil, with envy, hatred, anger" (Thayer p. 271); "to be jealous, to burn with jealousy" (Vine p. 273); "to hotly desire to possess" (Robertson p. 49).

"and cannot obtain" -"yet cannot gain your end" (TCNT). Draper notes, "What a graphic picture of frustration!…..There has never been one time when Satan has ever delivered what he promised. There has never been one time when a man received satisfaction and happiness from living in rebellion against God. Not once! Be we don't believe it. Somehow we think we are the exception….There are many who think God is the super killjoy, the original wet blanket. They think he doesn't want anybody to have fun or to be happy. How wrong they are" (p. 113).

Point To Note:

Be impressed that selfishness cannot lead to happiness. Here are people who longed to possess certain things, but they could never obtain that for which they were longing. Jealousy, hatred, lust, greed and so on can never bring a person to a state of contentment, satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness ( Ecc_2:11 ; Ecc_5:10 ).

"so you fight and quarrel" -Both words are in the continuous tense, "go on fighting and warring". Note how selfishness and self-seeking generate a vicious cycle of misery and frustration. "We don't get happy because we try to be happy" (Draper p. 114). Some of us blame others or circumstances as being the source of our unhappiness. But the truth is that we are often frustrated because we are being selfish. Instead of compliance to the will of God as being the goal in our lives ( 2Co_5:9 ), the goal has rather become, our own personal and immediate happiness. The above verse should remind us that the heart of too many issues in the Church isn't doctrine, but rather human selfishness.

"You do not have because you do not ask" -What happens to our prayer-life when we are placing ourselves first? "The craving for pleasure in the end shuts the door of prayer….The true end of prayer is to say to God, 'Thy will be done'. The prayer of the man who is pleasure-dominated is: 'My desires be satisfied'" (Barclay p. 118). When we are selfish, prayer is viewed as a weak, useless and silly practice. Rather, we turn to worldly ways of getting what we want, threats, manipulation, scheming, plotting, etc..

Verse 3

4:3 "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures."

"You ask and do not receive" -"Some of us might say, 'Now wait a minute. I asked God for something and didn't get it. I did everything he told me to and I didn't feel anything. It didn't work…..there is a very fine line between wanting God to get the glory for a victory and just wanting the victory" (Draper pp. 114-115). One temptation is to turn to selfishness when it appears to us that our prayers are not being answered. The person with little faith will then be tempted to turn to the wisdom of this world.

"because you ask with wrong motives" -As in every other area of our lives, the wrong motive void all our efforts ( 1Co_13:1-4 ). At this point everyone of us should ask ourselves, "Why do we pray?" "What are we trying to accomplish by praying?" "What motivates us to pray?" Woods notes, "If we are disposed to be shocked by the suggestion that men may be lustful, covetous, murderers (at heart) and constant wranglers and, at the same time, be given to prayer, we need only to recall that it is not unusual for men to invoke the blessings of God upon them, though engaged in the most high-handed wickedness" (p. 204) ( Mat_23:1-39 ). Prayer isn't a magical way to get what we want and neither is it a short-cut, whereby we can avoid effort and work. In addition, those praying to God must have faith ( Jam_1:5 ff); be interested in the will of God, more than their own will ( 1Jn_5:14 ), and people who believe in His will to the point that they are practicing it ( Pro_28:9 ).

"so that" -Here is the reason why some of these Christians were praying.

"you may spend it on your pleasures" -"your object being to waste on your pleasures what you acquire" (Wey). "Although they were more subtle than to pray outright for evil things, they may have asked for such things as money so as to spend it unworthily" (Kent p. 144). "Spend"-"to waste, squander, consume" (Thayer p. 125); "spend freely, with the connotation of wastefulness" (Arndt p. 171). "Whether, therefore, God grants a petition for health, wealth, the ability to serve, depends on the motive which prompts such a petition. It is possible for one to pray for ability to serve others when the chief reason for the desire is not the welfare of man, but lust for power, fame, notoriety, etc" (Woods p. 206).

Point To Note:

James is not teaching that it is wrong to pray for things which affect yourself, such as good health, children, or material prosperity. But what is your true motive behind such prayers? Draper notes, "our lack of satisfaction goes back to one thing: we will either please ourselves or we will please God. We have one ultimate choice: we are going to live for ourselves, trying to satisfy every desire, greed and passion in our lives, or will we live for God?" (p. 115).

Verse 4

4:4 "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

"You adulteresses" -"Unfaithful people!" (TCNT). Unfaithfulness to God is viewed as spiritual adultery, spiritual fornication ( Eze_16:15 ; Eze_23:43 ). In both the O.T. and N.T., the people of God are pictured as God's bride ( Jer_3:14 ; Jer_3:20 ; Jer_31:32 ). Christians need to remember that we are married to Christ! ( Rom_7:4 ; 2Co_11:2 "for I betrothed you to one husband"). See the following passages ( Jer_3:1 ; Jer_3:8-9 ; Eze_23:4-7 ; Hos_3:1 ; Mat_12:39 ; Mar_8:38 ; Mat_16:4 ; Rev_2:22 ). Unfaithfulness is breaking your marriage vow to God.

Points To Note:

1. How we downplay and excuse our own sins! "You are like an unfaithful wife who loves her husband's enemies….we are not just sinning against law, but against love. It is one thing to break the law and another thing to break the heart of someone who loves you….How do you suppose God feels when we, who have been redeemed by his love, treat him with rebellion and ingratitude?" (p. 118). 2. How would you feel if your husband or wife had an affair with someone who was clearly your enemy? This is exactly what we are doing when we become unfaithful.

"do you not know" -The audience addressed did know better, but how often do we live far below what we know and believe?

"friendship with the world is hostility toward God?" -Our unfaithfulness and sins are not violations of some abstract or impersonal law. God takes our sins very personally! "Thus James is viewing worldliness not just as the violation of a list of taboos but as an attitude of unfaithfulness to God" (Kent p. 145). Notice the word "hostility", to love the attitudes and ways of a society which is in rebellion to God, is automatically hatred towards the attitudes and ways of God. You just can't claim to love God and participate in sin at the same time ( Mat_6:24 ; 1Jn_2:15 ). It's like you can't be having an affair and yet claim to love your mate at the same time.

Point To Note:

But we are tempted to think that "friendship with the world" only happens when we are living just as sinfully as the world. Friendship with the world also involves simply giving our consent to what the world is doing ( Rom_1:32 ). "We may not necessarily do the things of the world, but we accept what they do and have become comfortable with it" (Draper p. 119). Friendship with the world also involves simply becoming so comfortable with the world that we are no longer offended by worldly attitudes, speech, dress or actions.

"therefore whoever" -This applies to everyone. James didn't have the attitude that a faithful Christian could never fall ( 1Co_10:12 ).

"wishes to be" -People don't accidentally end up in sin. And Christians just don't fall away by accident. Friendship with the world demands a deliberate will and wish ( 1Ti_6:9 "those who want to get rich"). Once again we see that sin begins with a selfish and unhealthy desire (1:14). I start envying people in the world, I start thinking that true happiness is found in the world, I start convincing myself that people in the world are much happier than Christians, and so on. And then there are members, who will not openly rebel against God, and they will keep on coming week after week to services, but who inwardly wish that they could do what people in the world are doing. God knows the heart! ( Heb_4:12-13 ).

"makes himself" -People are not predestined to be the enemies of God. Rather, the person who chooses the world instead of God has established himself as God's enemy.

"an enemy of God" -one who is hateful towards God, one of God's adversaries. Friendship with the world places you in the alliance which includes the devil ( Mat_13:39 ). And this is a battle that you can't win. We already know the final score for this battle ( Rev_20:10 ).

Point To Note:

What a tragedy for one created in the image of God to become God's enemy! What a waste! What a failure! Draper notes, "Many of us know what Simon Peter went through when he cursed and said, 'I don't know Christ'. Too few of us know what he went through when he went out and wept bitterly and repented" (p. 120).

Verse 5

4:5 "Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: 'He jealousy desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us'?"

"the Scripture speaks to no purpose" -"do you consider this an idle word of Scripture?" (Mof). The word Scripture can at times mean more than one Scripture ( 1Ti_5:18 ), or Scripture as a whole ( Joh_2:22 ; Joh_7:38 ). "James meant that the gist of the Old Testament teaching supports this concept, just as persons may say today, 'The Bible says'…without intending to refer to a particular chapter and verse" (Kent p. 146). The idea that God will brook no rival and that He demands our complete devotion is found in many Old Testament passages ( Exo_20:5 ; Exo_34:14 ; Deu_6:15 ; Deu_32:19-21 ).

Point To Note:

But there are many people, even religious people who would argue that the Scriptures really do speak to no purpose. That is, that God will change His mind and will simply save everyone, or that hell doesn't really exist, or God will save people outside of Christ and that Jesus isn't the only way. The above argument, which is made by James cannot be made by those who argue that time and culture have made irrelevant many of the teachings found in Scripture.

"He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us" -The Spirit here could be either the Holy Spirit or our own spirit. Remember the word rendered spirit was given a large "S" or a small "s" by the translators. While the ASV and NASV has "Spirit" the King James translators thought that the human spirit was under consideration, hence the rendering "spirit".

Points To Note:

1. I don't think that it makes any sense to interpret the above passage as saying that God jealously yearns for the Holy Spirit. 2. It would be correct to say that the Holy Spirit yearns for our loyalty and devotion. But it makes the most sense to me that the Holy Spirit is included in the "He" of the above passage. That Deity as a whole (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) jealously yearn for the complete devotion of our spirits, that we would love God with our entire being. This truth is taught in many other Scriptures, in fact, it is the Great Commandment ( Mat_22:37 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind"). God will not take second place in our lives ( Mat_6:33 ). And God won't share our devotion with someone or something else ( Mat_6:24 ). There isn't any gray area here. God either is our primary object of worship-or we are His enemy ( Mat_12:30 ). "God….who will brook no rival in the human heart, and that He must receive from us a love which is beyond all earthly devotion" (Barclay p. 123). 3. This verse also includes a great comforting truth, that is, God really yearns for our devotion. Our devotion, our love really means something to God! Why do we insist on putting all our devotion into things and people which fail to reciprocate and appreciate such love? "It is a great encouragement to know that God is interested in everything we think, everything we do, everything that captures our imaginations, every word that we speak, every thought that comes into our minds" (Draper p. 121).

Verse 6

4:6 "But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, 'God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble'".

"But he gives a greater grace" -"Whatever God demands of us, he provides the means by which we can produce it. Whatever demands of purity and holiness and whatever pressures the world may place upon us, James declares that God will give us enough grace for each moment" (Draper p. 122). This task of resisting temptation and opposing the influences of the world is far from a hopeless assignment. More than enough grace is available to every Christian to match the attractions and allurements of the world. Neither has God left us at the mercy of the devil.

Points To Note:

1. This grace isn't irresistible for one must humble themselves to receive it. This grace doesn't overpower us, rather, we cooperate with it, humbly accept it. 2. This grace is manifested in a variety of ways: A. The grace of God monitors every temptation and ensures that we are never tempted beyond our abilities ( 1Co_10:13 ). B. This grace is manifested in the gospel message, a message that is far more winsome, persuasive and appealing to the humble than anything the world can offer. C. This grace is seen in God's forgiveness extended to the Christian who is willing to humble themselves and acknowledge their sins. "There is still an even greater graciousness of God. If one will simply humble oneself, God will extend his grace and mercy. This verse, then, is a solid basis on which to build an emphatic call to repentance, which James proceeds to do" (Davids pp. 164-165). Therefore, the Christian is never justified in giving up or giving into depression or an attitude which says, "it's no use". Grace can even forgive the Christian who has become a friend of the world, if that Christian will humble themselves. Grace can more than match any sin which we can commit---as long as we are willing to repent ( Rom_5:20 "but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more").

"Therefore it says" -Quotation from Pro_3:34

"God is opposed to the proud" -"Opposed"-a military term, which means to range in battle against, to set oneself against, to resist ( 1Pe_5:5 ). "God is against those who conceitedly show themselves above others. God accepts the challenge and arrays himself in battle against them" (Woods p. 222).

Point To Note:

This statement does bring up the question as to why God is so opposed to people who are arrogant: Barclay notes, "What then is this destructive pride?…This pride shuts itself off from God for three reasons. (1) It does not know its own need. It so admires itself that it recognizes no need to be supplied. It walks in proud self-sufficiency. (2) It cherishes its own independence. It will be beholden to no man; it will not even be beholden to God. It will admit dependence on nothing and on no one, human or divine. (3) It does not recognize its own sin. It is occupied with thinking of its own goodness, and it never realizes that it has any sin from which it needs to be saved" (p. 124)

"but gives grace" -that is the grace just mentioned, this greater grace!

"to the humble" -This verse admits that a lack of humility can be a problem among some Christians. Pride can even keep professed Christians from receiving the grace of God.

Points To Note:

1. Which brings up another question, why is remaining faithful viewed as such a hardship by some professed Christians? This verse provides one of the answers. Too many Christians are trying to live the Christian life by their own sheer stubbornness and determination. A good number of professed Christians are trying to be Christians without really placing any dependence upon God. How many approach services, studying with others, resisting temptation, with the attitude, "Well I'm going to keep on doing this unpleasant task, even if it kills me. I don't really enjoy services, I don't like talking to people, I really would rather not study the Bible, but I'm just going to force myself to do those things". 2. The key here is humility, an utter dependence upon God a realization of our own short-comings, a complete surrender to His will, a full acknowledgment of His power ( Gal_2:20 ). 3. The humble realize that everything doesn't depend on them. God can work through providential means, the gospel message is extremely powerful ( Rom_1:16 ), and the God whom they serve hears and answers their prayers ( Jam_1:5 ). How many of us get up in the morning and face the day, without praying first? Is our attitude one of proud self-sufficiency? "I know what I am doing, I've done my homework, I don't need God's help today"? Christians with that attitude end up failing, sinning and struggling. Tomorrow, before you encounter the day, pray. Let God know what you are facing, what tasks lie ahead, what fears and worries are in your mind, and ask for His help and wisdom. Grace doesn't mean that we don't have to work, but it means that now we are working from a different perspective, with greater confidence, not in ourselves, but in God ( Php_4:13 "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me").

Verse 7

4:7 "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you".

"Submit therefore" -In view of the grace available to the humble child of God, submission to God makes all the sense in the world. "Submit"-another military term which means to rank oneself under, to obey, to subject oneself. The aorist tense denotes a sense of urgency and a call to do it and do it now. This submission involves our whole being including our minds and thoughts ( Rom_8:7 ). "Submit…involves more than 'obey', although it obviously includes obedience. It indicates the surrender of the will to the leadership of another' (Kent p. 149). In the context, submission to God involves the acknowledgment that the world doesn't have the answers, the world can't provide for our true needs and the world is wrong.

"Resist the devil" -"Resist"-"to set oneself against, to withstand, oppose" (Thayer p. 45) ( 1Pe_5:9 ; Eph_6:13 ). Note that the devil is a real being who can be resisted. But we can't resist the devil on our own ( Rom_3:23 ). The verse suggests the devil can be resisted only when we completely place ourselves under God's authority. A half-hearted devotion to God won't stand up under the devil's attacks. " Most of us flirt with temptation and court evil, then wonder why we have problems" (Draper p. 125). This demands a decision, a willingness to commit ourselves completely to God, a willingness to put all our eggs in one basket, to depend entirely upon God for our well-being. Resisting the devil and submitting to God demands that we get off the fence ( 1Ki_18:21 ).

Points To Note:

1. "The Christian is not here instructed to go out and attack the devil by looking for new ways to lure him into combat. It is assumed, rather, that the devil will do the attacking" (Kent p. 149) ( 1Pe_5:8 "prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour"). 2. The reason that we yield to temptation is not the devil, but rather our own failure to trust God. The devil doesn't put the desire to do evil in our hearts ( Jam_1:13 ), rather he only throws out the lure, and when we allow ourselves to become selfish, when we allow ourselves to mistrust and question God, then such lures start to look appealing.

"and he will flee from you" -The devil isn't all-powerful and neither can he simply overwhelm us. We cannot say, "The devil made me do it". "Man must resist (stand against) Satan, or be taken captive by him. There can be no armistice, no terms of amnesty offered…..It is important to observe that we resist Satan only by a total rejection of his efforts. One who yields, even in the slightest degree, takes a step that may eventually lead to complete surrender" (Woods pp. 224-225). While the devil "flees" he also comes back from time to time ( Luk_4:13 ). The word "flee" also suggests that the devil simply doesn't have the stomach for the Christian who is completely depending upon God.

Verse 8

4:8 "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

"Draw near to God" -"come near, approach" (Thayer p. 164). Be impressed that one can be a professed Christian and yet be far from God. James isn't admonishing non-Christians, but rather Christians to draw near to God. One can be a Christian and yet not be close to God. We have already been told how to draw near to God, that is by humbling ourselves, and placing our selves completely under His authority. Some people try to draw near to God by attending more often, reading the bible more often, etc…., but they do all these important things without giving God their heart. Increased study and prayer will be to no avail if we continue to trust in ourselves.

"He will draw near to you" -Fellowship and intimacy with God are conditional. God wants to draw near to us! God wants a close relationship with us! "We couldn't possibly want to be close to God as much as he wants to be close to us. We couldn't possibly want to love God as much as he loves us" (Draper p. 125). What a thought! Knowing that when we draw near to God, God is drawing near to us, and God wants and earnestly desires our love and dedication. God can be approached by imperfect people, and God draws near to sinners who willing to humble themselves.

"Cleanse your hands" -a figurative expression which means to cleanse yourselves ( Isa_1:15 ; Psa_24:4 ; 1Ti_2:8 ). "Hands is an appropriate metaphor for outward activity, just as hearts in the next clause…refers to inward thoughts and attitudes" (Kent p. 150).

"you sinners" -The Christian who is a friend of the world is a sinner. Such a friendship can and does affect our relationship with God. Note, James has a tremendous amount of love for these brethren, but there at times when love must speak plainly. "It is noteworthy that the more common 'brethren' by which James usually addressed his readers, gives way to this sharp term of reproach in this instance. This was doubtless done to impress them with the seriousness of the situation, and to shock them into action to remedy it" (Woods p. 230).

"purify your hearts" -Without the purification of the heart, cleaning up the outward actions is vain. But how many of us when we repent, simply cleanse the hands? How many of us think that simply stopping the outward sin is an adequate level of repentance? And notice that we have the obligation to clean up our own hearts, for in the end, I'm the only one who can really change my attitudes and motives ( 2Co_7:1 ; Rom_12:1 ). Look at the hope found in this verse! The heart can be purified, the mind can be changed, and attitudes can shift! A bad attitude, a selfish disposition isn't set in stone---we can change if we want to. "Christianity is not just a way of putting on an act or a front; it is a matter of the heart" (Draper p. 126). True conversion, real change, is a real possibility.

"you double-minded" -"divided in interest" (Thayer p. 153). The person who can't seem to make up their mind. Someone wavering between two opinions. "A man who cleanses the outside and leaves the inside impure is a double-minded man" (Draper p. 126). The person who tries to get the best-for self out of the world and the best-for self out of Christianity at the same time. The friend of the world can be simply a person who has compromised, someone wavering between God and the world. The person who loves God, but not completely, they have some trust in God, but not fully, they don't like some things in the world, but they don't abhor every evil in the world. They see the value of Christianity, but they still want to flirt with sin.

Verse 9

4:9 "Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom."

"Be miserable" -Notice the word 'be'. This must be a voluntary mourning. True repentance, in the end can't be forced. "Miserable"-"be wretched" (Arndt p. 803); "mental wretchedness brought about by the realization of their sinful condition" (Roberts p. 168)

"and mourn" -to mourn over their own selfishness and unfaithfulness ( Mat_5:4 ; 1Co_5:2 ; 2Co_12:21 ).

"and weep" -Such repentance must be more than just mental or theoretical. "It describes the sense of wretchedness and misery that sinning should produce in the lives of those who have been redeemed….It is obvious that James is calling for genuine repentance, not some casual apology or mild expression of regret" (Kent pp. 150-151). How many of us have truly grieved over our sins? ( Mat_26:75 "he went out, and wept bitterly"; " Luk_7:38 ). Why is it that we can grieve over the loss of a job, promotion, lost love and so many other things, but we can't grieve over our own selfishness?

"let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom"

Points To Note:

1. James isn't arguing for a gloomy view of life, but there are times when laughter is inappropriate ( Ecc_7:3 ; Ecc_3:3-4 ). We can be tempted to make light of our sins. 2. God wants us to be filled with joy ( 1Th_5:16 ), but how can we be joyful, how can we laugh when there is sin in our lives? How can we make merry as long as we are being a friend of the world? How can we be happy as long as our hearts are not pure?

Verse 10

4:10 "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you."

"Humble yourselves" -Once again, we must cooperate with the will of God. We make the final decision whether or not we will be humbled. "The use of the aorist tense shows that he means a definite act, a decisive and full self-surrender" (Roberts p. 170). This humbling of self involves resisting the devil, drawing near to God, forsaking sinful deeds and thoughts, acknowledging the evil of our ways with serious reflection and appropriate grief. But how many people will say, "I know I am being selfish, I know that I am a sinner, I know that I am without excuse", but at the same time refuse to give up what is wrong? In the context we truly haven't humbled ourselves in the presence of God until we have abandoned our favorite sinful practices and attitudes.

"in the presence of the Lord" -Which should remind us that confessing our misdeeds to others doesn't make up for confessing them to God. True repentance involves more than just crying on another person's shoulder. Until we have admitted our sin to God, we still aren't where we need to be.

"and He will exalt you" -"to raise to dignity, honor, and happiness" (Thayer p. 647). Jesus used this same expression on various occasions ( Mat_23:12 ). "that He may exalt you in due time " ( 1Pe_5:6 ). This exaltation doesn't mean that God will bring material wealth to all the faithful. "When a man gets elected to a political office, a few years pass, later he is defeated. He is elevated, then cast down. A man is a hero and then he is forgotten. But God elevates to eternal rewards" (Draper p. 128). "The immediate attractions of the world must not be allowed to blind us to the prospect of God's far-greater compensation" (Kent p. 152). ( Rom_8:18 )

Verse 11


The next two sections (4:11-12) and (4:13-17) are related to what has been previously said. What is commonly known as worldliness or being a friend of the world includes much more than what we typically place in that category. Kent notes, "In the next section (4:11-17), James continues to set forth instances, some of them seemingly innocent on the surface, that are nevertheless just as worldly and therefore harmful as the more popularly identified taboos. He talks about a critical spirit, which reflects itself in continually criticizing one's fellows. He writes about the making of plans that may appear to be reasonable and prudent but are actually worldly if God is ignored and unaided human wisdom is all that is employed" (p. 156).

4:11 "Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it."

"Do not speak against one another" -"Do not malign one another" (Ber). "The command in Greek means 'stop speaking evil, or slandering.' The habit was already there" (Roberts p. 170). Barclay notes, "The word that James uses for to speak harshly….Usually this verb means to speak evil of someone else in that person's absence, to criticize, to insult, to slander someone when he is not there to defend himself" (p. 130). "We are all especially prone to make excuses for those whom we appreciate and love; to excuse, justify and forgive them for their weaknesses; and to criticize, condemn and flay those whom we dislike" (Woods p. 237).

Points To Note:

1. Of course we know that James isn't condemning all forms of criticism. There are times when we must confront a brother ( Mat_18:15 ), when we must determine or judge when someone is no longer being honest ( Mat_7:6 ; Tit_3:10 ). 2. It seems clear that James is talking about judging and criticism that comes not from a love for God and others, but from earthly wisdom (3:14-16). Criticism that is generated by envy, jealousy, and selfish ambition. Someone has said that if you love to find fault---then you are automatically disqualified to find it. 3. "We often think that such talk is a small thing. If we were classifying sins, it would be at the bottom of the list. But there are few sins that the Bible more uniformly condemns than this one ( Eph_4:31 , 1Pe_2:1 ; Psa_101:5 ; Psa_34:12-13 ; Pro_6:16-19 )" (Draper p. 131). 4. Paul noted that when others do sin---we need to be on guard, lest we develop sinful attitudes in trying to correct them ( Gal_6:1-2 ). Roberts notes, "We certainly are not to condone sin or wink at it. But neither are we to act from suspicion or from mere appearance or personal dislike. Our own attitude toward those who have been in error is naturally critical" (p. 171). ( 2Ti_2:24-25 ).

"or judges his brother" -Once again, the judging which is forbidden is judging which is hypocritical ( Mat_7:1 ff), proceeds from sinful attitudes, judging which loves to find fault, which tries to impute the worst possible motives to others, or which attempts to place the worst possible interpretation on their words and actions. Remember, love always attempts to assume the best, to believe the best, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary ( 1Co_13:4-8 ).

"speaks against the law, and judges the law" -For the Christian, the law would be the perfect law of liberty (1:25), and specifically, the law being violated is the royal law to love your neighbor as yourself (2:8). The mindset which thrives on finding fault among brethren, is in essence condemning and declaring as worthless the Divine law which commands us to love our brethren as Jesus loved us ( Joh_13:34 ). "Such a practice is, in effect, to say that the law of love is a bad one, or at best defective; and may, therefore, be disregarded" (Woods p. 239).

"and judges the law" -In reality, every time we sin and set aside the will of God, we are in effect saying that God's law isn't fit to be obeyed, that it lacks sense and wisdom. "When someone knows what God's Word commands and violates it anyway, he is saying in effect: 'I have made a decision that this is not a good law, and therefore I will set it aside'" (Kent p. 158).

"but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it" -"you are not a practicer but a critic of the law" (Wms); "thou art setting thyself up to be its censor, instead of obeying it" (Knox). "Such action, says James, means that one has taken himself out of the class of doers and has constituted himself a judge. The person with a critical spirit acts as if he can choose what parts of God's law he will obey and what aspects he may set aside. His performance gives the impression that he is not under God's law but over it" (Kent p. 158). It is very easy to justify our sins, especially when someone else is doing wrong. It is so easy to believe that the false practice or doctrine being advocated by another brother justifies or excuses or is more dangerous and sinful than my abusive or slanderous speech. When we deal with people in error, God doesn't give us the right to verbally abuse, gossip about, lie about, lose our temper with or misrepresent them.

There is another thought here: You cannot place yourself over the Bible as a critic or judge and place yourself under its teachings at the same time. The person, even if they claim to be a religious person, cannot maintain a submission to the Word of God, at the same time of claiming that various parts of verses are not inspired.

Verse 12

4:12 "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?"

"There is only one Lawgiver and Judge" -Far more is at stake than just respect for a law. Disrespect for the law, is disrespect towards God. "James goes on to remind us…that, since God is the source of all law, what is ultimately at stake in a 'permissive society' is respect for the authority of God himself" (Adamson p. 177).

Points To Note:

These verses contain so many lessons: 1. It isn't our job to "judge" the value of God's laws, rather it is simply our job to comply with them. Those who set themselves up as judges over the authenticity of the Bible or those who attempt to judge what is genuine and what is not in the biblical text need to read again the above verses. God condemns the person who breaks His laws, but God also condemns those who presume to make laws for Him. 2. This verse should also remind all believers that God didn't give us the right to be in the "creed" making business. 3. While civil legislators have the right to enact new laws ( Rom_13:1 ff), they do not have the right to pass laws which interfere with the rights, privileges and obligations of children of God, and neither do they have the right to enacts laws which legalize or reward sinful behavior.

"the One who is able to save and to destroy"

Points To Note:

1. Notice that the God who saves, who extends mercy and forgiveness is the same God who gives laws. Law and mercy and not to be viewed as opposites. There is a tremendous amount of mercy and grace reflected in the laws which God has given. 2. In the end only God can condemn and only God can save. 3. There is a place of condemnation, God isn't going to save everyone ( Mat_7:13-14 ; 2Pe_3:9 ). 4. Condemnation and salvation, punishment and grace are both consistent with the nature of God ( Rom_11:22 ). A loving God will condemn, a loving God will allow the unrepentant to end up lost. 5. We need to remind ourselves that we can't consign anyone to hell, at the same time, we need to remind ourselves and others and neither can we give anyone an automatic ticket to heaven.

"but who are you who judge your neighbor?"

Points To Note:

1. Again, we are talking about a judgment that doesn't come from pure motives. 2. We need to be very careful when we rebuke a brother or sister ( 2Ti_4:2 ). We are not all-knowing, we cannot see into their heart, we must be careful that we don't jump to conclusions, and presume the worst. Let us make sure that our information is correct, let us assume the best, unless clear evidence says otherwise, let also give the person a chance to explain themselves and time to change. 2. In addition, let us also remember that we have been guilty ourselves in the past and graciously forgiven, so remember to be humble. 3. The wisdom from above will rebuke sin and make judgments which Christians have been called upon to make ( 1Th_5:14 ; 1Th_3:6-13 ). But at the same time this wisdom is very careful in not overstepping its bounds. Roberts notes, "Too often we suspect that people will do things or are guilty of them, and we say why they have done them, when we actually do not know and probably because we simply do not like them" (p. 173). When we starting becoming suspicious of every member, when we start enjoying and relishing the opportunity to rebuke someone, when we go out of our way to look for sins, and when we start suspecting everyone's motive for what they do and say, then we are operating by the wisdom that is from below.

Verse 13

The Presumptuous Use Of Time

When we think of what some have called the sin of worldliness, we often think in terms of immodest apparel, filthy language, watching the wrong kind of television programs, movies and so on. But a worldly attitude also includes being hypercritical of our brethren (4:11-12), and planning for the future without really including God in our plans. James chapter 4 reminds us that there is more much involved in being a Christian than just planning ahead or using your talents, abilities and financial resources in a prudent manner. All self-starters, all conservative thinkers, and all hard workers are not necessarily right with God. More is needed to be right with God than rugged individualism.

"The following industrious businessman who make careful and elaborate plans without any regard for God. The various activities may not be improper, but if God is ignored, they are worldly" (Kent p. 160).

4:13 "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit'".

"Come now" -Somewhat like our "come, come now". It is a way of saying, "Take a good look at what you are really saying". The King James, "Go to now", is an expression that sounds strange to our ears, but in times past was a way getting someone's attention.

"you who say" -There is some discussion among commentators concerning who is being addressed in this section. Many assume that James is rebuking the arrogance of Jewish businessmen. But why would James suddenly start talking to non-Christians, in a letter than has been thus far directed right at Christians? In addition, the attitude, "if the Lord wills" (4:15), won't help an unbeliever unless they first become a Christian. But such a attitude would be the repentance necessary by one who is already a Christian.

"Today or tomorrow" -indicating that these were real plans and not just pipe dreams.

"we shall go to such and such a city" -Barclay notes, "So the picture is the picture of a man looking at a map. He points at a certain spot on it, and says, 'Here is a new city where there are great trade chances. I'll go there; and I'll get in on the ground floor; and I'll trade for a year or so; and I'll make my fortune, and come back rich'" (p. 133). Hence a person could return, buy a large piece of property, become a wealthy landowner or gentlemen farmer and enjoy the good life. Note, nothing has really changed. The same attitude to make it rich, the same high hopes and confident expectations have fueled people during the gold rush, and still fuel people today.

Points To Note:

1. The people being rebuked probably included God in many other aspects of their lives (i.e. worship services, and so on). But in their business plans, they have left God out. These aren't atheists, rather they are brethren who are forgetting that God is to be included in every aspect of their lives. But how often do we tend to want to exclude God from a certain area of our lives? 2. We should be impressed that people in the first century world, far from being primitive, were quite the travelers. Roads, shipping and communications in the Roman Empire were well organized. Kent notes, "Travel, while not comfortable or luxurious by modern standards, was nevertheless regularly done. The New Testament itself reveals the readiness with which Paul could travel great distances. An example from the business world is the situation of Aquila and Priscilla, whose travels can be reconstructed from the New Testament data: Rome to Corinth ( Act_18:2-3 ); Corinth to Ephesus (18:18-19); Ephesus to Rome ( Rom_16:3-5 ); Rome to Ephesus ( 2Ti_4:19 )" (p. 160). 3. Good old American ingenuity is not a substitute for Christianity. Carefully note, the people in this section are self-motivated, they aren't lazy. They are industrious, they are self-starters, they believe in the work ethic, they are not wanting a handout, they want to make their own way in life---and yet, God rebukes them.

"and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit" -The expression "engage in business" is translated from a Greek word, from whence we get the English word "emporium". It means to traffic, carry on trade, to go a trading.

Points To Note:

1. Carefully note that there is nothing wrong with conducting business and making a profit. God endorses the private ownership of property, goods and making legitimate profit ( Act_5:4 ). God also endorses hard work, providing for one's family and attending to your own business ( Eph_4:28 ; 1Th_4:11-12 ; 1Ti_5:8 ; 2Th_3:10 ). 2. What is being rebuked is making all these plans without any dependence upon God. Even Christians can make the mistake of thinking that when it comes to business, everything depends upon our own human talents and wisdom. That in this area of our lives, we don't need any help from God. How many of us go to a job interview without praying first? Enter a business meeting without prayer? Make plans for a career or attempt to further our career or business with little trust in God? "It must not be concluded that James was condemning wise planning. Jesus taught His followers the folly of failing to calculate one's resources before beginning some enterprise ( Luk_14:28-32 ). What is denounced is planning that leaves God out, planning that thinks human ingenuity alone is all that is necessary" (Kent p. 161). 3. Every Christian at any age can fall into the above trap. Young couples can make all sorts of plans for a house, children and so on---with very little dependence upon God. We can leave God out of our retirement plans, make huge and far reaching financial decisions without praying to God, plan our future education and career, plan our children's educational future---with very little trust in God. And why is this so? Is it because we tend to think that God can't help us with such decisions? Or, is it because we inwardly believe that practicing Christianity and being successful in business are opposites? If the truth were told, I sometimes think that while we believe that God knows what He is doing and saying about eternal life and what one must do to be saved, we're really not sure if God knows what He is talking about when the Bible touches upon the way we conduct ourselves in business. We tend to trust human wisdom, human authors and human experts in the business realm more than we trust in divine wisdom.

These verses should make us really think, "Why are we a Christian?" One writer noted, "Christians today frequently pride themselves on being different from the world, but in reality they are usually only different from a particular segment of the world….Because we cling to conservative American values, we tell ourselves that we're acting independently of our culture. But conservative attitudes can be just as much a part of the world as liberal ones….We're only fooling ourselves when we equate conservative attitudes with godly attitudes"

The point is that often we think we are really doing good because we believe in the work ethic, and we are working hard ourselves, without realizing that many people with the same attitude are lost! Are we a Christian merely because we naturally like various conservative ideas that we find in the Bible, or are we a Christian because we have realized that we cannot live without God? And that we have come to love Him with our whole mind, heart, soul and strength?

Verse 14

4:14 "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."

"Yet you do not know" - Pro_27:1 "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." Like the rich man in Luk_12:19 , we can easily assume that we have "many years". Here we see human presumptuousness. We are admittedly very finite, why we can't even guarantee that we will be around tomorrow. And yet, we so easily make earthly plans which stretch far out into the future, without even thinking that we might not be around.

"what your life will be like tomorrow" -The same people who are making plans for the whole year---don't even know if they will be around tomorrow! In addition, they don't even know what their life will be like tomorrow.

Points To Note:

1. The text naturally assumes that no man can predict the future. Only those guided by the Holy Spirit can penetrate into such mysteries. The above verse wouldn't be true if true psychics really existed. This is precisely why God condemns psychics, astrologers and everything other human attempt to penetrate the future, for it manifests man's attempt to be independent of God. 2. The verse also assumes that a lot can happen in one day, and that even the best forecasters, businessmen and experts cannot anticipate everything. As Solomon said, "for time and chance overtake them all" ( Ecc_9:11 ). "It is, therefore, sheer folly for one to act as if the future is under one's control when one is wholly ignorant of what even one day holds" (Woods p. 248).

"You are just a vapor" -Especially when we are young we think we are invincible and eternal. James brings us down to reality. What type or quality of life do we really possess? The expression "what your life will be like tomorrow", in some manuscripts reads, "for what kind of life is yours".

"just a vapor" -boy, what a humbling statement! "Your life is transitory, precarious, and not totally controllable or predictable….Like steam that escapes from a pan cooking over the fire, or the breath that is briefly visible on a cold morning, so life itself has its time of visibility; but in light of God's eternal plan, the earthly manifestation is brief" (Kent pp. 162-163). "The word 'vapor' means either 'mist, fog, breath, or smoke.' Any such rendering will preserve the figure. It stands for something seemingly with us which vanishes suddenly and is seen no more. Even a full life is only a moment in eternity" (Roberts p. 177).

Points To Note:

1. God often reminds mankind that physical life here on the earth, even a long life time is still extremely brief ( Isa_40:6 ). It seems that every generation seems to think that its own time somehow constitutes a time that has been different from all other times. While other generations have come and gone, we tend to think that our generation is the only lasting and relevant generation. 2. Psa_39:4-5 "Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the extent of my days, let me know how transient I am "; Job_7:7-21 ; Job_8:1-22 ; Job_9:1-3 . In addition, we tend to think that unless we have a long life, that our life will have been lived in vain. But it isn't how long we live that counts, rather it is what we do will the years that we are given. Too many of us are always planning for the future while never living as we should today.

Verse 15

4:15 "Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that'".

"Instead" -Note what James didn't say. James didn't say, "Since life is so short and unpredictable---live in fear!" Barclay notes, "But James goes on. This uncertainty of life is not a cause either for fear or for inaction because of the insecurity of the future. It is a reason for accepting and realizing our complete dependence on God…..The true Christian way is not to be terrorized into fear, and not to be paralyzed into inaction, by the uncertainty of the future, but to commit the future and all our plans into the hands of God, and always to remember that our plans may not be within the purpose of God" (p. 134).

"If the Lord wills" -Which is found in other passages ( Act_18:21 ; 1Co_4:19 ; 1Co_16:7 ; Heb_6:3 ).

Points To Note:

1. Carefully note, that merely attaching this expression at the end of what we say, without really having faith in the statement----is useless. The statement can become a meaningless repetition if we really don't believe that God is the ruler in this universe. 2. Kent notes, "It would be wrong, however, to imagine that James was insisting upon a ritualistic formula to be attached to every statement that involved some future action. There are other instances in the New Testament where plans are stated without these words. In Ephesus, Paul stated his intention of visiting Rome after traveling to Jerusalem, Macedonia, and Achaia, he did not append this formula ( Act_19:21 ). He told the Romans about his plan to visit Rome on his way to Spain and likewise did not attach this proviso ( Rom_15:24-28 ). What James was talking about, and what Paul demonstrated by his own practice, was the need for a proper attitude. When one's perspective is correct, it will be reflected at times in words but always shows in the way he looks at life and makes his plans" (pp. 163-164).

"we shall live" -First things first, we need to remember that while we have big plans, we might not be alive to start the project, much less finish it. "Death often comes with shocking suddenness---a sudden stroke, a fatal heart attack, the rendering crash of an automobile, and it is over, in a moment, without an instant's warning" (Woods p. 247).

"and also do this or that" -Note, that God doesn't ridicule the idea of planning. James doesn't go to the other extreme, where people simply say that God will do everything for them. Here, we find that human planning, human effort and the Divine will and power are to work together in harmony. We still need to plan, work and use prudence.

Points To Note:

1. God isn't against being successful or making a profit! One can be very spiritual and a very good business man at the same time. 2. "Thus the proper attitude does not exclude plans: "we will live and do this or that" assumes planning is proper….This naturally means that divine moral guidelines will be followed and divine goals sought as one plans conscious of the divine will" (Davids p. 173).

Verse 16

4:16 "But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil".

"But as it is" -"But here you are, boasting in your proud pretensions!" (Mof).

"boast in your arrogance" -The word "arrogance" means "empty, braggart talk" (Thayer p. 25). "The word signifies the self deceived and groundless confidence in the stability of life and health on which the worldly pride themselves. On this foundation your boastful speeches (and plans) are built" (Alford p. 1619). "The basic idea of James's term is pretentiousness or arrogance. These merchants were proud of their abilities, made no secret of the fact, and conveyed the impression that they were fully capable of accomplishing by their own abilities whatever they set out to do" (Kent p. 165).

Compare with 1Jn_2:16 "the boastful pride of life": "It denotes the disposition to claim cleverness, strength, skill; hence, sufficiency; and, of course, without God…..Bad as it is to feel independent of God, it is worse to glory in it, and to boast of it to others" (Woods p. 252). Carefully note, that such boasting might simply have been in regard to their commercial lives….they may have been very pious in services and at home. But we need to be reminded that no part of life is outside the rule of God.

"all such boasting is evil" -"All such pride is wrong" (Gspd). "All such"-arrogance in any area of our lives, not just in reference to business enterprises---is wrong. It is wrong because it is the attitude that I can live without God, I don't need Him, it is where I have elevated myself to the status that only belongs to God. "We must ever remember that God is the superintendent of the universe; we are the creatures of his hand; and we should conduct ourselves accordingly" (Woods p. 252). And yet there are things that we need to boast about ( 1Th_2:19 ; Gal_6:14 ).

Verse 17

4:17 "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin".

"Therefore" -Indicating that this verse is connected with the preceding verses. James has outlined the right thing to do, not only in this chapter but in the previous three chapters. Therefore, the person who keeps on making plans without God is continuing in sin, and the person who continues to be hypercritical of their brethren (4:11-12) is doing the same thing.

"to one who knows the right thing to do" -The verse assumes that Christians do know the right thing to do. James knew that these Christians could understand exactly what he was saying. On the whole, when people don't do the right thing, it's not because they are confused by the teaching found in the biblical record. The verse also infers that we can do the right thing ( 2Ti_3:16-17 ).

"and does not do it" -"present active, 'and to one not doing it'" (Robertson p. 56). These Christians knew that friendship with the world is enmity with God, that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, and so on. They knew better, they were not living up to the standard which they were capable ( Luk_12:47 ; Joh_15:22 ).

Points To Note:

1. "One of the great tragedies in our day has been that we have come to treat lightly sins of omission. We have come to think that it is not nearly as bad if we don't do something as it is if we do something. For instance, few of us have any guilt at all over not (talking to others) about Christ. We go day after day, week after week and never tell anyone about Christ…..If we get mad, lose our temper, or say a curse word, we feel terrible. But we can go all week and not do what is the most precious thing a Christian could do and feel no guilt at all. We have built an immunity to the things we don't do" (Draper p. 139). See 1 Samuel 12:23. 2 . "Those of this category are careful to observe the 'Thou shalt nots', of the Scriptures, but are little concerned with the 'Thou shalts'. They assume they are good, simply because they are not bad! They forget that goodness is a positive quality; not merely the absence of the bad" (Woods p. 254). Compare with Mat_25:42-43 . The same lesson is found in the parable concerning the one talent man ( Mat_25:14 ff).

"to him it is sin" -It is also sin for anyone else that falls into the same category. "he is guilty of sin" (Gspd). God is making it clear that these Christians are without excuse if they fail to apply the teachings in this letter. It is a sin to do something which one has moral doubts about, even if it is the right thing to do ( Rom_14:23 ), it is also a sin to know that a thing is right and yet leave it undone.

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on James 4". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/james-4.html. 1999-2014.
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