November 22

James 4

4:1-17-The Lust for Pleasure…is the danger to relationships

4:1-2-It is Evidenced When We Want What Others Have

Believers cannot get along with each other because of the “pleasures that wage war in your members” (desires of their old, sinful nature)...which is indicative of worldliness.  These “pleasures” are at “war”…meaning that they are fighting against the spiritual nature of the believer.  We get the English word “hedon” from the Greek word for “pleasures”.  What are these “pleasures” that we struggle so much with…”lust”, “envy” (:2).



"pleasure," is used of the gratification of the natural desire or sinful desires (akin to hedomai, "to be glad," and hedeos, "gladly"), Luk 8:14; Tts 3:3; Jam 4:1, 3, RV, "pleasures" (AV, "lusts"); in the singular, 2Pe 2:13.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,


War (Verb and Noun):

used in the Middle Voice, "to make war" (from stratos, "an encamped army"), is translated "to war" in 2Cr 10:3; metaphorically, of spiritual "conflict," 1Ti 1:18; 2Ti 2:3, AV; Jam 4:1; 1Pe 2:11.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,


And what is the result of our own inner, spiritual self-conflict?  Conflict with others.  Notice the result of our “lust”…”murder”.  And “envy”…”fight and quarrel” (same two words as in verse 1).  These words don’t speak of petty disagreements…but serious divisions and aggressive behavior.  And where is it happening?  In the church…among believers!



"war" (akin to A, No. 1), is so translated in the RV, for AV, "battle," 1Cr 14:8; Rev 9:7, 9; 16:14; 20:8; for AV, "fight," Hbr 11:34; AV and RV in Jam 4:1, hyperbolically of private "quarrels;" elsewhere, literally, e.g., Mat 24:6; Rev 11:7.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,




"a fight, strife" (akin to B, No. 3, under FIGHT), is always used in the plural in the NT, and translated "fightings" in 2Cr 7:5; Jam 4:1; Tts 3:9, RV (for AV, "strivings"); "strifes" in 2Ti 2:23.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,


James says that we don’t have what we want because we don’t ask for it.  Could it be that we don’t just want something for ourselves…but that we want the very thing that another person has.  As if, we want to take it from them for ourselves?  We are so focused on what the other person has (lust so much, envy so much)…that we don’t even think about asking God to provide for us, as well.

James 4:2-6-But then, when we do ask…we ask for the wrong reason.  James says that the reason that we don’t have the things that we lust over and envy for is because we are allowing our “pleasures” to drive us.  When we pray, we are asking with the “wrong motives”.  The problem is that we do not ask God to provide for our needs.  And, when we do ask, we allow our old nature to motivate us what to ask for.  James says that when we are driven by our old nature we are "friends with the world"...our values and passions belong to it…it is as if we don’t know God, at all.  When this happens we are the "enemy of God".  God will share His lordship with no one (:5).  Here James identifies clearly the culprit…”God is opposed to the proud”…it is pride.  Pride is at the center of all sin.  It is the decision of the will to be in control.  Not even God is recognized.  James says that the one that God will give grace to is the person who is humble.  The person who believes that God will bless us with all that we need when we trust Him (1:17).

James 4:7-10-There are 10 commands in these four verses.  Their tense indicates the need for a decisive and urgent break with the old life, the worldly life...

  • God
  • ..the devil (he is the one working behind the scene to incite our passions and pleasures)
  • Draw God
  • Cleanse your hand (this is speaking of those things that we eagerly grasp for…make sure that we desire and reach for the right things)
  • ..your hearts, you double-minded (divided loyalty or allegiance, undecided)…don’t listen to your pride one moment, and God the next
  • Be miserable and mourn and weep (this is speaking of the response of the old nature when it gets what it lusts after…if you find yourself being satisfied with the things that you lust after then you should mourn, realizing that you are not living for God)
  • Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord (accept God’s evaluation of what is of value and importance…what He values will give you greater joy than anything you might desire on your own)

4:11-12-It is Evidenced When We Judge What Others Do

The fact that we are still driven by our pleasures…old nature, our worldliness, is seen when we set ourselves up as judge over other people.  These verses are speaking of judging someone by our own standard, not by the standard of the law.  We are to judge others...but such judgment is to be based on what God has said in the law and not on what we think.  If we judge by our own standards, then we are saying that the law of God is not sufficient…we are judging the law of God.  Only God can correctly determine the law…what is right and wrong.


4:13-17-It is Evidenced When We Live Presumptuously

Worldliness is also seen in our lives when we make plans without consulting God...or, when we do consult God, but don't do what he has said (:17).

Prayer: Father, this day I give myself completely to You.  Please guide me in every decision that I make.  Help me to live in a way that is totally within Your perfect will.


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