James 4:7-8 Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Some people resist the devil, but do not come near to God. They are like an addict in recovery, who does not pray or read the Bible. Others come near to God, but do not resist the devil. They are like a man who goes to church, but cheats on his taxes. Victory over sin requires both offense and defense. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Never underestimate the power of humility, or the danger of pride. God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (James 4:6), wrote James. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up (1 Peter 5:6), wrote Peter. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:12), said Jesus. Whoever hopes to receive from Christ will be helped by a little humility.
A Gentile lady came to Jesus, seeking help for her demon-possessed daughter. She was not Jewish, but hoped that Jesus would help her anyway. But Jesus could be rude sometimes. [I]t is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs (Mark 7:27), he said. In effect, Jesus called her a dog.
After receiving such an insult, many would walk away. But with deep humility she replied, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs (Mark 7:28). Jesus was so impressed that he granted her request. For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter (Mark 7:29), he said.
Almost nothing is more important to receiving from Christ than humility. It is by humility that the Lord allows himself to be conquered, so that he will do all we ask of him (Theresa of Avila). The more we practice humility, the more likely we are to receive.
James 4:14 What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
The Bible uses several images to illustrate the shortness of life. My days are swifter than a runner (Job 9:25). Everyone is but a breath (Psalm 39:5). [M]y days vanish like smoke (Psalm 102:3). My days are like the evening shadow (Psalm 102:11). The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15-16).
The first readers of this letter have been dead for almost two thousand years. They would all agree with this inscription on a tombstone: Remember me as you pass by. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be. Prepare for death and follow me. Worldly wisdom says, live longer. Biblical wisdom says, prepare to die.
James 4:17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and does not do it, it is sin for them.
Many think of sin as a clear violation of a known command, such as, You shall not murder. Or, You shall not commit adultery. Or, You shall not steal (Exodus 20:13-15).But here we learn about another kind of sin: not the evil that we do, but the good we fail to do. The first can be called sins of commission. The second can be called sins of omission. It is not enough to avoid the evil, we must also do the good.
Jesus taught about sins of omission when he said, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me (Matthew 25:45). Likewise, If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17), wrote John.
Since we are called by God to do whatever good we can, we should develop our skills to the highest degree possible, so we can help as many people as possible. If we do not become our best, and help others as much as we can, we have failed to that degree. Whoever does not do all the good they can, sins.
This idea can also make us more dependent on Christ. When we understand how badly we have failed—not only because of the evil we have done, but also because of the good we have not done—then we’ll abandon all hope in ourselves and rely only on Christ. Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20), wrote Solomon.
James 5:1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.
Landowners controlled much of the Roman empire, and often oppressed the poor, in order to become even wealthier. Since their money also helped them in court, there was little the poor could do. James warned the ruthless rich that vengeance belongs to God, and that God would repay them for their evil deeds (Deuteronomy 32:35).
The love of money is not limited to the rich, however, but is seen at every level of society. Service providers have overcharged their customers. Mechanics have used inferior parts. And doctors have performed unneeded procedures in order to build their practice. All these come under the wrath of God, and should make us think twice about how we conduct our business.
Reflection and Review
- Why is humility important to God?
- How can we prepare for death?
- Have you ever been cheated?
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