What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. —James 4:1-10
As we read through this section of James we tend to be overwhelmed with the commands “to do” and the warnings about becoming an enemy of God. We are crushed by these words since all of us remain “friends of the world” to some degree. All of us are spiritual adulterers at heart. Not a person here has not sinfully judged some else using one of God’s commandments, the whole time we are breaking that command ourselves. We are all self righteous hypocrites at heart. Human sin is not something which just goes away when we become Christians. James exposes our sin, he exhorts us to deal with it, he warns us of the seriousness of sin, and he tells us that we must cease from our sinful behavior.
Because James’ words here are so direct, we may miss the fact that this section of James is really all about grace. If only we humble ourselves, God gives us what we need–grace. In Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, we are reckoned as righteous, and God enables us to fulfill what he has commanded of us. The whole point of this section of James is to remind us that God gives grace to sinners! So let us humble ourselves before God, and draw near to our Creator-Redeemer with proper reverence and awe. Let us never forget that in the person of Jesus Christ, God has given us wisdom and grace, and in because of Christ’s death for us, and because his righteousness is imputed to us, we can freely enter God’s presence, where we are given everything we have ever needed. All we need do is humble ourselves,draw near to God, and there we will receive grace–indeed more grace!