James 4 - Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible

Bible Comments
  • James 4:1-17 open_in_new

    James 4:1. From whence come wars and fightings among you?

    Whether between nations, or parties or individuals,-if there be wars and fightings, whence do they come?

    James 4:1. Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

    Do they not arise from one desiring something, and another desiring the same thing? Is there not a competition or emulation of an evil kind, in which each one prefers himself, and seeks not the good of his neighbor?

    James 4:2. Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not,-

    This is nature's way of trying to get by contention what it desires to possess,-fighting, and warring, and killing, yet the result of all this is nil. After all is done, «yet ye have not.» There is a simpler and a surer way which men forget; they leave that divine path untrodden: «Ye have not,»

    James 4:2. Because ye ask not.

    With all your efforts you do not succeed, because you omit to pray to God. Prayer would have brought you every blessing that you need; but, instead of going to God, and asking at his hands, you rush upon your neighbor, and seek to take what you desire as spoil from him.

    Perhaps some say, «But we do ask.» «Well, then,» saith the apostle,--

    James 4:3. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

    The lusts of the flesh come in, and put us upon the wrong track; or if we take the right road, yet, if the lusts be there, God will not bless us because, in doing so, he would be helping us to gratify our lusts.

    James 4:4. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?

    The apostle uses this strong language not concerning the actual sin of adultery as the term is commonly understood, but in relation to our not loving God with true chastity of heart, but lusting after something else. This is the very essence of spiritual adultery. We ought to give God the whole affection of our being; but, instead of doing so, we allow at least some of it to wander to other objects, and therefore we are called, by the Holy Ghost himself, «adulterers and adulteresses.» These may seem to be hard words, but they are true ones. May they bring us to our spiritual senses, and cause us to love our God with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength!

    James 4:4. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

    In one sense, Christians are the greatest friends of the world, for they desire the good of all men, and seek their salvation. But, in another sense, viewing the world as a great conglomerate of evil, we are no friends of the world. There is a certain form of theology, popular nowadays, which teaches us that we ought to remove the line of demarcation between the Church and the world. This kind of teaching may be called theology, but it cometh not of God; it is a gross falsehood which we ought to abhor in the very depth of our spirit.

    James 4:5-6. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace.

    There is a spirit, resident in the natural man, the human nature of man, which is always inclined toward hate and envy, always wanting to get somewhat from other men, and always grieved if other men seem to be or to have more than the person himself has. How is this spirit to be met? This verse supplies the answer, «He giveth more grace.» «More grace,» -this is the great remedy for hate and envy. «More grace,»-this is the balm for sorrow. «More grace,»-this is our greatest help out of all difficulties. «More grace,»-this is the universal recipe for all that we need: «He giveth more grace.»

    James 4:6-7. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.

    Lay aside that fighting spirit,-that effort to pull others down so as to raise yourself up,-and bow before God, yield yourself wholly to his blessed will. This is the way of peace, and the way of joy, too.

    James 4:7. Resist the devil,-

    Who will seek to stir you up to rebellion; give no place to him: «Resist the devil,»-

    James 4:7-8. And he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

    Hear this command, and practice it; get near to God in Christ Jesus, and you shall soon find him come to your help in every hour of need.

    James 4:8. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

    For, if you are double-minded, your hands and your hearts must both need to be cleansed. The apostle does not say, «Concentrate your thoughts,» but he does say, «Cleanse your hearts;» for, to have two objects in life, is a kind of spiritual adultery, from which we need to be purged, so the command is, «Purify your hearts, ye double-minded.»

    James 4:9. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

    If the previous verses have rightly accused you of sin, confess your guilt with shame and sorrow, and so come to Christ imploring pardon.

    James 4:10. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

    If you exalt yourself, he will pull you down. If you lie down in the dust before him, he will lift you up. It is according to God's usual way of acting to practice these reversals. Mary truly sang, «He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.»

    James 4:11. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

    If you cease to think that which is evil, you will also cease to speak evil. If I speak evil of my brother, I have condemned the law which bids me love him as I love myself; I have practically said that it is an absurd law, and an unrighteous law; and this is a great evil in God's sight.

    James 4:12-15. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

    We are all too apt to say what we will do, and where we will go, forgetting to add, «If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.»

    James 4:16-17. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

    There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission; may the Lord graciously keep us from both forms of the evil, for his dear Son's sake! Amen