Humble Yourselves before the Lord
James 4:1-10 (NRSV) 1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
6 But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Do any of us ever spend even 24 hours absent of conflict? Even if we live alone, we still experience conflict within our own hearts and minds. Do we want pasta for dinner or grilled chicken, do we want dessert or not, do we want to watch TV or read a book? We may consider these things to be mere choices rather than conflict, but may I tell you that choices can become conflict. James warns against murder, covetousness and adultery, all rooted in making the choice to turn away from God and toward the world.
Most of us will say, wait, I haven’t committed adultery, I haven’t murdered anyone. Are you sure? James 4 says we are adulterers if we choose the world over God. And guess what? God says the same thing! I have often taught about the 4 S’s. Israel sinned, then they were taken into slavery, then they supplicated (prayed earnestly) for deliverance, and finally God sent a savior. Almost every instance of the people rebelling against God involved idolotry, and when God’s people choose to worship anyone or anything above God, they (we) are committing adultery.
Murder follows the same reasoning. Did you know you can murder someone’s relationship, or their reputation? You don’t need a gun or a knife, the tongue works well for purposes of destruction.
Why would we, the people God created and called His own, continually seek other gods? Because of pride, the basest of all sins, that causes us to exchange self-satisfaction over our own achievements for the pleasure we could receive from allowing God to be preeminent in our lives.
The last three verses provide the key to building a relationship with God. (1) Submit to God (2) Resist the devil (3) Draw near to God (4) Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts (5) Humble yourselves and he will exalt you.
We are over half-way through James. People generally either love this letter or hate it. I call it the Guidebook for the Practical Issues of this Life. Have you been able to see how this letter can strengthen your faith? It is all about allowing the discipline we should develop as Christ followers to enable us to make the right choices. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Father God, we love you and are so thankful that we are learning what it means to be humble before you. We pray that you strengthen us and enable us to follow your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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