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Ron Miller's Bible Commentary

James 4: Submit with Contrition

Background and QuestionsNew International VersionRon Miller's Notes

Why don't people have what they want?

{4:1} What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? {4:2} You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. {4:3} When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

We often think personal conflicts are caused by external things, such as money or possessions. But they come from the desires of human hearts.

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. [Matthew 6:24]
When does God give us grace?

{4:4} You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. {4:5} Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? {4:6} But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Verse 5 may mean either (1) the Holy Spirit in us is jealous for God, or (2) our human spirit is envious and greedy because of the fall of mankind into sin. Either way, God gives us grace and wants us to love Him more than the things of this world.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. [1st Peter 5:8-9]

{4:7} Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. {4:8} Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. {4:9} Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. {4:10} Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Both James and Peter tell us to resist the devil. This is closely connected to submitting to God. If we are full of pride, we may easily be attacked.

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. [Matthew 18:15-17]

{4:11} Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. {4:12} There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?

The Greek word translated slander also means malicious talk. This includes saying things that may be true, but are said to be mean. We have all seen children tease each other. Jesus taught the proper way to deal with problems with fellow believers, in a way which helps instead of hurting.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. [Psalm 90:12]
What is the difference between pride and a sense of accomplishment?

{4:13} Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." {4:14} Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. {4:15} Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." {4:16} As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. {4:17} Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins

As we grow in our knowledge through study of the Bible, we must be careful to do those things which we have learned. When we are prompted by the Spirit, by something in the Word, and know we should do something, it is sin to simply forget it and do nothing. Have you passed up opportunities to do good?

How can we reduce or remove the pride from our lives?

What responsibility does God want us to take in planning our lives?

How can you place your plans for the future in God's hands?

Ron Miller's Bible Commentary (C) Copyright March 2012 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved