My son and I were recently reading the book of James together and when we came to chapter four my son interrupted my reading and said, “What? No friends?” Of course I explained the verses to him but it really got me thinking about the whole passage. Take a look.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:4-10, (New International Version or NIV).
Wow James! You must really be upset to use such strong language as to call the readers of your letter adulterous people! Right away I know that there will be a blunt conversation coming and so I think it well worth paying attention as we continue to read this passage. I don’t know about you but I sure don’t want to be viewed in God’s eyes or in anyone else’s eyes as an adulterous woman!
don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Friendship with the world, that was the part that was confusing to my son and if we are honest it is probably a bit confusing to most of us as well. What is friendship? I think of someone as a friend when they like me, when they phone me, and come to see me. I have Facebook friends whom I haven’t seen in years yet I keep in touch with what is going on in their lives and they in what is going on in my life and we are friends. Friendship is always mutual, I mean you can’t be a friend to someone who doesn’t know you exist can you? Friendship involves give-and-take and that doesn’t mean you give and I take, rather it is a mutual give-and-take. Most friendships involve spending some time together, wouldn’t you say?
The next word I think we need to define is what the world means. The Bible uses the world phrase in several passages, (John 15:9, 1 John 2:15, John 7:7). I believe that the term really means anyone who opposes or hates Jesus Christ and ultimately God.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ John 15:18-25, (NIV).
I realize that this is a lengthy passage but I think it really describes well who the world is and whom they hate and why they are opposite or opposed or hate God. Jesus was hated while on earth because the message He brought was not the message expected by the leaders in the Jewish community. They simply didn’t understand the true reason for a Messiah. So let’s look at our first passage once more.
James, an apostle of Jesus, a brother to Jesus both spiritually and physically (Galatians 1:9), a leader of the Jerusalem Church is stating strongly that if a person wants to be known as a friend of God by God and by Jesus Christ then you must not be friends with the world. This means so many things. You must deny your previous search for worldly pleasures. Your focus now changes from the things of the world to the things of God. James then goes on and describes what some of the changes are that you need to make to shift from world attitudes and motivations to Godly attitudes.
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:6-10, (NIV).
I fear that too many of us are trying to maintain a friendship with both God and the World. James must have seen that attitude in the original readers of his letter. He warns them and ultimately warns us that you can’t be friendly with both! We must decide where our true friendship lies and then we need to make the necessary changes to our daily lives.
A double-minded person is someone who is trying to live with worldly attitudes and values yet still maintaining that they are a Christian. I can think of several examples from today’s headlines of a double-minded person. For instance the person who appears to be a loving, gently, kind, good person, good husband, good father or good wife and good mother but are hiding a dark secret. That secret might be an addiction to drugs or alcohol or porn or sex. Or it could be an anger that isn’t under control. Or it could be a vengeful heart or a strong fondness for money and the “good life!” Double-minded people will eventually get caught and the truth will come out about their secret. It happens every day, the professor who is convicted for trafficking in child porn, the PTA president that is convicted for murdering her husband, the husband who has an affair and gets caught, the television star that is arrested for date-rape, the high school superintendent that is arrested for domestic abuse. These examples are all from today’s news feed from the internet. Secret sins will be revealed either in this life or in the next.
The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 1 Timothy 5:24, (NIV).
Paul warns Timothy as he instructs him how to be a good Christian and a good preacher that secret sins will be revealed along with visible sins. James warns us to not be a double-minded person. He also warns us to be sure that we are friends of God and not the world. In order for us to have a clear conscience which leads to a pure heart which leads to a life of joy and one worth living, we must heed these warnings. I hope that this post is as helpful for you as it has been for me.