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Read James 4

Submit Yourselves to God

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 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. When you ask, you do not receive,because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the worldmeans 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. 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.

Go Deeper

James is taking great care to caution his listeners against letting envy and bitterness take root among them, because he knows that this is the source of an anger that leads to great destruction. Right off the bat he explains that the wars between believers come from internal desires for pleasure and things of the world. As one commentator puts it, “It is self-evident that the Spirit of God does not create desire which issues in envying.” In other words, if a believer claims to have a good motive, but has a critical or contentious attitude, then his desires do not align with those of the Holy Spirit. 

Thankfully, when we let this happen, verse 5 reminds us that the Holy Spirit is jealous for a relationship with God. This jealousy leads to conviction when we are not in right relationship with Him. While translations of verse 5 may vary, James is merely reiterating many passages from the Old Testament that teach of a jealous God. He intentionally uses the phrase “adulterers and adulteresses” so that this jealousy can be more easily understood: the pain suffered by someone who has been betrayed by a spouse is the same pain we cause God when we forget that we are His bride. He has been ever faithful to us, but our desires for things of the world not only cause war among us, but cause Him horrible grief.  

So how do we keep our worldly desires in check? James gives us practical guidance in verses 7-10. Submit to God. Resist the devil. Lead a pure life. Have sincere sorrow for your sins and humble yourself before the Lord. When we do these things, James reminds us that we have a God who gives us unending grace when we submit to Him. 

Charles Spurgeon has various sermons on this passage filled with incredible explanations and words of wisdom. If we question whether it is worth it to do the hard work and humble ourselves and submit to God, consider this quote from Spurgeon: “I desire to whisper one little truth in your ear, and I pray that it may startle you: You are submitting even now. You say, ‘Not I; I am lord of myself.’ I know you think so, but all the while you are submitting to the devil. The verse before us hints at this. ‘Submit yourselves unto God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.’ If you do not submit to God you never will resist the devil, and you will remain constantly under his tyrannical power. Which shall be your master, God or devil, for one of these must. No man is without a master.” 

We have two options: submit to God who loves us and created us or remain under the tyranny of the one who wants to destroy us. There is no in between. Let’s take that harrowing perspective with us today so that when even seemingly harmless decisions or situations confront us, we remember to ask the Holy Spirit within us for guidance. In doing so we can both prevent conflict and bring joy to the Father who loves us. 


  1. Is there any envy or bitterness within you that you need to confess to God? 
  2. What would it look like for you to practically resist the devil and submit to God today? Is there anyone you need to apologize to? Do you need to abandon any plans long in the making for failure to include God in them? 
  3. Spend time meditating on verses 9-10 and make sure that your heart is in a position of humility before God so that your actions and motivations today align with His.

Keep Digging

“If we basely yield to temptations, the devil will continuously follow us; but if we put on the whole armor of God, and stand it out against him, he will be gone from us. Resolution shuts and bolts the door against temptation.” – Matthew Henry

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6 thoughts on “James 4”

  1. “…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.” James 4:2-3

    I’ve heard several sermons on prayer that makes the point that praying is not asking God for what we want…but getting before God and discerning what His will is and getting alongside of God in what He is and will be doing.

    This stretches me…

    Recite the Lord’s prayer…the only worldly provision asked of God is, “daily bread” (literal bread AND Jesus)

    “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

  2. The very last place I want to be is apart from God. Once you’ve known his nearness, nothing else will suffice. James clearly describes our human tendencies to drift and operate in our sinful natures as—fighting, quarreling, coveting, slandering, judging and boasting that become habits that separate us from intimacy with God. The anecdote is in recognizing, turning away, repenting, and putting in the hard work. James uses these verbs to describe the process—submit, resist, come, wash, purify, grieve, mourn, wail, change, and humble yourselves before God. The freedom gained is worth it all, as we live in tandem with Jesus who releases us from the chains of our sinful selves and loves us with an everlasting love.

  3. James is filled with so many takeaways, and I continue to come out of it impacted. In verse 4, James lays it all out: “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God?”. Wow! When think about how I’ve interacted with the world, this makes me reconsider my actions, my words. Am I choosing the world over God? I can use verses 7-11 as guidance to pivot back to God as my focus.
    – I need to come to God in prayer before beginning my day to ensure I’m properly rooted before interacting with the world around me.

  4. Once again, humility is the word that comes out boldly. I never would have thought of myself is proud or arrogant but I am learning that those are not the only words that are opposite of humble, being self-important is something that gets me. As we look at all these scriptures and here God’s word taught from platforms a key that also flows through is Jesus’s humility. He always turned the other cheek, never took the limelight, even when so deserved. WWJD is something we can also still think about. Jesus is our example of how to live in this world because He did it well.

    God thank You for giving me an example of how to walk and live. Thank You that I do not choose to be a friend of the world because I do not want to be an enemy of You God. I know God that You are a jealous God as vs 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?” But thank You that You give us more grace. That is why Your Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
    So God I Submit myself to You, God. Help me to resist the devil, so that he will flee from me. God I desire to Come near to You so that You will come near to me. God help me wash my hands, and purify my heart, so that I am not double-minded.
    God help me to humble myself before You God for Your glory and honor. God thank You that I see people through Your love goggles and not through my worldly eyes so that I am not judging. Let me see love for my “neighbor”. God thank You that I live for today, these minutes. Thank You for WWJD in circumstances that I come across today in Jesus name amen.

  5. V.7 Submit to God. What exactly is it to submit to God? Resist the devil. How? Jesus gives us an excellent example of both when he is confronted by the devil in Mat 4:1-10. “It is Written!” How do we submit? We hide God’s Word in our hearts. How do we resist the devil? With scripture! I am seeing more and more how important it is to know the scriptures. God bless.

  6. Diane Frances Rogers

    Vs.4:7-10 list 5 ways to walk in closeness to God.
    1. Submit to God. Yield to His authority and will.
    2. Resist the devil. Don’t allow Satan to entice or tempt you.
    3. Wash your hands and purify your hearts. (lead a pure life, repent)
    4.Grieve, mourn and wail in sincere sorrow for your sins.
    5. Humble yourself before the Lord.
    Lord, I am grateful for these guidelines and the love you pour into my life. I pray to walk steadfast in these daily and grow by your strength. In Jesus name, Amen.

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