Last time in Bible study you learned what true wisdom from God looks like along with understanding how dangerous your tongue is. You can praise God one minute and curse Him the next. You and I are learning how we need to be dependent on Christ in all areas of our lives, and this dependence needs to be rooted in humility.
James continues on in chapter 4 with giving you a front row seat to the condition of your heart. I’m afraid it’s not a pretty picture, so take a deep breath and ask God to reveal the truth that lurks within your own heart. Whatever He brings forth, know that He does it lovingly, compassionately, and without judgement or disgust. He loves you and gives you hard truths that He asks you to swallow for your benefit. Remember, He’s preparing you for your eternal home one day and right now, your life on earth is boot camp training. We all need to become fit for His Kingdom.
Go ahead and read James 4.
James asks, “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?”1 James answers it. What does he say at the end of verse 1?
In verses 2-3, James unpacks the reasons behind all the division that has plagued civilization since Adam and Eve left the Garden. Let’s list out what lurks within each of our hearts:
You scheme to get what you want. Don’t deny it, we are all guilty. Married couples are infamous for this. When you become a parent, you see this first hand with your child. Little ones scheme to get their way. It begins in the crib with bedtime. What does James say in verse 2 that shows how selfish we are?
Jealousy, it is a bugger, isn’t it? It awakens way to quickly within each of us. The damage it does in relationships is brutal. Every family deals with this ugly monster. What happens because of it? The end result is always divisiveness. Think about two toddlers playing together. When one has a toy that the other wants, what happens? One “takes it away from them.”2
What else does James say in verse 2? This one verse sure says a lot, doesn’t it? We sure make life hard for ourselves when we don’t ask God for what our hearts are wanting. We go off on our own and find it ourselves, living independently from our Lord.
Wrong motives, according to verse 3, will send you spiraling down the wrong road. It sets you up for failure for you become self-centered. For added insight, look up Romans 7:23-25. God gives us hope through His Son.
Hang on to God for James keeps revealing the ugliness of sin in all our hearts. Hold tight to the hope that Christ offers you. “You and I are adulterers,” James tells us. Why would he say this; see verse 4? God calls you and I to follow His Son whole-heartedly. We are to have laser-focus like the apostle Paul. I would encourage you to read through his letters in the New Testament. He lived for Christ, and nothing else. This world did not catch his attention, only Christ did. Can you say the same?
Verse 5 is a bit confusing. I looked up commentary on this and there’s debate on its meaning. There is no cross reference of another scripture that James may have referenced here. I wonder if the spirit that James speaks of is that it is filled with envy so you will fight for Christ in your life. The emptiness you feel inside will cause you to envy what God wants to give you, thus, you seek Him. Don’t quote me on this. It’s just a guess.
What blessing does God give according to verse 6. The importance of humility is surfacing here, so take note of it.
Do you desire to be free from conflict? James gives us the low down on how to walk united in love with those around you. Reread verses 7-10. Notice what is first, humility. What action step must you take next? When you resist the devil, what happens? You can’t stand alone, so what does James say to do next? Again, it bears repeating, you cannot walk apart from Christ, ever. Look up John 15:5. Satan will return, I promise you that.
Why do you need to wash your hands and why do you need to purify your heart, see verse 8? Stop and let God help you to swallow any conviction that needs to be faced. I know it’s hard and perhaps painful, but once you face the truth about yourself, God bathes you in His glorious riches and places you on His Rock, His firm foundation, see verse 10. “He will lift you up in honor.” Let your grief and tears be real over your sins. Humility, its the radical ointment that cures many arguments and misunderstandings.
James moves you on to judging others. It’s another hard pill to swallow but we all do it. We are all guilty. What are you called not to do in verse 11? The antidote to this verse is Philippians 4:8. You and I would be wise to memorize it and do everything we can to keep the focus that Paul says is so vital to our well-being.
What happens when we criticize and judge others, also verse 11? What is your job? What may God be telling you? What do you learn about God from verse 12? It is good to remember who is in charge and act accordingly. God does not give us any opportunity to say, “But God, you don’t know what he did to me? You don’t know what I went through?” You are called to leave it in the hands of God knowing He will take care of it in His time. This takes, once again, humility, faith, as well as trust. We are to surrender it all at the foot of the cross. This means our rights, opinions, thoughts, dreams, desires, everything.
James has one more area where you and I need a talking to. He gives a warning about self-confidence. How does James describe this human trait in verse 13? We like to plan our days, don’t we? It is so easy to assume that tomorrow will come. We live like we are sure of it. How does James illustrate this in verse 14?
How does verse 15 reveal that your heart has made the change from self-confidence to being God-confident?
Boasting is another human trait that gets you and I into trouble. What does James say about it in verse 16?
I wish James ended this study on a happy note but I am sorry to say he doesn’t. James wants you and I to fully understand the sins that lies within our hearts. “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it”17
May you and I have humble hearts today and hear what God has for us. He will never leave you nor forsake you as He takes your repentance and confessions and throws them into the depths of the sea to be remembered no more. There, He fills you with Himself, and my friend, this is all you need.