Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:7, 10 (NIV)
Reading: James 4:1-17
Consider: The following post was first published on 6th March 2018 under the heading ‘James (4)’.
The previous chapter of James’s letter ends with the encouragement to be peacemakers by applying heavenly wisdom to whatever situation we might find ourselves in. Chapter 4 begins with ‘fights and quarrels’, recognising that so often our desires and prayers are mismatched. James is quite forceful in describing the tension between what we want and pray for, and what we should be praying for. Reading James 4:4 where he describes his readers as ‘You adulterous people …’ might seem harsh, but this is a description often used of the Jews throughout the Old Testament. Using this language James is reminding his readers of the covenant relationship that exists between them and God, but which is often broken by their wandering away from him.
Elsewhere in the New Testament Paul also recognises the tension that exists between the human nature and the heavenly nature (new person in Christ). James puts his finger on the remedy for this issue when he says ‘But he gives us more grace’ (4:6) and also ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’ (4:7). Do you see how submitting to God, leads to us being enabled to resist the devil because God pours out more grace on us. We cannot resist temptation in our own strength.
The last part of James 4 deals with the transience of life. James reminds his readers that their natural instinct is to plan for their lives. He uses words like ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ revealing that they think they know what will happen today and what they plan will take place tomorrow. James is not against forward planning. It is eminently sensible to plan for the future and many of us make proper plans for pensions and health care. What is foolish is not recognising how transient and undependable life really is, as James says: ‘You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes’ (4:14). This might all seem a bit depressing. However, it is all within the context of submitting to God. James goes on to say that instead of relying on our own plans: ‘Instead, you ought to say, If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’ (4:15).
Pray: Father, help us to have a view of life that is God-given, recognising how fleeting life is and being willing to submit ourselves humbly to you and your will. Amen