Wow, this guy is relentless. James really “stuck it to” his readers. But he did so in a loving way. You read this book and really feel like your dad or your favorite uncle is sitting you down and having a talk about your behavior. They are stern, but you know they love. Right from the get-go in this chapter James is coming hard.
Here is one of many times in the Bible where we see that sin is deeper than just doing something wrong. He says that we are sinning, even if we ask for something seemingly good with the wrong motives it is sin.
Example: “Lord, use me to speak to the multitudes. I want to have millions hear my voice and come to know you!” So, when could this request possibly be evil? When we ask for this and the motive of our heart is fame, or possibly so that we can sell more books and series on DVD. Sure, those could be a great byproduct of bringing people into a relationship with Christ. But if the first motive isn’t people’s salvation for the glory of Christ and His kingdom, then we are sinning with ill motives.
13 is one of my favorite verses/sections in the whole Bible. It says quite plainly that we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow as if it is ours to plan. We can not say that we will do something tomorrow, or next week, or next year and know fully that we will be alive to experience those plans. God is surely in control, but He tells us through James’ writings that we are but a vapor… here one moment, gone the next. We are just a whiff of smoke in the grand scheme of life. We don’t know when we will come to a quick end. We have to live in the here and now. We need to live as if there isn’t a tomorrow.
He then sums it up with another note on sin. For he who knows the right thing to do, and doesn’t do it – for him it is sin.
What does this mean? This means if you are feeling God urging you to give to the homeless guy on the side of the street and you ignore Him, it is sin. This means that if He tells you to pay for the groceries of the person behind you and you don’t – it is sin. This means that if you are supposed to wake up and pray, and you don’t – you sinned.
Sinning is not just the ten commandments being broken, it is disobedience. But there’s good news in grace! Hallelujah God is gracious and forgives us when we mess up. I pray very often that God will give me opportunities to be obedient. Try that prayer sometime and see if He doesn’t.
Submit Yourselves to God
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 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. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 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. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Boasting About Tomorrow
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.