Your jealousies spring from love of what the world can give you
1-3But about the feuds and struggles that exist among you—where do you suppose they come from? Can’t you see that they arise from conflicting passions within yourselves? You crave for something and don’t get it, you are jealous and envious of what others have got and you don’t possess it yourselves. Consequently in your exasperated frustration you struggle and fight with one another. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And when you do ask he doesn’t give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit—you only want to satisfy your own desires.
As the 20th-century philosopher Mick Jagger said so well, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
4-6 You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realising that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God! Anyone who deliberately chooses to love the world is thereby making himself God’s enemy.
Hearing Jesus in James:
Luke 16:13 (English Standard Version)
“No servant can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.”
Do you think what the scriptures have to say about this is a mere formality? Or do you imagine that this spirit of passionate jealousy is the Spirit he has caused to live in us? No, he gives us grace potent enough to meet this and every other evil spirit, if we are humble enough to receive it. That is why he says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’
You should be humble, not proud
7Be humble then before God. but resist the devil and you’ll find he’ll run away from you.
Hearing Jesus in James:
Matthew 4:1-11 (New International Version)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
8-10 Come close to God and he will come close to you. Realise that you have sinned and get your hands clean again. Realise that you have been disloyal and get your hearts made true once more.
Many of us are discovering that Christian growth does not happen apart from some disciplines like spiritual reading, meditation, prayer, journaling, Bible study, and worship. Henri Nouwen has said that discipleship can never be real without discipline.
Many of us—I was one—rebel against the idea of self-discipline. It seems easier to do “what comes naturally.” But I’ve found that neglect of spiritual disciplines leads only to stagnation and frustration.
Disciplines make the time and space in which God can affect our lives. He is always with us, but only through discipline can we become quiet enough to recognize his presence, to hear his voice from among the many that speak to us. Someone has called this “active passivity.” We grow by receiving, but we have to give; our task is to learn and practice those disciplines by which we receive.
I don’t do the disciplines in order to win God’s approval; I know I already have that. I don’t even do them to feel I’ve made a certain amount of “progress” or to “make” growth happen. I just do them, and leave the result to God.
Lord, I desire to grow closer to you.
As you come close to God you should be deeply sorry, you should be grieved, you should even be in tears. Your laughter will have to become mourning, your high spirits will have to become heartfelt dejection. You will have to feel very small in the sight of God before he will set you on your feet once more.
It is for God to judge, not for us
11-12Never pull each other to pieces, my brothers.
Hearing Jesus in James:
Matthew 7:1-2 (New International Version)
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
It is still true that man proposes, but God disposes
13-17 Just a moment, now, you who say, “We are going to such-and-such a 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 be alive and will do so-and-so.”
“There are two great certainties about things that shall come to pass – one is that God knows, and the other is that we do not know.”
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
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 doubt you agree with the above in theory. Well, remember that if a man knows what is right and fails to do it, his failure is a real sin.
“Draw near to God . . .” Here are the Sharon Singers of the Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute with “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” written by Sarah F. Adams in 1841. I did you all a favor by not choosing a video with Titanic pictures!
J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins