James 4


“Where do all the fights and quarrels among you come from? They come from your desires for pleasure, which are constantly fighting within you.” James 4:1

Submit Yourselves To God

James begins this chapter by speaking about war, and throughout this chapter he’s going to describe three types of war, however, he is also going to share with us how to stop these wars. And the first war he wants us to recognise is the war amongst ourselves.

God has been crying out in a load voice for centuries and pointing an important truth out to all of God’s people, and that is, we must live in harmony with each other, Psalm 133:1.

If we look to the Old Testament we find Lot quarrelling with Abraham, we find Absalom created a war with his father David. If you look to the New Testament we find the disciples of Jesus arguing over who would be greatest, we find Paul and Barnabas had great contention over John Mark.

Even within the churches in the New Testament we see Christian’s fighting with each other. At the church who met in Corinth we find saints suing each other and competing in the public assemblies.

At the church who met in Galatia we find saints hurting and harming one another. Even at Philippi we find two women having trouble getting along with each other.

Remember James has already dealt with some of these wars, when he spoke about church fights, James 1:19-20 / James 3:13-18. He spoke about favouritism between races like the rich and poor, James 2:1-9.

Later in this chapter, he’s going to speak about personal wars, James 4:11-12. When we get to the next chapter, he tells us that wars can occur due to employment or lack of it, James 5:1-6.

James begins by addressing fights and quarrels within the church, the reason there are so many church wars going today is simply because of the war which is taking place within our hearts. It all has to do with desire and satisfying those worldly pleasures which we all have.

Desires like pride, power, possessions, money, credibility etc are all to blame for the fighting amongst ourselves, or to put it in plain English, ‘selfishness’ and, selfishness only leads us in the wrong direction.

“You want things, but you cannot have them, so you are ready to kill; you strongly desire things, but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it.” And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures James 4:2-3

James says that our selfish desires lead us to do the wrong actions, he says selfish desires lead you to kill, quarrel and fight. Now this may not be literal on our behalf but it certainly is in God’s eyes, 1 John 3:15. Now not only do selfish desires lead us to kill, quarrel and fight, they also lead us to mess up our prayer life.

James says that any prayer which is prayed out of selfish motives is not going to be answered by God. And this is why people are often at war with one another. Every war or angry disagreement always has people who are at war within themselves first. But why? Why does it have to be this way? Why are people continually at war with themselves?

Well to put it simply it’s a matter of will. Every war which has taken place or going to place either within ourselves or in the world is caused by a rebellious heart. People are rebelling against God and in some ways those who are at war with others are also at war within themselves. Why?

Well simply because they are at war with God first. In other words, just as we can become friends with God, we can also just as easily become His enemy.

And James mentions three enemies we must not associate with if we want to be at peace with God.

“Unfaithful people! Don’t you know that to be the world’s friend means to be God’s enemy? If you want to be the world’s friend, you make yourself God’s enemy. Don’t think that there is no truth in the scripture that says, “The spirit that God placed in us is filled with fierce desires. But the grace that God gives is even stronger. As the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:4-6

James says if you become close friends with those who are not Christians you become an enemy of God.

Please note that he is not telling us not to have any non-Christians friends but what He is telling us is that if we engage with our friends in any conduct, belief, or thought which is anti-God, or anti-Christ, those actions will make us an enemy of God, they make the Christian become a spiritual adulterer or adulteress.

The second way we can become an enemy of God is by going after unlawful desires. Those unlawful desires that would lead us away from God, those desires which wage war within us can lead us to become God’s enemy.

In other word these desires which we have are in direct conflict to what the Spirit of God would have us to be and do, 1 Peter 2:11. Every time we give in to these desires or works of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21, we’re actually fighting against God.

And so the third way we become an enemy of God is by letting our pride take over our lives. We all know that 99% of church fights, divisions and splits are caused by pride. And that’s because pride is Satan’s greatest temptation and when we give into pride, we become friends of the devil and enemies of God.

“So then, submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will run away from you”. “Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners! Purify your hearts, you hypocrites!” James 4:7-8

One way to prevent pride taking hold in our lives is simply by submitting to God. Can you imagine being in the army and a new recruit who is just out of training starts to act like he’s in charge? There will be a disaster on the way.

When we as Christians totally submit to God then the victory is ours. All the way through Jesus’ life, He showed us a pattern of submission for us to follow and the pattern was, ‘not my will but your will be done.’

The point is that we can’t resist the devil until we have learned to resist using our own will instead of God’s will. The world doesn’t know this and even some Christians are not aware of this but everyone needs to know that behind every war, fight, division, personal struggles is Satan.

Most of the time people listen to him because they are scared and they run a mile every time a conflict of any sorts begins. But we don’t have to run anywhere, because James says if we would just resist those temptations the devil will run away from us.

And while he is on the run, we can’t just sit back and be thankful it’s over, no! We need to come close to God and He has promised us that as we walk closer to Him He will meet us half way. And we draw closer to God by washing our hands, in other words getting our sins forgiven.

We draw closer to God by purifying our hearts, in other words by getting totally devoted to God again. We draw closer to God by stopping being hypocrites, in other words stop being double minded like those who profess to be Christians but their lifestyles don’t reflect it.

“Be sorrowful, cry, and weep; change your laughter into crying, your joy into gloom!” “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:9-10

Whether we accept this or not it is possible to submit outwardly and not be humble inwardly, hence, why James mentions true humility. And if we would only humble ourselves like that then we can put our trust back in God to help us.

If people want to stop all the wars in the world, within our congregations, within ourselves, then fight those selfish desires within our hearts and God will draw near to us, cleanse us, and forgive us.

Until we learn not be at war with God, until we learn to control and win the war within ourselves, until we learn not be at war with others, the wars will continue.

‘Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?’ James 4:11-12

The person who speaks against his brother is actually making himself the judge of his brother, Matthew 7:1-5 / Romans 14:4. The evil speaking of slander is a hideous sin on the part of one who wishes to destroy the reputation of another, James 5:9 / 2 Corinthians 12:20 / Ephesians 4:31 / 1 Peter 2:1-3 / 3 John 10.

The law of liberty allowed freedom in order to carry out principles of the law, James 1:25 / James 2:8 / James 2:12. If a person judges as evil that which was in the area of freedom, that is, opinion, then that person is judging the law to be insufficient.

Those who judge their brothers in the areas of freedom of the law, are making laws by which men are to be judged. They are binding where God has not bound, and so, they are judging the law to be insufficient and unable to furnish the man of God unto every good work, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 / Matthew 16:18-19.

The person who would seek to be a judge with respect to his own laws that he has established where God has not established law, must remember that there is the Judge of all things before whom he must stand, John 12:48 / Romans 14:4.

It is this Lawgiver who will judge all men according to His law, not the religious laws and traditions of men, John 5:37 / John 12:48 / Acts 17:30-31 / Matthew 25:31-46.

A person has the right to judge according to the law that is given by Christ, Galatians 6:1, however, if their motives are evil, then they have no right to judge. The person who would seek to judge out of evil motives, or judge in areas of freedom, has placed themselves in competition with Jesus who is our only judge.

Boasting About Tomorrow

“Now listen to me, you that say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to a certain city, where we will stay a year and go into business and make a lot of money.” James 4:13

James is going to share three wrong ways to make our plans and the first obvious wrong way to make our plans is to go ahead and make them whilst completely ignoring God’s will. He says making plans without God’s approval is wrong because life is complicated.

The whole world runs around chasing the clock and trying to get here and get that done before certain a time. And we get caught up in time because time is very complicated. That’s why James says, today, tomorrow, when? I’m not sure when!

But not only can the timing of plans can be complicated, so can the activities themselves can be complicated. Some translations have James saying, I’m going buy or sell, which is it? Am I going to buy or sell?

There are so many decisions to be made but there also so many mistakes which might be made. In other words, if we knew God’s will on any matter, that would increase our chances that our decisions and plans will be correct.

“You don’t even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke, which appears for a moment and then disappears”. James 4:14

James says that making plans without God’s will can be wrong because life is uncertain. None of us and no one in the world has got a guarantee that there will be a tomorrow.

We don’t know if the Lord will return tonight, we don’t know if we will still be alive tomorrow, we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow.

James is telling us that it is only God who can bring about what He wills for the future without fail. We cannot do that, we cannot control tomorrow, no matter how well we have planned ahead. So if we’re going to make plans, surely the wise thing to do is to make them according to the One who does control tomorrow.

Not only is life complicated and uncertain, but life is also fragile, Psalm 39:5-6 / Psalm 39:11 / James 1:10. That was the problem in the Garden of Eden, when Adam took that fruit from Eve, he didn’t just disobey God to test the boundaries, he wanted to be like God, He wanted to be in control of his own life and destiny.

Even today people are trying to prolong life, they are searching for immortality and all along they refuse to remember God’s promise that we all will return to the dust where we came from, Genesis 3:19.

We can’t hide and pretend that we’re going to live forever, life is fragile and it can change or be taken in a second. Now those of us who recognise that life is complicated, uncertain and fragile also understand that our lives are short.

James says our lives are but only a moment, other translations say we appear for a little time. The way some people go about making their plans is amazing, they take life for granted or they presume they are going to live to at least 90 years old and make their plans accordingly, Job 9:25-26.

Life is short, and because it is short it should be important to us to do God’s will and not our own, 1 John 2:17.

“If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:15

James now gives us the proper way to make our plans. When we submit to God, then we’re actually submitting to God’s will. And when we submit to God’s will then were actually submitting not only our lives to God’s will but also submitting our plans to the will of God.

And what James says here is that we can go ahead and make our plans but we need to make sure they meet with God’s approval, Acts 18:21 / 1 Corinthians 16:7.

We need to understand two important principles concerning our faith. Saying ‘God willing and if the Lord allows’ implies that we recognise that God does have a will for us even in the smallest of matters concerning our lives.

And secondly it implies that that we trust God enough to intervene if He needs to, to carry out His will in our lives. And so to find if it is God’s will, we shall see over a period of time where it will become clearer if we have done God’s will or not.

“But now you are proud, and you boast; all such boasting is wrong.” James 4:16

People who make plans without God actually brag about their plans, which is nothing less than arrogance. It’s arrogant because they are doing what Adam done in the Garden, they are setting themselves up as if they were above God. And to make plans that way loved ones is wrong because it is sinful.

But as people full of selfish desires plot and make plans for the future, James tells us that we need to be careful about the plans we make for the future.

And making plans can be good and right but they can just as easily be bad and wrong. James says to make plans this way is sinful because it involves arrogance and boasting which we know is evil.

“So then, if we do not do the good we know we should do, we are guilty of sin.” James 4:17

It is more sinful for Christians to make plans without God because we who are Christians should know better. We should know what is good, we should know to make our plans with God’s will in mind all the time. This includes all the plans within our personal lives and all the plans for the future for our congregation.

As Christians we should take care of the orphans and widows, James 1:27. We must be determine to do what is good, otherwise we are guilty of sinning.

Doing what is right and good to everyone, is something all Christians must be actively involved with, Ephesians 2:10 / Galatians 6:10.

Go To James 5


"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

1 John 3:16