2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose, “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
As always, the first thing we need to establish is context. Remember that the epistle of James doesn’t exactly have one consistent theme – it jumps around from topic to topic that James wants to address with the Jewish converts to Christianity he is writing to. Although today’s passage can certainly be related to some of the issues that James has addressed previously in his letter, it is, for the most part, a new topic. Additionally, some may believe that since he refers to “you adulteresses” in verse four, he is speaking to a group of women; however, I do not believe that this is the case. In the Old Testament, there are frequent references to the nation of Israel being an adulteress to God by pursuing other gods and other things in life – exactly what today’s passage is addressing. Because James wrote to Jewish converts, they would have immediately recognized this reference, thus requiring James to do less explaining.
So, we can see clearly now that this congregation as a whole is arguing with each other, and James is quick to point out the cause – they are all focused on themselves and on what they want – they are not keeping an eternal perspective. It makes sense that when we allow the devil a foothold in our lives through indulging in sin (Ephesians 4:27), we are granting him permission to influence us, and he will wreak as much havoc as he can in our lives before we snap to our senses and go running back to God – including destroying our relationships with other believers. Additionally, when we are focused on ourselves, we are obviously not going to be thinking about others and selfishness inherently destroys friendships. The key to staying connected with our vital spiritual family is to not indulge in sin (thus allowing Satan to interfere with our lives) and to go out of our ways to be others-centered.
Pleasures of this World versus True Happiness
I looked up the Greek word for “pleasures” in this passage and discovered that it is hedone, which comes from a verb literally meaning “to make happy.” In other words, James is acknowledging that sin seems fun at the time – and truly, if it weren’t, we’d never do it. But the pleasures of this world cause impermanent happiness, as verses two and three make clear – we will always be seeking for more, more, more, never satisfied!
James states in verse three that we ask for God to grant us happiness in these various forms, but he does not grant it to us because our focus is all wrong! We’re asking for Him to provide us happiness in this world, but we are supposed to be seeking happiness in Him. God designed us to crave the joy that can only be found in Him – so of course we will be left unsatisfied when we try to find it elsewhere. To seek joy elsewhere is to go against His very design for humanity – and that is not something we want to do.
When we give our lives to Christ, we suddenly have access to permanent joy – but we don’t always experience it because we don’t tap into it, because we still seek lesser joy elsewhere. It’s like getting free meals for life at a five star restaurant and still choosing to go through the McDonald’s drive-thru on your own dime.
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
21 for where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.
22 The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear [focused on Him], your whole body will be full of light [holy joy].
23 But if your eye is bad [focused on the world], your whole body will be full of darkness[lack of joy]. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
When we cheat on God, of course we become His enemies. He is jealous for us to love Him (verse five), and it both hurts and angers Him deeply when we have an affair with the world. Yet, unlike many earthly lovers, He will forgive us. Let us run to Him now and receive His grace.
1. Have you noticed before that when you allow Satan that foothold by indulging in a little bit of sin, he takes over in more ways than just that one area of your life?
2. What experiences can you share with us regarding the difference between temporal, earthly joy and eternal, heavenly joy?
3. Remember, please feel free to comment on anything else – don’t feel restricted to my questions! J
Finally, a Bit of “Housekeeping”
You may have noticed that I changed the blog’s appearance just a tad to try to make it more visually appealing and useful for you. I now have a list of posts (Bible studies only, not weekend editions) categorized by topic on the right-hand sidebar for your convenience. If there’s anything else you’d like me to add that would be helpful, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail. :-)