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Bible Commentaries

Derickson's Notes on Selected Books

James 4

Verse 1

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 4:1-4


The WORLD WARS: Between 1496 and 1861 A. D. there were only 277 years of peace. The world knows how to dispute.

THE FAMILY WARS: I arrived at my grandmother’s house two hours after the funeral had finished. The house was bare - a two-story house was empty of furniture and belongings. The only thing in the house was the kitchen table where they were packing a last box or two. The family had fought over every stick of belonging my grandmother left. The fighting went on after they went home over when the house would bed sold, and who really owned the car etc.

THE CHURCH WARS: When I was growing up there was a group in the church that was very conservative, and they loved the pastor. The rest of the folks disliked the pastor so they called a pastor of their liking. The two pastors tried to work together but it was not to be. Over the weeks the church split in half.

The world is expected to war if we look at history at all. The family may war if the problems are large enough, but the church should never war, as a matter of honor and love for their Savior.

From whence [come] wars and fightings among you? [come they] not hence, [even] of your lusts that war in your members?

Where do church disputes come from? Easy enough to answer, says James. From the lust that is within your own body. Not necessarily sexual lust, but it is not precluded. Specifically in this context of the tongue, of strife, of problems, it seems that lust conjures up all the wrong that comes to the church today.

Due to the comments about adultery in verse four, to follow, some might suggest that this IS sexual lust, but note in verse eleven the speaking is again mentioned. It is not to say that sexual lust can’t be a part of the mix, but I think it is forcing the context to say that it is sexual lust alone.

The use of the terms "in your members" indicates that this problem gets all parts of the being involved. The feet to get you where you need to be to spread the venom, your hands to write it down, and your tongue to speak it. When someone is bent on causing strife it, will come out from the entire being of the person. They will be absorbed by their task until it is completed.

The more specific idea of the text might well be the members of the local church body. The congregation comes to war with one another. The verse speaks of the strife and division within the church and it is certainly a war when the church body starts attacking itself.

Verses 1-4


1. We have seen that we ask amiss. What are some situations where we might be praying amiss?

a. Oh, Lord, bring the snow so the skiing trip will be great.

b. Oh Lord bless this ball game and let us have the victory for you! Hum, is God interested in winning a ball game?

c. Have you prayed for sunshine for that picnic? Praying for weather is not necessarily wrong, but it ought to be for God’s purpose and glory. A radio station in Europe needed to pour a concrete slab for the base of a large piece of equipment. They all prayed for sunshine - it occurred for God’s glory.

d. Have you ever prayed for trials to be stopped? Instead, pray that you will have strength to get through them.

2. We mentioned worldliness earlier. Can you define worldliness?

Is it pride, is it lust, is it idolatry, is it self-righteousness?

Is it dressing like the world? Is it talking like the world?

Is it enjoying the mountains? Years ago a pastor friend told me his entire deacon board informed him they would be gone the following Sunday due to an elk hunting trip. He said, that it was okay, he would just put a sign on the church door Sunday, reading, Closed, due to hunting trip.

That Sunday the deacons were in church - they were sleeping during the sermon due to driving all night, but they were there.

Creation is not wrong as long as it doesn’t interfere with our relationship with the Creator.

I heard a pastor once that stated that worldliness was anything that hindered the person’s relationship with Christ. I think that about covers it. It is concentrating more on here than there.

We tend to think of things, power, and money as worldliness, but there are sneaky types of worldliness that ministers fall into. They most likely fall into the “pride of life” idea that often visits the pastor. These things often creep into all professions and jobs, so I am not picking on pastors.

Preachers can fall into the trap of "I am called to preach" to the exclusion of other needs in the church. I spoke with a deacon of a small town church that was so frustrated with their new pastor. He was called to preach and teach and nothing else. The deacon would ask the pastor to go to coffee at the local café so he could meet some of the townspeople and farmers, but he never had time, he always had to study.

Another man I heard speak once had gotten side tracked on the social end of things. He had become convinced that it was his duty to spend the rest of his life "doing" for the Jews because of Christianity’s abuse of them in long ago history. He went to school to study Judaism so he could better minister to them. Had he felt called to do all this that would be another thing, but he was doing it out of some sense of personal guilt for what others had done.

Again, we see concentration on things here to the exclusion of things there.

3. Take some time and consider how Ephesians 5:30-33 relates to this thought of James. "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife [see] that she reverence [her] husband."

4. Let us spend some time on the Friend/Enemy idea.

FRIEND? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ENEMY


one that is closely attached ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? one that is hostel toward

one that is not hostel toward ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? one that hates another

one of the same mind-set? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? one that is a foe

together? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? adversary

kin? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? antagonist

close? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? distant

fondness? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? dislike

There is the reverse of this as well. If you are a friend with God, you will be the enemy of the world. That sets the stage for some real blessing as well as some real trouble.

5. Some thought on 1 John 2:15-17 is due here as well. " Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 6 For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

Note: If you love the world you don’t love God - fact.

Note: The three items listed below are of the world, not of God.

Note: The world will pass away along with the threesome.

Note: The man that does the will of God will abide forever.

The fearsome threesome

Lust of the flesh

Lust of the eyes

Pride of life

Most agree that the lust relates to desires of the body and mind, while the pride of life, in my mind is being proud of whom and what you are. That is a lesson in itself. It can relate to all sorts of situations of life, not necessarily to the high and mighty. Being proud that you aren’t high and mighty might also be pride of life.

6. In verse four we noted the terms "adulterers and adulteresses." The American Standard Version and Darby’s version leave out the term "adulterers" and only lists the feminine term. This depends on which Greek text is used for translation. It doesn’t really make much difference, in that the use of the feminine term only would probably mean James was thinking of the church as a whole - the Bride of Christ, which would include both men and women. I don’t see that there is any difference between having both terms or only one.

The significance is that the church, when serving the world, is setting up incorrect personal relationships with the world and taking away from their relationship with God.

Just imagine how the spouse feels when they find their partner in marriage has been unfaithful. This is the same relationship or breaking thereof, that God uses to picture how He is treated when we give our time and allegiance to the world and the world’s ways.

7. When you see the words "wars and fightings" what comes to your mind? The World Wars, Korea, Viet Nam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, or Iraq? That is our cultural twist on things. Remember that James did not write this year or last, he wrote in the early years of the church.

What might have popped into the minds of the readers in James day? He wrote early, so we might surmise that the Roman legions came to mind as well as their overrunning of Israel, or the conquests of Europe. It might even have been in their mind that Jerusalem was in danger of destruction.

I just want to point out that perspective is important to the understanding of the Word. They weren’t thinking of tanks and planes, they would have been thinking, most likely, of one on one combat. They would have been thinking of close, hand to hand combat with someone whose breath they could feel on their face, not the high altitude planes with their guided bombs with cameras in their noses.

He likens church problems to this sort of war. The thought of church problems right now, brings one to the thought of type of music and which translation you should use.

Now, let’s for a moment, consider this thought of church trouble today. Yes, we should divide over important doctrine, we should have disputes on many things, but music and translations are two NON-BIBLICAL issues that are splitting churches today. The battles get rather harsh when they come, maybe not to the point of blows, but of the point of real hurt and real pain in those that are involved.

Repeat, these are non-biblical issues and they should never split a church but they do. Those that want one translation over the other or those that require contemporary music will take a church to the ground over the issue and have no Biblical basis for it. This ought not to be!

I have found that even when there are differences of opinion in the church, that there is no quarter given to those that disagree. They are automatically wrong, unbiblical and divisive. This also ought not to be!

The church must offer sanctuary to those of differing opinions on the minor doctrines, but this isn’t the case much anymore. Many pastors while offering their opinion deride and insult those that might differ with them and they do this from the pulpit. The result is people leaving the church because of the insults flung.

I am not saying that major doctrine should be compromised, but the other stuff ought to be open to difference of opinion and discussion. There are many in the Calvinist camp that will tell you that if you don’t hold to their five points you cannot possibly be saved. I suggest that one be left up to the Lord that saves rather than the doctrine that is held.

8. We see in this passage the thought of worldliness versus Godliness and pride of life versus satisfaction with your station in life. How does this play out in the church in 2005 or so? When you seek to be deacon or elder, do you do so with God and His work in mind or the little bit of status it might gain you for your business.

Years ago, my brother, a contractor joined the Methodist church because that is where all the business people in our town belonged. He told me it was for the business that he joined. This doesn’t seem to be a proper reason to join any organization, church or otherwise. Since my brother was not saved at the time, it mattered little.

If you are a pastor, do you go out looking for bigger churches, to pastor, bigger positions in your fellowship? You ought not unless it is God doing the leading. To seek position most likely is wrong. On the other hand, if you don’t go looking will you move on to other areas where God wants you? Sadly in the mind set of the church today, probably not.

The church seems set up for the social climber and anyone that isn’t climbing is defective in some way. To remain in one church for years is not viewed as too good on the resume. I know many men that were not into the climbing for climbings sake and when they found themselves without a ministry, there was little call for them to enter again into a church. Many many men have gone back into the secular world because the church hierarchy seems to class them a little lower than the social climber and thus not to be desired.

The church should move to change this misconception so that good men are not lost in the shuffle of climbers. Sure, those that are climbers would suggest that the person that waits on the Lord is not spiritual, but I’m not sure there is a Biblical basis for such a statement.

Many churches have settled for less than God wanted because they were responsive to those that sought bigger churches. The ministry is not an occupation where you strive for the top notch, it is a ministry where you minister in God’s place for God’s time and move on only when He is leading, not when self and desire for position are leading.

Verse 2

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

We lust for things but have not those things. We kill and desire but can’t obtain. "Desire" is that word for zeal again. You are zealous to have your desires fulfilled.

We fight and war but have not because we ask not. Not that God will give us things if we ask, but this most likely refers back to asking for wisdom - Godly wisdom from above. We have not wisdom because we don’t ask for it; we’d rather do it on our own in our own way with the wisdom of the world.

All church problems are right here. They are caused by people not asking God for HIS wisdom, instead they replace the void with what the world calls wisdom - you know - humanism, I should be satisfied. If it is okay with me then it is okay for me. I am the center of the universe and all surrounds and bows to me and my desires.

The phrase, "ye kill" is somewhat out of place in this context, in that James is talking about church problems that arise from the tongue and worldly wisdom. This is actually the word for committing murder. It can be used of one putting a gun to someone’s head and taking their life. Drastic terminology Mr. James uses.

How can he use "kill" in the same phrase with "desire?" What is he getting at?

Barnes suggests that some say it should read "envy" since there is the possibility of a misreading of the text. The two words are very similar in spelling in the Greek. Barnes dismisses this possibility and suggests that it is a murderous attitude, rather than murder in the literal sense. He does not give a basis for this other than the same "conjecture" with which he dismisses the thoughts of those that suggest "envy."

Robertson suggests that the phrase might be better translated "murderous envy" or envy that could drive to murder, not that murder had occurred. Others simply include the term in their commentary on envy without dealing with it.

It might be possible that James is using hyperbole here, by using a drastic term for the way they are treating one another due to their envy. Constable also suggests this interpretation of hyperbole.

It might also be suggested that their envy, if not controlled, will lead to murder, which is a truth in our own society.

Personally the only line of thought I am comfortable with would be the hyperbole, or possibly it should be taken literally. It is possible that James knew that some had died from this terrible envy. In that day, life had little value to one living in the mind-set of the world. Indeed, this is true in our own day. People that are bent on owning your belongings seldom stop at just taking the things, but often kill you if you get in their way, if not just kill you for the fun of it.

The best of the possibles in my mind would be that he was exaggerating for effect. You envy so deeply that you may well be murderers in your work. This might work into the "murderous envy" suggested by Robertson, and would be fitting in the context, rather than an actual taking of life.

Some contemplation on 1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14 might bring further light to the subject for you. 22. "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." 5:14 "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:"

Verse 3

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume [it] upon your lusts.

Rather straight forward - you pray for something, but don’t get it because you ask for things you can use to satisfy your own lust.

"Lust" is the word we base "hedonistic" on. It means lust and desire for pleasure. "Amiss" is a word that means sick or diseased. When we are praying for things for our own pleasure, we are diseased. Not a grand picture for a believer.

This might relate to praying for a new car, it might mean asking God to pay for an education that you want so you can be called by some title, it might relate to asking God to place you in a leadership role in the church for the title, and respect’s sake, rather than serving God.

Verse 4

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

This is speaking to spiritual adultery of believers - they are turning against God for their own pleasure. James applies this and states clearly that if you are a friend of the world you are the enemy of God.

Now, that isn’t a place I would like to find myself in - being the enemy of God.

Being a friend of the world would be bad enough for the spiritual Christian, but the added consequence is even worse.

What might be a sign of being a friend of the world?

a. Going to the world’s entertainment whether in the theater or at home on the television.

b. Going to the places that the world loves to go - bars, clubs, wild parties etc.

c. Doing what the world likes to do - parties, provocative clothes, and provocative life style.

d. Talking like the world - swearing, all the fad language twists, or inappropriate topics.

e. Taking any of the above, calling them Christian and doing them because they are "Christian."

f. Having a world mind-set - being focused on what is going on here, when we ought to be focused on getting there.

g. Using worldly thinking (humanism, isms, etc.) in a Christian context to reach improper conclusions and actions.

Verse 5

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 4:5-10

Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

"The spirit" is in some question as to what or whom it is speaking of. Is it the Holy Spirit that indwells us or our own spirit that is within, that James is speaking about? We know our spirit is active in the area of lust and envy, but we also know that the Holy Spirit is not involved with either of the two. Some suggest that it is the Holy Spirit that envies the relationship we have to sin. This might be possible in some people’s minds, but it seems to detract from the character of the Spirit - to put Him on a plain with man in that swirl of envy that is so destructive and evil.

The Life Application Bible states that the Greek states "the Holy Spirit," however there is no indication that "holy" is in the text. Others suggest that the "spirit" is not referring to the Holy Spirit due to the context, although the same term is used of both the Holy Spirit and other spirits as well.

Robertson suggests the same thought is expressed in Exodus 20:5; Genesis 6:3-5; Isaiah 63:8-16. He continues that Paul used the same thought in Galatians 5:17; Galatians 5:21 and Romans 8:6; Romans 8:8. He assumes that the passage speaks of the Holy Spirit but he also admits that there is no real way to be positive either way.

In my mind the passage is more fitting if it speaks to the spirit of man which is centered on pleasing the self side of man rather than the God side.

It just seems that to read the context with man’s spirit in view is much smoother than to interject the Holy Spirit into the discussion so abruptly. Barnes seems to follow this line of thought as well when he states: "The meaning may be thus expressed: "It is true that the natural spirit in man is one that tends to envy, and thus leads to all the sad consequences of envy."

In relation to the "scripture saith" phrase, some suggest it is similar to some in the Old Testament, others suggest it may be from a Hebrew version of the Old Testament that we no longer have, or even others suggest it comes from the tenor of Scripture, rather than from a quote of it.

Actually you can read this as two questions as the American Standard Version translates it, and then there is no need to figure out what James meant by the following phrase because it no longer is a quote from Scripture. "Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" The King James allows for this, but it just isn’t as plain as the ASV.

At any rate, the Scripture can never speak in vain, it is always true and it is always valid, and it will always be the message that God wants us to have for our Christian living.

It would be ridiculous to suggest that the Scripture speaks incorrectly, and thus any indication of the same, must be from the spirit of man misinterpreting the Scripture.

Verses 5-8


1. Jamieson Fausset & Brown mention of pride: "The Greek means in derivation one who shows himself above his fellows, and so lifts himself against God."

This seems to be showing one’s self above his fellow man, or putting one’s self above your fellow man. The point that I would draw your attention to is that they see this putting of one’s self above others as putting one’s self against God. Think about that for a moment. Is there possibly some truth to the accusation that they are putting themselves above God as well?

a. Since we are created in His image, it seems to me that there would be a truth here to consider. The Devil was removed from the angelic host because he set himself above God in his pride.

b. Since God declares in His word that all are equal before Him, would not setting yourself up above others be declaring God wrong? I think that is the clear implication. (Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Colossians 3:11 "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond [nor] free: but Christ [is] all, and in all.")

Pride was illustrated for us years ago when we went to hear John R. Rice speak. The first speaker was Jack Hyles (This was before many felt he was cultic in nature.) and at the end of his message he was asked to take the offering. He asked everyone that was going to give a dollar to raise their hands. Then he asked everyone that was going to give five dollars to raise their hands. He then asked all that were going to give ten dollars or more to stand up. You could see the pride on many of the faces as they looked around the auditorium to see who was looking at them.

Before the offering he asked everyone to bow their heads for prayer. The pianist started playing quietly. He asked her to stop playing and stated that he didn’t need piano music playing when HE prayed.

The next morning my wife tuned in his program on the radio. At the close of the program she noticed that the piano was being played as he prayed. Pride is an evil thing and creeps into all our lives at one time or another.

Before we move on, we might consider the problem of pride in the church conflicts. Many church problems arise from a few wanting what they want and some others wanting what they want and the looser and/or the winner comes to the situation with pride - trouble will be the result.

It might be that church problems with pride actually originate elsewhere in the person’s life. They might have a pride problem in the real world that is causing them great frustration and it bleeds over into their church relationships as well. Often a person with problems strikes out at their family because they can’t strike out in the real situation. So, the church being "family" there may be a similar feeling of safety with striking out against those that love the individual.

2. Verse six mentions that God gives grace to the humble. "Humble" is a word that means lowly, or not far from the ground. Guess my wife is more humble than her husband. She is five feet and her husband is over six. She is certainly not far from the ground when compared to me.

It relates to being lowly or of low degree. Not rising above, or maybe not even rising to the equal. Many people seem to emphasize the fact that Christ cleansed the temple so he wasn’t the quiet lowly person that everyone thinks. A few moments out of a life and they judge His total character based on those few moments. Not wise interpretation. Look at all of the other indications that He was a lowly quiet man and set the excited moments in perspective with the whole.

He was quiet, He was humble, and He is our example. When He was washing the disciples’ feet He told them "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." John 13:14

We ought to move toward quietness of spirit and life in our Christian walk, rather than the usual belligerent, outgoingness of today’s Christian.

The term translated "grace" here is the normal term for grace. Grace is so much more than just the giving of salvation to the undeserving. The term is full of meaning that we often leave out in left field because we are focused on the Calvinist line of thought that seems to limit it to one thing - God bestowing a grand gift of salvation upon someone that is totally undeserving. This is true, but it is also the characteristic God gives to the believer to assist in his humility.

Grace is the Greek word "charis." The Greeks about sixty to ninety years before Christ or James used the term in relation to pleasure. The higher societal young women were trained in the art of worldly pleasure, or doing things that gave pleasure to men. This included all aspects of how a woman was to act around and toward a man. The word was focused on the pleasure of another, but the pleasure of the one giving was also involved.

Christians evidently took this concept and applied it to their understanding of God’s gifts to us via salvation and the Spirit within us. If you apply this idea, you see God is giving you charis to assist in your humility so that you can be pleased with your Christian life, and not to forget that He will be pleased with your actions.

Part of this humbling process most certainly must be our submission to Him that has transferred us from death into life. These verses are tied closely together and must not be ripped apart for the ease of a good sermon. Submit to God so that you might be humble, but that is in the direct context of the Devil and his flight from us. Now, humility and submission does not look like we are to viciously attack the enemy, we are to stand against him and he will flee from us. No need for us to be the ferocious spiritual warriors that some suggest when we meet the Devil. If we are walking closely with God, he won’t be hanging around us, except for an annoying burst of anger toward us now and then to see if he can dislodge us from Him that he hates.

3. "God resisteth the proud" should send shivers up some Christian’s spines. I think that some of the most prideful people I have met are believers. They are arrogant beyond the norm, and don’t mind telling you why they are so grand and why you are so terribly low and unworthy.

Some on the internet are so proud of their abilities of the sharp tongue and they are so willing to swing it around as they see the blood fly. It is their "gift" to uphold truth, no matter where they find "falsehood" and to cut out that supposed "falsehood" no matter the cost. After all, when God imparts to you, the wisdom of the ages, you must uphold what He hath given at all cost, even to the mocking and belittling of other children of God. Actually, that is one of their drawbacks, often if you disagree with them you are not a child of God, but of the other side.

I’m not sure just how much truth it takes to change a person from being appreciative of God’s revellings to him, to that point where the truth becomes a weapon to be used upon your sister’s and brother’s in Christ, but often these people have more than enough "truth" to force them across this line.

These are the people where anything you say is suspect, if not outright heresy if it does not follow their teaching completely. When you present a verse in opposition it is cast aside because you interpret the verse incorrectly, or it does not apply. Logic has nothing to do with their position unless it might support them in some manner. After all, when one of them has declared truth, what else is there to say about the subject?

Often their arrogance increases proportionately with their education. The more degrees they have the more decrees that they make. The more decrees they make the more they decry everything which counters their own conclusions about truth.

I am not anti-education, but I see many well educated people acting as if they had never crossed into that realm of existence. I would also suggest that there are many uneducated that can be just as prideful, just as arrogant, and just as obnoxious. Both have a sad day before the judgment seat of Christ - not that all of us don’t have that day to dread.

4. We are told, first to submit to God, and then we are told to draw nigh to Him. We might deduce that submission is not the whole, but only a portion. Submission is great, but drawing nigh is the completion. Not that drawing nigh is alone the whole. Both are needed to complete the task.

What might the difference be? To submit is to put Him first in our decisions, and living. Drawing nigh would seem to be that walking toward, or that seeking of His presence. You can seek His company, but if you are not submitted to Him you will not feel the closeness you seek.

You can also be submitted to Him and yet avoid prayer and the Word, though without the two, you can’t be completely submitted to Him.

Within a marriage a wife might be submitted to her husband, yet not seek to be with him. They might be in two different worlds, yet she could be submitted. She might also seek that marriage bond closeness, yet fail to achieve it due to her lack of submission to her spouse.

In my mind, Peter was submitted to his place as an apostle, yet didn’t seek a closeness to that office when asked if he was a follower of the Lord and he denied Christ. He might even have been submitted to God at the time, but he certainly did not want to claim the closeness that could have been his.

5. In reading several commentaries, I have concluded that any interpretation you put to verses five and six will be as valid as any other. The commentators often have a side that they choose, but seldom any proof of any substance. Several suggest this is one of the most difficult texts in the Bible.

I guess if you can come to a satisfactory interpretation for yourself here, you can know that you can interpret any passage of the Bible, if you put your mind to it. I think we have presented a better case than any of the commentaries, but of course that is plainly my opinion and not theirs.

I suggested on an internet board once that all the Greek scholars do their best with this passage and post their results, thus giving everyone a chance to evaluate in their own minds how much Greek would assist in their personal lives. One of the men posted most emphatically that he thought this was a useless suggestion, that it would prove nothing. I wasn’t looking for "proof" and stated such, but he was very negative about the whole issue.

I had suggested taking a couple of days to do the study and then posting the results. When the time came for posting there was not one post. I do not know if it was due to the negativity of the man and the other men on the board agreeing with him, or the fact that they knew that their Greek and Hebrew would not give them a good answer on this text. I assume it was the later personally.

If men with years of language study state that there is no conclusive translation of the text, rather proves that the language study is not the "all perfect" answer, that so many suggest it is, but rather, that the languages are a tool for interpretation - in my mind a time saver, but not a definitive answer to every passage.

6. Constable submits that the Devil desires to get us to "doubt, deny, disregard, and disobey" God’s Word. I believe that this sums up the issue quite nicely. Constable goes on to say that he draws this from how Satan attacked Eve and Christ Himself. Any way to draw us away from God and His Word will be effective enough for the Devil’s purpose.

If we are walking with Him and putting time into His Word, we will be on solid ground, but if we are walking on our own and ignoring the Word we are walking on shifting sands. I once saw a movie that I did not finish due to the terrible language that they were using, and this was the "cleaned up" language that was left in when they blurbed the really offensive items out.

The premise of the movie was a monster that lived in the sand that operated on sound waves. If you were moving the thing could track you from underground, come along and cause you to become its reason for needing some antacid. The monster could only bother the people if they were on the sand, but if upon the rocks in the area they were safe. So, with the Devil, if you are on the Rock, you have it made, if you are on the sand, you are most likely sinking.

The real problem with the sinking is that you seldom realize it until you are stuck.

7. "Submit yourselves therefore to God." is quite a statement that we need to consider, not only here, but in your future, tuck it away in the back of your mind and think about it from time to time, just what is James getting at when he makes this statement?

Gill takes the position that it means to submit to His will for your life. He suggests that it is being satisfied with your lot in life. Being satisfied with where God has placed you in life, in position, and in power.

This is a tall order for most of us in our society that would have us think if we aren’t well known, if we aren’t rich, and if we aren’t powerful we are nothing. Indeed, many in evangelicalism are misleading thousands into thinking that God wants us rich. The problem with this thinking is seen in the poor believers all across the world. Are they destined to be "unspiritual" all their lives, or might the prosperity gospel people be wrong to tie spirituality to riches? After all, did Solomon not conclude that all that the world offers is vanity? Guess he was a spiritually insignificant person as well.

God has an overall plan or line of thought for each of us and if we submit to that plan we will be as close to Him as possible. That plan may include riches, or it might not. That plan may include position, or it might not. That plan may include power, or it might not. That plan may include millions of dollars, or it might not. Being satisfied with whatever comes along is the key.

Put this thinking with verse ten "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." and you have another truth. "Humble" has the thought of making low, thus submission to God and His plan is in essence humbling yourself. Verse ten tells us if we do that, He will lift us up. He will place us in the position that he wants us to be in. NOW, don’t you dare assume that He will lift you into a place of power, riches and/or position. He will lift you to the place that He wants.

That place might be to pastor a tiny church on the backside of the wilderness of Wyoming, or it might mean the largest church in the greatest city - both are a high position to which God has lift one up to.

This humbling is not all that hard to do; it is the living in that humbled position that is the strain. It is easy to submit, but hard to live poor when you want to live richly. It is easy to submit to a small church of "insignificance" but difficult not to move into a larger church or to move into a professorship at one of the seminaries.

Submit and be satisfied with the result of that submission. Rely on God to know what is best for you. Indeed, "best for you" is the best for Him. He has an overall purpose for all of mankind and all His creation and your submission to that little part that relates to you assists Him is doing all that He wishes to do with all that He has created.

In that context, being a pastor of a tiny church becomes much more important, being a poor missionary has more importance, being "just a member of the congregation" becomes a place of honor before God.

Gain God’s perspective on things and you will probably gain peace with where and what He has made you to be.

8. This passage might well be the summation of all that James has been talking about. Pride is the key to most of the problems that he has been discussing and humility is the answer to that problem of pride.

As you think about the problems of life, many of them relate to pride in us and/or other peoples pride.

The account of the prodigal son illustrates the truth set forth by James. The son went forth rich and tried all that the world had to offer, and when broke he returned to the father humbled and humiliated. His father lifted up his non-deserving son to the level that the father desired. (Luke 15:11-32)

Hopefully we will humble ourselves in a less painful and inappropriate way than the prodigal, but the result will be the same - God will lift us to the level that He desires.

9. There are seven steps to placing one’s self in a proper place before God.

a. Submit to God - Putting yourself under His direction and control - being a servant rather than Lord.

b. Resist the devil - Say no to his advances, say no to his tempting and say no to his ways.

c. Draw nigh to God - Talking with Him, reading His word, and doing His bidding.

d. Cleanse your hands - Stop giving yourself over to sin - stop living in an incorrect manner.

e. Purify your heart - Stop the incorrect thought processes.

f. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep - Be sorry for your incorrect choices in life and thought.

g. Humble yourself - 1 Peter 5:6 "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:"

Maybe that should be your goal for the coming weeks, or years.

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 4:11-16

In most of the natural disasters we see on the news, there is a period of shock, but soon the greedy wake up to the realization of their opportunity and looting begins. In some cases even the police have been caught in error at this time. What is going on in these situations? Why do these people loot and destroy other people’s property?

It is certainly breaking the law, there certainly is need of punishment, but why are these two truths true? Because someone wrote a law and put it into force. Usually it is the local government, or the state government. So, who made them the law givers? The Federal government gives states certain powers. The President of the United States is the ultimate authority to which we submit ourselves, or thumb our noses at in the case of the looters.

Looters are in essence saying, "We don’t take you as an authority, and we will not obey your laws." They judged the law and deemed it void, as well as any authority over them.

James introduces us to a truth that should rock our Christian world.

Verse 6

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

My first question is just who "HE" is in the verse. Is it referring back to verse five and "spirit" - if so our conclusion there would be incorrect, because "he" would indicate "spirit" is the Holy Spirit which was rejected earlier.

Let us look further. "But" is a word that is normally translated that way, but it can be translated "nevertheless" which gives the "he" a whole new aspect - "he" would not necessarily refer back to "spirit" as some suggest. It would merely be referring to God. The term is also often translated "and" which may be the better here. We will see more on this later.

The "he" is rather suspect. It does not appear before "giveth" nor does "he" appear before "saith." "He" is supplied both times by the translator to support the idea that "spirit" in the previous verse is the Holy Spirit.

In reading several translations there is total confusion. Some say he giveth, some leave "he" out, and some say he, and others say Scripture saith.

The Net Bible translates it as follows: "But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.""

The Net Bible note states that this is a quote from Proverbs 3:34 "Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly." I am not sure where they get the idea it is a quote.

From what I gather we can surmise:

"But he giveth more grace." "He" does not belong, thus it would seem it refers back further than the previous verse to God, the giver of true wisdom etc. in the context of what James is saying.

"Wherefore he saith," "He" does not belong here either, but rather "scripture."

This explanation may seem lacking, but look into some commentaries and you will find this one more logical than some. I think the confusion in the translations illustrates the lack of clarity in this verse.

" God resisteth the proud," most likely refers back to the idea of the teachers and pride previously. He further states that there is reward to the humble - grace.

Referring to the proud and humble, in my mind, sets this text as looking back to 3:1 and the masters and since they are one and the same to 3:13 and the wise man.

To assist here, please read the preceding context and I will paraphrase the sixth verse in a moment. 3:13 "Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of Wisdom of Solomon 14:1-31 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife [is], there [is] confusion and every evil work. 17 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. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. 4 :1 From whence [come] wars and fightings among you? [come they] not hence, [even] of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume [it] upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 And give more grace. Wherefore the scripture saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."

In this usage of the sixth verse it relates back to the man of verse thirteen that is a wise man showing his works with meekness of wisdom in his life. All between 3:13 and 4:6 is parenthetical.

Verse six could be attached to the last phrase of verse five. Something like this. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy nevertheless [scripture] giveth more grace. This does not seem to fit the thought however in that the "spirit" does not seem to be the Holy Spirit.

Some further information if you want to dig deeper.

The interlinear translates verse six as follows: "But greater he gives grace; wherefore it says: - God arrogant men resists, but to humble men he gives grace."

The NIV translates it as "but he gives us more grace? That is why Scripture says; "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."" It is footnoted that this is Proverbs 3:34 and the quote is poetry.

The NASB follows the NIV with the exception that it does not identify Scripture, but uses "it."

An English translation of the Septuagint translates Proverbs 3:34 as follows: "The Lord resisteth the proud; but He granteth favour to the humble."

The Proverb is also quoted in 1 Peter 5:5 "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."

Verse 7

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

"Submit yourselves therefore to God" has some serious implications for the believer. Submit means to put yourself under, or to be obedient. 1 Peter 2:13 uses it in the area of us being under every ordinance of man. Romans 12:1-2 are familiar to all of us - give ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. We are to be obedient to His commands, His will and His desire.

I might add that Colossians 3:18 uses this same word in the context of wives submitting to their husbands - rather puts a new light on that passage to see "submit" being what it is here in James.

The "submit" is of interest since it is an aorist passive indicating that it is a one time act rather than the daily type ritual of the deeper life people. The passive voice is also of interest in that the passive normally indicates that the subject is being acted upon by something without. A submission of ourselves in a one time act, where the action is caused by something from without.

God through James tells us that due to outside forces, we are to submit to God. What could this be? What occurrence in the Christian life is this speaking of?

a. Salvation. God draws the nonbeliever to Himself and through the person’s decision for God; God produces all those glorious elements of salvation in and around the person making them a believer. The submission in this case would be that decision to believe in God.

b. A one time commitment to serve God to the fullest extent of the person’s most sincere commitment. This might entail that "supposed" Spirit whelming that some speak of that accompanies their commitment to Him. What this "whelming" is differs between people, but is usually described as sudden outpouring of the Spirit which they can barely stand.

c. That point in time when you realize the facts contained in James are reality and incumbent upon the believer, and you make that commitment to walk with God in all meekness and humility, seeking His wisdom for your continued, committed Christian life before mankind, knowing that it is God living in and through you that will accomplish His will in your life.

Note, that FIRST we are to submit ourselves to God, and then we RESIST the Devil - a sequence that is to be followed for least consequences.

"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." How do we resist the Devil?

a. By submitting to God, is actually the answer. If we are properly submitted to God, we automatically are resisting the Devil. To me the clear implication of this verse is that we resist the Devil by submitting to God. One dictates the other.

b. Others suggest prayer, and often have little catch phrases as "plead the blood" and "set a circle of protection" etc., but the passage seems to dwell on submit.

c. I have heard some suggest a separated walk - isn’t that what submission to God is?

d. Yet others suggest, turning down his every advance.

One of the meanings for "flee" relates to the seeking of safety by flight. Might we understand this to mean that the Devil knows the power of a submitted Christian? Oh, that believers around the world would understand this truth and submit to God for the glory of God.

2 Timothy 2:22 relates well "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."

In Genesis 39:10-12 it speaks of Joseph fleeing the Devil - "Got him out" - he didn’t stand around praying about the situation, he didn’t sit down beside her to challenge the Devil, he ran as fast as he could from the situation.

Verse 8

I would like to repeat the previous verse with the next two. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Kind of seems James has something on his mind here. Personally, don’t think I’ve heard any preaching like that in years. It seems he is serious about people that are not doing well with the Lord, correcting their problem.

This isn’t the normal feel good, get fuzzy type teaching that we hear today. Guess James is just not interested in fitting into the run of the mill church social club.

Clean yourselves up, purify yourselves, mourn your condition, weep before God, stop the stupid laughing about your condition, stop being happy in your sin - get on your spiritual knees so that God can lift you up to the place He wants for you, rather than the place you want for yourself.

"Let your laughter" is in the passive, thus the turning is a result of the mourning and weeping - the turning to God seems to bring some automatic changes. I was recently reminded of Isaiah six where Isaiah seems to be drawn up short by the impressiveness of God. 6:5 "Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone; because I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, [which] he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid [it] upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here [am] I; send me."

When we have been in the realm of the Devil awhile, and we turn toward God it brings us to the shocking realization of whom and what God is and how far from Him we have wondered.

It has crossed my mind more than once in this study that there must have been some real problems among the recipients of this letter. James does not sugar coat the wrong, nor does he pull any punches on the way in which the problems must be corrected.

If there is sin in your church there ought to be some of this humbling and purifying, and seriousness rather than the usual, "Sorry bud, didn’t mean nuttin by it bro!" Sin is serious business, a fact that many believers have not come in contact with. Sin is so every day that most people don’t realize what sin is. They are tied up in it so closely that they don’t recognize error when they commit it.

I recently read several pages of posts from all over the country relating to why Christians are so much like the world. There were few real answers, mostly blaming it on the ultra conservative people that are legalistic in their manner, which in turn puts people off. Not sure how people that live, outwardly conservative lives can be the problem, when they are the ones doing what is right. Anyway, there was little of value in the thread except the observation that it was clearly true, we as believers look like the world.

This ought not to be so. We should be the light of the world, light to show forth the desperate plight of the world. Christians should be showing the way, not covering it up with our worldly like living.

Lets reread those two passages and contemplate them in the coming days - some serious implications for believers today in our world.

James 4:8 "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

Isaiah 6:5 "Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone; because I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, [which] he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid [it] upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here [am] I; send me."

Verse 11

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 Judges 12:1-15 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

James tells us that if we are speaking evil of one another or judging one another we are on the level of looters and rioters. We have spoken evil of the law, we have judged the law, and we are thumbing our nose at the authority behind the law - God.

Now, that ought to cause a "shiver in yes timbers" as the pirates used to say - well the Hollywood pirates at least. We ought to quake at the thought. When we speak evil of others, we are as looters and rioters thumbing our noses at all authority. Not a wise thing to do I wouldn’t think.

James uses the present tense to speak to these folks, so they were in the process of treating one another in this incorrect manner. ("He that speaketh evil" is the present tense.)

We need to consider what is covered by speaking evil of others. Is it slander, is it gossip, is it calling someone by a despicable name, or is it backbiting and/or verbal barbs? From the Greek word used it might relate to all of these. It has to do with speaking evil or against someone else. The indications would be to cause injury to another.

Might be that discussion of the pastor or deacon at the dinner table if it is speaking against them. There might be a distinction between the person and their action, but I am not sure I would take the chance that speaking evil of their actions and finding out later that it was speaking evil of the person. Why do either?

Yes, we need to correct false teaching when we teach our families, and if the pastor has taught something that is against the Word, we should correct the thinking of our family in that area, but this can be done without speaking evil of the pastor.

So, which law is in James mind at this point? The Law of Moses, or the law of liberty or some other law? Barnes suggests that it is the law of liberty. "The law which released men from the servitude of the Jewish rites, and gave them liberty to worship God without the restraint and bondage implied in that ancient system of worship...."

The implication might be that if you speak evil of others you declare the law of liberty null and void for that person - in short you have liberty but he does not. Not unlike the current political system, where everyone is against Christian’s having an opinion. It seems to be that their mantra would be "We can blast you, but you are invalid and cannot speak against us."

There are some serious implications for us. If we speak evil of others, we place ourselves above the law. We say that we can do what we want - we don’t have to follow the law. We say that we can do what we want - we don’t have to follow the law giver - God. We are telling God that we know better than He does - we opt to not follow Him on this one.

We really have to consider how we speak of other people. We jeopardize our walk with God when we speak evil of another. My goodness how many have stepped away from God over the centuries with this problem. We need to mind our tongues when others are in our minds, lest we demean them and offend Christ.

I like how Barnes puts it when speaking of this passage. "Speak not evil one of another, brethren. It is not known to whom the apostle here particularly refers, nor is it necessary to know. It is probable that among those whom he addressed there were some who were less circumspect in regard to speaking of others than they should be, and perhaps this evil prevailed. There are few communities where such an injunction would not be proper at any time, and few churches where some might not be found to whom the exhortation would be appropriate."

Verses 11-17


1. We have seen that we are not to plan for the future, nor are we to say that we have plans for the future. How does this relate to our lives? Can’t we say I want to be married on March sixteenth? Can’t I say God wants me to go to Africa as a missionary?

Certainly, plan for the future, certainly share those hopes and dreams with others, but don’t you dare put an "I WILL" to those plans. You may not. You plan as you like and feel led of the Lord, but realize it is up to Him whether those plans will come to pass. YOU WILL NOT be able to do WHAT YOU WANT over and above His plan and desire. He may allow you to do differently than He wants, but it is because you have been allowed, not because YOU WILLED IT!

James is speaking to proud and arrogant declarations of the will and mind, not the plans and hopes of life. Be realistic in your planning for the future, for there are many unknowns out they are waiting to take you a different direction.

There once was a series of commercials that portrayed an average Joe living life, but all of a sudden a rapid series of catastrophes came his way. The point, life sometimes comes at you hard. You plan, but allow for God’s intercession in those plans from time to time. The plans might have to be altered to fit some drastic changes of life.

2. Verse twelve speaks of judging another. Some translate this "another" as neighbor. Now, I have to admit this is a hard one for me. We live in a drug-infested neighborhood where you don’t leave anything unlocked due to the high crime rate.

I am here to tell you that when someone new comes into the neighborhood it is hard to not judge them as being crooks, because 90 percent of the people that move into the neighborhood will be sitting in jail within a few months. This is the reality, and this is the setting in which the words of James come to me personally.

I really try to give everyone a chance, to keep an open mind, though don’t mind if I keep locking things up until things change. If someone wants to borrow something they usually get one chance. If the item returns there will be another chance etc. I must say my return rate is about fifty-fifty at this point, but these are just things.

I try to keep relations open in case there is opportunity to witness, and I want my life to be an example.

No, I don’t judge and condemn them at first sight, but I keep a wary eye on them for a while until there is some trust built up. I attempt to keep an open mind to all people and not to judge and condemn. However, when the constant traffic of quick visits from people that look like they are on drugs begin; there is a quick notification to the police department.

James would have us keep an open mind to others, and to keep from assuming they are incorrect and that we are right. We have no basis upon which to judge others, it is God that knows the person and it is God that needs to take care of them, whether it is by reward, or chastisement.

There is a church side to this text. How do we handle the need to beware of false doctrine, and yet, not speak against someone that is teaching false doctrine? The key is in my statement. Don’t speak against the person, but speak against the false doctrine. The person is God’s child, but his doctrine might well be from the other end of the spectrum.

It is difficult to distinguish the two, but it must be done. Scripture tells us to be good Bereans and check all teaching against the Word to see what is true, but here in James we are told not to speak against a brother.

Does that mean if the person is not a brother we can blast them? On internet forums, often someone will declare a Christian author a non-believer and then cut loose on them with both barrels. Evidently they hold to this principle. I don’t believe that the principle is valid nor one which we should employ.

It is also important to know that some that are good believers, and good Bible teachers, are not always correct in living in their living. Again, on the internet there are some that are obviously believers, and good Bible teachers, but get off into some of the nastiest rhetoric you can imagine when dealing with false teachers. They are biting and cutting to the person as well as to the doctrine that they teach.

Great care should be taken when speaking of false doctrine. The person is still a creation of God, no matter how terrible the doctrine. Brotherly love is still the command.

3. Verse seventeen speaks to something we should consider. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin." Omission of doing what is right is sin. If you know you should witness, and you do not, then you have sinned. Not just one sin, every time you should witness and don’t, it is sin.

To love one another is the command, and we all give mental assent to it, but do we actually get to the point of loving one another - if not sin lurks in the inner person.

To do good works is the command, and we all give approval to that concept, but if we don’t actually do good works, then we are in error.

Omission to do that which we know to be right is sin. This ought to bring some believers up very short, very quickly.

Recently on an internet forum there was a theological discussion about a fairly important doctrine, but it is a doctrine that has different beliefs within the church. One of the respondents was getting frustrated with the opposition and made the declaration that his opponents were "Jew haters."

Now, I know that not to be the case, however even if it were the case, is that any way to talk to another believer? We are to show love and respect to one another, and this is not a way to do this. This person knows that they are to be loving, and tender, yet he omitted those qualities from his post so that he could disparage and disqualify. Actually, a double sin, one of omission and one of untruthfulness. If you remember verse eleven, you might say that this is a triple whammy. We aren’t to speak evil of one another either.

To know to do good and not to do it is sin. Serious statement! Barnes says it better than I. "It is universally true that if a man knows what is right, and does not do it, he is guilty of sin. If he understands what his duty is; if he has the means of doing good to others; if by his name, his influence, his wealth, he can promote a good cause; if he can, consistently with other duties, relieve the distressed, the poor, the prisoner, the oppressed; if he can send the gospel to other lands, or can wipe away the tear of the mourner; if he has talents by which he can lift a voice that shall be heard in favour of temperance, chastity, liberty, and religion, he is under obligations to do it: and if, by indolence, or avarice, or selfishness, or the dread of the loss of popularity, he does not do it, he is guilty of sin before God. No man can be released from the obligation to do good in this world to the extent of his ability; no one should desire to be. The highest privilege conferred on a mortal, besides that of securing the salvation of his own soul, is that of doing good to others--of alleviating sorrow, instructing ignorance, raising up the bowed down, comforting those that mourn, delivering the wronged and the oppressed, supplying the wants of the needy, guiding inquirers into the way of truth, and sending liberty, knowledge, and salvation around the world. If a man does not do this when he has the means, he sins against his own soul, against humanity, and against his Maker; if he does it cheerfully and to the extent of his means, it likens him more than anything else to God."

4. Barnes takes this passage to relate to two groups, those that thought the law of the Old Testament was incumbent on believers and those that held to the law of liberty, that law that freed them from the Old Testament law. Barnes contends that their contentious nature to one another is the error and that they ought not to speak evil of one another.

We can easily understand the evil speaking that could have been going on, and that it probably wasn’t a pretty sight when these believers came together to worship. Just how much real worship could they have when they had such drastic feelings for one another?

James seems to be working toward a proper interpersonal relationship between the people. We must assume that he felt that he could do it otherwise he wouldn’t have attempted. If he felt proper interpersonal relationships could exist, even between people of such diverse doctrine, maybe we should attempt to do the same in our day.

Today, pastors drive off people that don’t agree 100 percent with them on all points of doctrine. If he discovers that someone is not in lock step with him he will often cause friction enough to cause them to leave. I think this is what James is trying to remedy.

We need to understand that everyone is not going to agree 100 percent with us. We may, indeed be correct in all manner, but we ought to find the common ground to meet on.

This is not to say that we should allow all manner of falsehood to run rampant in our churches. I recently heard of a pastor that declared that he would never allow doctrine to cause division within his church. That is a worthy desire, but it declares that he will allow any and all doctrine equal voice within his church. The shepherd is to protect the sheep from the wolves, not expose the sheep to every wolf that comes down the trail. ("To some such source of contention the apostle doubtless refers here; and the meaning probably is, that they who held the opinion that all the Jewish ceremonial laws were still binding on Christians, and who judged and condemned their brethren who did not [observe them], by such a course judged and condemned "the law of liberty" under which they acted--the law of Christianity that had abolished the ceremonial observances, and released men from their obligation. The judgment which they passed, therefore, was not only on their brethren, but was on that law of Christianity which had given greater liberty of conscience, and which was intended to abolish the obligation of the Jewish ritual.")

5. Barnes correctly observes that God is the only one in all the universe that has the right to make laws. He and He alone is the law maker. Hence if there be any other law that law is not of Him. Within the church this is also true no matter how much some leaders wish it weren’t.

There is no law except that which is given in the Word. If one comes telling you that there is a law to be followed, give him a Bible and ask him to show it to you from the one and only Law Giver.

God has set the local church up as an independent unit beholding to none but Christ Himself. If churches want to come together for fellowship, for evangelism, that is fine, but there will be no hierarchy that tells a church what to do or how it will run its own activities.

This means that some of the "fellowships" of churches have no control over the local church, they do not tell them how to act in certain situations, nor do they send possible pastors to interview unless the church has requested that assistance.

One such association declares that their churches are independent, yet I see them meddling in the affairs of local churches where they have not been invited. They have set up procedures for pastoral resignations etc. that they "expect" their churches to follow. They send "their men" to check out pastoral positions without requests from the local church.

These things should not be, if they are going to claim total autonomy of their churches. To do so is a lie. These groups should not interfere in any way with their individual churches other than in the manner that each church agrees too.

6. James chides those that arrogantly make plans relating to their actions and finance. I wonder how this exhortation relates to the church today. The local church that looks at their growth, and their projected growth and decides they will build a new building based on those figures and go out and go into debt to build that building based on "their" facts and figures and "their" plan to grow at a particular rate.

Dangerous, it would seem to me. Years ago I called a pastor to see if I could present our ministry to his church. He was excited to say yes, for the church was in an out of the way place that missionaries seldom ventured.

I made plans with him and we said our goodbyes until the date of the meeting. It was my practice to call a week before to assure that all was set and the plans were still on. Before I could make that call to this pastor, he called me. He was obviously dreading the call to tell me that he had to call of the meeting. He said that something had come up. I asked if he would like to set up another date. He replied, "No, the church doesn’t exist anymore." He went on to tell me that two or three oil companies had closed operations in their town and the majority of the congregation had to move on to other work areas. There was nothing left to pastor, and the pastor was looking for another place of ministry.

I don’t give this example to show incorrect planning, but to illustrate just how tenuous life is for a church, and to point out that it is a fool that plans to pay off large debt over a long period of time. We have no idea what is going to happen, we have no idea whether our plans will come to fruition or crash in flames.

Yes, plan for growth, yes, move ahead, but do so only after a lot of prayer to the one that makes the decisions - God. Don’t tie the church up in deep debt that the church may not be able to pay.

More than one board has signed for debt repayment and many of their pastors have decided it was time to leave. The board often is in danger of loosing all they have personally, due to their heavy planning for the future.

More than one church group has struggled with strangling debt for years, trying to get ahead enough to call another pastor.

For as farsighted churches attempt to be, many are very shortsighted.

7. One further point relating to our lives being a vapor and our not knowing the future. Many today declare with confidence that God has a perfect will for every life. They declare that you can know that will and count on it and take it to the bank. Experiences of hundreds have proven this incorrect. Many I know of that were "called" to the mission field but never arrived. Many I know of that were "called" to the pastorate but never pastored a church. There are many that went to the field with "for life" in their plans, that did not make it life, but were forced by circumstance to return home.

I am not condemning knowing God’s will for your life, but we definitely need to include the truth of this passage in that knowledge of His will. Know that He may well change your direction. Know that He may well have something completely different for you to do. Know Him, and your direction will be clear as you walk with Him step by step, not plan by plan.

I always thought I would be a preacher, yet I ended up a writer. I knew for years that I would be a missionary on the foreign field, yet I have never been. I am certainly a missionary, but via the internet which didn’t even exist when I felt called to the mission field. My website has been visited by people in more than a hundred countries over the last few years. Yes a missionary, but never in the "normal" concept of missions.

Yes, seek God’s will, yes know where and to what you have been called, but always add that all important "Lord willing." He may have different directions and instructions in your future.

The key is found in verse sixteen - "But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil."

The key is that you are not boasting and enjoying your confidence about what YOU are going to do and WHEN you are going to do it.

8. I would like to think about verse fourteen for a bit. It is a verse that has been in my mind most of my life and I think believers need to understand it from two perspectives. That of the young and that of the old.

The young take this idea that life is as a vapor, by faith, to be true, because it is the Word of God and He has stated it as fact. They also have a nebulous understanding of its truth from their point of view.

On the other hand, the old have a different perspective on the verse. They know this to be a true statement, not because it is in the Word of God (though they realize this as well) but they know this to be true from the experience of life. They have a knowledge that the young do not have. They look back on their life and they wander where that vapor went - it was here just a moment ago.

The old often come to this realization and realize their life is on the down hill side and they haven’t done what they wanted to do with their life for the Lord. Don’t be surprised if the old become a little more serious as they march through their years. They may be in this realization and wondering what they should do with what is left of their lives.

The totally frustrating part of all this is the reality of the aged body. The old look in the mirror in the morning and wonder who that old person is. They read their hometown newspaper and see their friends in the 40th anniversary section and wonder why their friends got so old so fast, knowing that they are still eighteen. Most old folks, know they are eighteen, they just can’t get their bodies to function like they did at eighteen.

No wonder you can’t get them to go to a care home, no wonder they don’t want to give up driving, no wonder you don’t understand them - they know what is going on, but you probably do not. Please bring some understanding to your dealings with older folks; they will appreciate you not telling them you know how they feel.

I might add that many older folks don’t come to this realization until they have time to think about their lives and what they have accomplished. This is most likely why so many retired people don’t live long after they retire, and why depression is so prevalent among the aged.

One must wonder if there aren’t other passages that would fit into this duo perspective. I would suspect that Solomon’s observations relating to vanity would fit into a duo view point. We know what he said is true because God said it in His Word, but those that have chased materialism to its logical end know it from experience as well.

I would like to take a little different approach to the passage now. The thought of our life being as a vapor relates to the shortness as well, the shortness of life. Even if you gain many years, even if you live into your eighties you will realize some place along the way that almost everything that exists is going to outlast you. Your house will be around long after you are gone, your tools, your collections; your clothes might even outlive you. The trees in your yard and certainly the weeds, the things you have collected in your garage, maybe even the car. We are one of the most transitory parts of God’s wonderful creation, yet we buy and gather as if we are eternal.

We won’t outlast much of anything, so why are we acting as if we will. Many have two or three cars, maybe even two or three houses, but those things, as well as their need for upkeep will probably continue after you are in the Lord’s presence.

We gather as if our eternity is here, when in reality it is not. Our eternity and gain are elsewhere.

9. "Speak not evil one of another" is James comment, while "By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." were Christ’s words in John 13:35

Speaking evil of another precludes love, one would think. We cannot do Christ’s bidding if we are not doing as James has told us. Note that by our love the outside can know we are His disciples, and I’d guess the speaking evil would indicate that we are not to the lost world.

It is no wonder the lost are beginning to scoff at the church. In history lost man has always shown disdain for the church, but today the scoffing has turned to accusation and hostile rhetoric. Even some of the liberal Christians are beginning to speak evil of the conservative Christian folks.

Christians have been called Nazis in recent days. One must wonder what the cause of this shift was. I have to wonder if they see that the church is just another secular political power group that needs to be stopped. The media has turned Christianity into a political block. They speak of us as the right, which if they thought about it, we are (right) and they are what are left, as in the political left. I make jest, but they are serious as can be. They want to bury us because they see us as a political threat rather than an answer to their spiritual needs.

One must also question the church today. How can we be a body that meets needs, if we have become a political block to be buried? I am not condoning our not standing up for what we believe, but we need to consider carefully how we go about it. We also need to consider seriously whether we are living up to the standard set for us, Christ. I fail to see Christ coming through in the Christian right’s political rhetoric.

The Christian movement of today has not only separated themselves from the world, but they have set up a substitute world for themselves. It might work if it was a world that was Christian, but the world that the Christian community has created is exactly like the Devil’s world, except they stick a cross and a religious term or two into it and call it Christian. Kind of like sticking a cross in the Devil’s lapel and calling him brother.

The world isn’t stupid. They see through the Christianizing of everything including their government. If we don’t have something different to offer the lost, then we have nothing to offer.

One further point, I am not sure that we need to worry about how we turn out, whether the world buries us, or whether we become the dominant force in history, it is our ability to be a witness to the individuals of the world that is the key to our purpose. We need to take serious care of our ability to talk to the lost about their souls. Their souls are much more important than our gaining political clout.

10. Gill points out that the speaking evil of others is to be expected from the lost, but not from believers. My brother worked in a large retail center in Ogden, UT years ago. He was surrounded on every side, as a new believer, by Mormons. Everywhere he went, he was dealing with them. Everyone in his store was Mormon. He did not speak of them or his relationship to them very often, but one day he told me that they were the most despicable people toward one another. They didn’t seem to bother him, but they were constantly at each other’s throats about something. They would stab one another in the back when in meetings and in all of the store business dealings.

His observation was one of total disgust for their activities - supposedly so spiritual, but in reality so terrible toward others.

Yes, the lost are depraved and will act this way, but James reminds the believer that is misusing their tongue, that it is not the way of the believer.

11. James has enlightened us on the fact that not doing what is right is as much a sin as doing what is wrong. These two types of sin often are labeled sins of omission and sins of commission. Just thought I’d get theological on you for a moment.

We tend to concentrate on the sins of commission, because that is what we are involved in so often, but we seldom think of omitting something being just as evil, just as wrong and just as much against God.

Verse 13

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what [shall be] on the morrow. For what [is] your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye [ought] to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

There may be a play on words in the original here. The term translated "tomorrow" seems to be derived from a term that means a breeze. The use of the word tomorrow in relation to life being a vapor, may imply not only life is tentative, but also "tomorrow” may be tentative. None of us know what tomorrow will bring - it is all nebulous until it is history.

The thought of "vanisheth away" seems to be that it passes due to outside forces. We know that when our time comes, it will come due to God’s infinite wisdom and timing, thus we have no control over when it will be - thus the thought of vapor - we have no idea if tomorrow will even occur for us as an individual.

This might apply some to the question of whether suicide is wrong or not. In Oregon we have doctor assisted suicide - the technical name for it is euthanasia, but we don’t use that term in Oregon, for many find it offensive. The state is assisting people to do that which God’s word tells us is His prerogative. The state and those doctors involved are going against God as much as the one that takes those pills.

Suicide will not keep one out of heaven, but the state and doctors should not be a part of it, lest they be held accountable in some manner when they face their maker. I would even guess that those that voted for such legislation will face their creator in some manner for their vote.

This passage speaks to God’s will in our lives. There is a wide diversity on just how we relate to God’s will, and just how much control He desires in our lives. Some allow Him little input into their lives, while others tend to look to God for each and every decision of life, even to the buying of a pair of shoes. Just what is the right amount of God’s involvement in our lives? Is the first person less spiritual than the second person? Is the first person in error or in sin because they allow so little control to God?

If we believe in the concept of servanthood, we would opt to the total control end of the spectrum, while if we reject God’s right to be our master, then what control could He want. Servanthood is the norm in Scripture and should be the line of thought in the believer’s life. If it is not then there is not a proper relationship between the Father and His child.

I am not saying we have to stop and bow our heads and pray for guidance on that pair of pink tennies, but in our minds we certainly should be doing some evaluation. Are these necessary, are they honoring to God, and listening to the Spirit’s moving - God is interested in our shoes, He is interested in our every need. We ought to include Him in our daily business as if He was an integrated part of our nature - indeed, He is but we need to allow Him control.

Years ago I WANTED a turntable to play records on. I capitalized "wanted" because it was a want and not a need. We had one that worked fairly well, but I wanted a better one.

My employer had a nice one, but was a few dollars more than I wanted to spend. I also found one across the street from where I worked for the right price and was contemplating the purchase. I just didn’t feel comfortable about going ahead so I decided to wait. As I was sitting in the car before driving home I asked the Lord if I was doing the right thing. I opened my pocket testament and the words that my eyes landed on were "purchased a field." This was speaking of Judas and his wrong doing. Naturally that didn’t relate to a turntable so was about to go back and make the purchase. As I opened the door "purchased a field" hit me - purchased a field, or buy elsewhere. This was a negative context and maybe I shouldn’t make a purchase elsewhere. I closed the door and drove home.

The next day as I walked into work my employer called me into the back of the shop and pointed to a great looking turntable and asked, "Stan, can you use that, it is free. Someone left it months ago and if you don’t want it, it is going into the trash, we need the room." I took the unit home and it worked perfectly for many years until we sold it.

I could have bought the one I could afford, but God wanted me to have something much better, and for free. Had I not been considering Him in my decision I would have missed out on a great blessing.

I might add that I am not a strong believer in opening the Word to see what magic answer is there, but I must admit that God has spoken to me very clearly on a number of occasions in this manner. I would also admit that at other times, the words that my eyes landed on might as well been gibberish, because they had no meaning to me at the time.

Knowing God’s will is a combination of many things, reading the Word on a regular basis, praying, listening to the Spirit’s moving, using good common sense and anything else that can reveal His will to us in a Biblical manner.

Take time in your life to be sure you include Him in your decisions; you will be blessed by including Him in your life in a detailed manner.

Verses 16-17

But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin.

Some might feel this is speaking of processes of the mind rather than of actual actions. It seems clear to me that James is speaking of literal actions, as in his previous context.

Phillips translates this passage as follows: "Just a moment, now, you who say: "We are going to such-and-such city today or tomorrow. We shall stay there a year doing business and make a profit!" How do you know what will happen even tomorrow? What, after all, is your life? It is like a puff of smoke visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air. Your remarks should be prefaced with, "If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive and shall do so-and-so. As it is, you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future with such confidence. That sort of pride is all wrong."

No matter whether you feel this relates to things of the mind or things of action, know, that if you know what is right to do in your mind and you fail to do it, you are committing a real sin.

When I was just starting out in Bible College, this thought used to really sink home in relation to witnessing. I knew it was right and proper to witness, if given opportunity, but when opportunity knocked, I was not always excited to answer the door. I was quite shy and witnessing was really not in my nature, yet, I knew being quiet was sin - therefore I witnessed. I found early on that it was those first few words that were hard. After I had started to share the Word, the words were simple to find and the time with the person always went well.

One such situation was a very ruff man, he spoke roughly, and he acted roughly, and lived roughly. We got into a delivery van and the first thing out of my mind was you need to witness to this man. The first thing out of his mouth - and the second and the third and the fourth - were exclamations against a Christian man he had just had lunch with. He turned to me and almost hollered, "You aren’t religious, are you?" I sheepishly replied that I tried not to be, with the thought of continuing on to speak of living by faith in Christ, but his mouth took over for me and for several more minutes exclaimed the faults of the man he had eaten with.

All this time, I knew I was going to witness to him, and all this time I knew just how blasted I was going to be when I opened my mouth. I stewed in my fear for all those minutes, but knowing God wanted me to say a word for Him, I found an opportunity to begin talking to the man about his soul. God gave me the ideas and thoughts that caught his attention and interest and was able to share the Gospel with him in a very clear way.

God knows our time here on earth, He has told us what is right and wrong, and we are to do that which is right, not practice wrong to our heart’s content as James recipients seemed to have been doing.

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Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Bibliographical Information
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on James 4". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books".