James 4 Commentary

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Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
See also Overview Chart by Charles Swindoll

Faith for Living

The Place of Works:
Outward Demonstration of Inner Faith
Jas 1:1-18 Jas 1:19-2:13 Jas 2:14-25 Jas 3:1-12 Jas 3:13-4:12 Jas 4:13-5:12 Jas 5:13-19
Trials &
Word &
Faith &
Tongue Wars Future Others







and the

and our


The Reactions of Living Faith to Worldliness

The reaction of living faith to selfish strife (James 4:1–5:12)
      A.      The condition manifesting worldliness (James 4:1–6)
         1.      The description of the condition (James 4:1–3)
           a.      The questions exposing the source (James 4:1)
           b.      The outcome of the condition (James 4:2a)
           c.      The reasons for the condition (James 4:2b–3)
         2.      The rebuke for the condition (James 4:4–6)
           a.      The adulterous character of worldliness (James 4:4)
             (1)      The question of rebuke (James 4:4a)
             (2)      The significance of their attitude (James 4:4b)
           b.      The authoritative message of Scripture (James 4:5a)
           c.      The divine response to the worldly (James 4:5b–6)
             (1)      The yearning of the Spirit (James 4:5b–6a)
             (2)      The verification from Scripture (James 4:6b)
      B.      The exhortation to the worldly (James 4:7–12)
         1.      The call to return to God (James 4:7–10)
           a.      The statement of the basic demand (James 4:7)
             (1)      Nearness to God (James 4:8a)
             (2)      Personal cleansing (James 4:8b)
             (3)      Open repentance (James 4:9)
             (4)      Godly humility (James 4:10)
      2.      The injunction against censoriousness (James 4:11–12)
           a.      The statement of the prohibition (James 4:11a)
           b.      The justification for the prohibition (James 4:11b–12)

The reaction of living faith to presumptuous planning (4:13–17)
      A.      The rebuke of their self-sufficient attitude (James 4:13–14)
         1.      The delineation of the attitude (James 4:13)
         2.      The presumption in the attitude (James 4:14)
      B.      The indication of the proper attitude (James 4:15)
      C.      The evil of their present attitude (James 4:16–17)
         1.      The evil of their boasting (James 4:16)
         2.      The sin of their inconsistency (James 4:17) (Hiebert - James Commentary)

James 4:1  What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

  • What is the source: Jas 3:14-18 
  • Is not the source your pleasures Jas 1:14 Ge 4:5-8 Jer 17:9 Mt 15:19 Mk 7:21-23  Joh 8:44 Ro 8:7 1Ti 6:4-10 Tit 3:3 1Pe 1:14 2:11 4:2,3 2Pe 2:18 3:3 1Jn 2:15-17 Jude 1:16-18 
  • pleasures Jas 4:3 
  • in your members Ro 7:5,23 Ga 5:17 Col 3:5 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


James has just described the glorious nature and fruit of wisdom from above and now abruptly transitions to a less than glorious picture of the spirit that was present in the church. 

Hiebert has an interesting title for this next section "The reaction of living faith to selfish strife (James 4:1–12)".

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? - Remember James has been addressing his readers as my brethren (James 3:12+), so he is speaking to believers and presumably to a local body or bodies of Christ that have been dispersed abroad (Jas 1:1+). 

Jamieson makes a good point that "The cause of quarrels is often sought in external circumstances, whereas internal lusts are the true origin." 

Barton At the end of chapter 3, James explains that false wisdom leads to disorder and every evil practice (Jas 3:16+), and that true wisdom results in good fruit (Jas 3:17+) and righteousness (Jas 3:18+). From this poetic description of wisdom expressed in general terms, James returns to practical application. His readers need to know what wisdom is, but they need even more to live wisely. Chapter 4 begins with a challenge to behavior that James saw as proof of (ungodly) wisdom—fights and quarrels among them. (Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

A T RobertsonThis old interrogative adverb (pothen - here twice) asks for the origin of wars and fights. James is full of interrogatives, like all diatribes.

Quarrels (4171)(polemos) literally refers to an armed conflict or war (opposite of eirene - peace which godly wisdom gives - Jas 3:17,18+). It is used here in James 4:1 in a negative figurative sense - strife, quarrels, conflicts. In James 4:1 polemos pictures the chronic state or continuous campaign of war, while mache presents the separate conflicts or battles of the war in general. 

Robertson says "polemos (old word, Matthew 24:6) pictures the chronic state or campaign (I.E., A STATE OF WAR), while machē (also old word, 2 Cor. 7:5) presents the separate conflicts or battles in the war. So James covers the whole ground by using both words. The origin of a war or of any quarrel is sometimes hard to find, but James touches the sore spot here."

Polemos - 20x in 16v - battle(4), quarrels(1), war(10), wars(5).

Matt. 24:6; Mk. 13:7; Lk. 14:31; Lk. 21:9; 1 Co. 14:8; Heb. 11:34; Jas. 4:1; Rev. 9:7; Rev. 9:9; Rev. 11:7; Rev. 12:7; Rev. 12:17; Rev. 13:7; Rev. 16:14; Rev. 19:19; Rev. 20:8

Polemos in Septuagint - 

Gen. 14:2,8; Exod. 1:10; 13:17; 15:3; 32:17; Lev. 26:6,36-37; Num. 10:9; 14:3; 20:18; 21:14,33; 31:14,21,36; 32:6,20,27,29-30; Deut. 2:5,9,19,24,32; 3:1; 4:34; 20:1-3,5-7,12,20; 21:10; 24:5; 29:7; Jos. 4:13; 8:14; 10:11,24; 11:18-20; 14:11,15; 22:33; Jdg. 3:1-2,10; 8:13; 20:20,22-23,28,34,39,42; 21:22; 1 Sam. 4:1-2; 7:10; 8:20; 13:5,22; 14:20,22-23,52; 17:1-2,8,47; 19:8; 23:8; 25:28; 26:10; 28:1; 29:4,9; 30:24; 31:3; 2 Sam. 1:4,25; 2:17; 3:1,6,30; 5:24; 10:8-9,13; 11:7,15,18-19,22,25; 18:6,8; 19:3,10; 21:15,17-20; 22:35,40; 23:9; 1 Ki. 2:5; 5:3; 8:44; 12:21; 14:30; 15:7,16; 20:14,18,26,29,39; 22:1,4,6,15,30,34-35; 2 Ki. 3:7,26; 8:28; 9:16; 13:25; 14:7; 16:5; 18:20; 24:16; 25:4; 1 Chr. 5:10,18-20,22; 7:4; 10:3; 11:13; 12:1,8,19,33,35-36; 14:15; 19:9,14; 20:4-6; 22:8; 26:27; 2 Chr. 6:34; 11:1; 13:2-3,14; 14:6,10; 15:19; 16:9; 17:18; 18:3,5,14,29,33-34; 20:1; 22:5; 25:5,13; 26:11-13; 27:7; 28:12; 32:6,8; 35:21; Est. 1:1; Job 5:15,20; 22:10; 33:18; 38:23; 39:25; 41:8; Ps. 18:34,39; 24:8; 27:3; 46:9; 68:30; 76:3; 78:9; 89:43; 140:2,7; 144:1; Prov. 21:31; 24:6; Eccl. 3:8; 8:8; 9:11,18; Cant. 3:8; Isa. 21:15; 22:2; 42:13,25; 46:2; Jer. 4:19; 6:4,23; 18:21; 28:8; 41:16; 42:14; 46:3; 49:2,14; 50:22,42; 51:20; Ezek. 7:15; 17:17; Dan. 7:8,21; 9:25-26; 11:20,25; Hos. 1:7; 2:18; 10:9,14; Joel 2:5; 3:9; Amos 1:14; Obad. 1:1; Mic. 2:8; 3:5; Zech. 10:3,5; 14:2-3

Conflicts (disputes)(3163)(mache from machomai = to fight - this word is used for physical combat, especially military) when used literally refers to physical combat or a contest fought with weapons = battle, conflict, fight. The idea is a serious clash or conflict, and can be either physical or non-physical. It pictures violent personal relationships. It is used only figuratively in the NT and is always in the plural referring to battles fought with words not weapons (although the tongue can certainly be a vicious weapon of sorts! James 3:8+), thus "word battles," disputes, quarrels, strifes, contentions ( 2 Cor 7:5; 2 Ti 2:23; Titus 3:9; Jas 4:1). Mache gives us our English word logomachy which describes arguments about words or the meaning of words. 

Guzik makes an interesting statement that "Almost all who have such a critical and contentious attitude claim they are prompted and supported by the Spirit of God. James makes it clear that this contentious manner comes from your desires. “It is self-evident that the Spirit of God does not create desire which issues in envying.” (Morgan)" (The Enduring Word Bible Commentary – James)

Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? - James answers his own question before they can wax eloquent! In essence, the strife going on externally between saints (brethren Jas 4:11+) is simply a reflection of the war going on internally, in their heart and mind. They sought to selfishly satisfy their base, carnal inner cravings! Once again James simply validates what his half-brother Jesus had taught declaring “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man., for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders." (Mt 15:18, 19, cf Mk 7:21-23)

The source your pleasures is more literally "out of" your sinful, sensual lusts, depicting the inner desire to get something that one does not possess and yet greatly desires to possess.

The statement that wage war in your members suggests that the primary site of the war is internal, but while this is true, that is not what James is addressing, for his focus is on individuals continually at "war" (with words) with each other. The internal source feeds the external strife. Hiebert says this was "evidence that they are being governed by the spirit of worldliness." 

Vincent points out that "The sinful pleasures are the outgrowths of the lusts, James 4:2." 

Pleasures (2237)(hedone from hedos = delight, enjoyment > hedomai = have sensual pleasure) describes the state or condition of experiencing pleasure for any reason and thus speaks of gratification and enjoyment. Hedone is the root of our English hedonism, which is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life, and is manifest as an insatiable pursuit of self-satisfaction that so characterizes our modern society. Ancient hedonism expressed itself in two ways: the cruder form was that proposed by Aristippus and the early Cyrenaics, who believed that pleasure was achieved by the complete gratification of all one’s sensual desires! In contrast, Epicurus' school, though accepting the primacy of pleasure, tended to equate it with the absence of pain and taught that it could best be attained through the rational control of one’s desires. In either case it was focused on SELF! In the NT hedone is used only in a bad sense, referring to indulgence and lack of control of natural appetites (sensual) pleasure. Used 5x - Lk. 8:14; Titus 3:3; Jas. 4:1; Jas. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:13

Vincent The thought of wars and rightings is carried into the figurative description of the sensuality which arrays its forces and carries on its campaign in the members. The verb does not imply mere fighting, but all that is included in military service.

Wage war (4754)(strateuomai from strategos = army, stratos = an encamped army) means literally to perform military service, serve as a soldier in the army, go to fight, carry on a military campaign, make a military expedition, lead soldiers to war or to battle. Strateuomai is used figuratively in this verse (and 1 Pe 2:11+) of spiritual battles, the picture being one of actively carrying on a campaign with the implication of battles planned and orchestrated by the indwelling flesh, the evil disposition all mankind inherited from Adam and which is still "latent" even in believers. Note the use of strateuomai in the present tense which indicates that the spiritual campaign spearheaded by fleshly lusts against our souls is a continual struggle we can expect to engage in until the day we see our Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is analogous to what Paul wrote in Galatians "For the flesh sets its desire (present tense) against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition (present tense) to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." (Gal 5:17+

Vincent adds that "The thought of wars and fightings is carried into the figurative description of the sensuality which arrays its forces and carries on its campaign in the members. The verb does not imply mere fighting, but all that is included in military service. A remarkable parallel occurs in Plato, “Phaedo,” 66: “For whence come wars and fightings and factions? Whence but from the body and the lusts of the body?”

Members (3196)(melos) refers to a limb or member of the body and in the plural (and in the context of the present verse) refers to the members of body as the seat of the desires and passions. In James 3:5+ melos is singular (most of us have only one tongue, although some of us to often speak with a "forked tongue!") In the plural melos was used to describe the members of the body as the seat of the desires and passions (Ro 6:13, 19; Ro 7:5, 23; 1 Cor. 6:15; Col. 3:5; James 4:1). 

James 4:2  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.

  • You lust and do not have: Jas 5:1-5 Pr 1:19 Ec 4:8 Hab 2:5 1Ti 6:9,10 
  • because you do not ask.: Jas 1:5 Isa 7:12 Mt 7:7,8 Lu 11:9-13  Joh 4:10 16:24 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

You lust and do not have - NLT says "You want what you don't have."  Lust is in the present tense (plural) describing this as their continual practice, and the active voice shows they were making a volitional choice to do this - they were not coerced and could not say the "devil made me lust!" Their fallen flesh urged them on to lust! 

James had already explained that we are each responsible and cannot blame God writing "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust (epithumia). Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." (James 1:13-16+, cf "lusts of the flesh" in 1 Peter 2:11+ where Peter exhorts believers to "abstain from fleshly lusts," which while not a command per se is an action still only possible as we rely on the Holy Spirit to obey!)

Lust (covet, desire) (1937)(epithumeo from epí = upon, used intensively + thumós = passion; epithumia) means literally to fix the desire upon (object could be good [Mt 13:17, Lk 22:15 used of Jesus] or evil [1Co 10:6]). The cravings which God has placed in the human body in themselves are not sinful; they are God-given and essential for continuance of life here on earth. Lusts occur in our mind and are not physical actions per se although they may (and frequently do) lead to physical actions. But they readily be-come sinful when used for illegitimate ends.  And so epithumeo means to have a strong desire to do or secure something, to desire greatly, to long for. And remember that desires lead to deedsappetites lead to actions. Note also that the preposition epi can express motion toward or upon and thus one lexicon defines it as to set one's heart upon. In sum, epithumeo describes a strong impulse toward something so that one's passions or affections are directed toward an object, thing or person. Lust is like rot in the bones. Lust denotes the varied cravings of fallen human nature pursued in the interest of self in self-sufficient independence from God.

Vine adds that lust "describes the inner motions of the soul, the natural tendency of men in their fallen estate toward things evil and toward things forbidden."

A W Pink writes that worldly lusts "are those affections and appetites which dominate and regulate the man of the world. It is the heart craving worldly objects, pleasures, honors, riches. It is an undue absorption with those things which serve only a temporary purpose and use. "Worldly lusts" cause the things of Heaven to be crowded out by the interests and concerns of earth. This may be done by things which are quite lawful in themselves—but through an immoderate use they gain possession of the heart. "Worldly lusts" are "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16+). (Grace Preparing for Glory)

Jamieson explains that the lusts of the flesh "is the lust which has its seat and source in our lower animal nature. Satan tried this temptation the first on Christ: Lk 4:3+, “Command this stone that it be made bread.” Youth is especially liable to fleshly lusts (2 Ti 2:22+). (1John 2 Commentary)

Thomas Brooks wrote that "A little will satisfy nature; less will satisfy grace; nothing will satisfy men's lusts."

Oswald Chambers rightly warned that "We cannot think anything without the thought having its consequence. (Shade of His Hand)

Oswald Chambers also said that "Love can wait and worship endlessly; lust says, "I must have it at once."

The Ten Commandments clearly addressed the problem of looking and desiring "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet (chamad = desire, take pleasure in; Lxx = epithumeo the same verb Jesus used in Mt 5:28+ = to set one's heart upon and so to have a strong impulse in this context in a bad sense toward) your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17, cp Dt 5:21)

We can't afford to play with fire
Nor tempt a serpent's bite;
We can't afford to think that sin
Brings any true delight.
-- Anon.

Paul reminds us this battle with the lusts of our flesh is one that believers will wage every day (another reason you daily need spiritual sustenance [Lk 4:4+, Mt 4:4, cf Dt 8:2-3, cf Jn 17:17] and spiritual preparation - "Put on the full armor" [Eph 6:10-18+] not just one piece or you will be vulnerable!)-- it is a battle we cannot win on our own but only as we begin each morning surrendering our will to the sweet, perfect will of the all-powerful Holy Spirit of God! Why… (see the "for" = a term of explanation).

(Gal 5:17+For the flesh sets its desire (present tense = continually!) against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for (another term of explanation!) these are in opposition to one another, so that (another term of explanation!) you may not do the things that you please. See Galatians 5:16+ for the ONLY WAY to defeat the incredible power of the lusts of our flesh!)

(Gal 5:24+) Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

THOUGHT- These fundamental desires of life are the steam in the boiler that makes the machinery go. Turn off the steam and you have no power. Let the steam go its own way and you have destruction. The secret is in constant control. These desires must be our servants and not our masters; and this we can do through Jesus Christ. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary)

Hiebert notes that the "degeneration in the meaning of the term (epithumia from God given desires to perverted desires) is a revealing commentary on human nature. Left to himself, instead of gaining mastery over his base desires and steadfastly adhering to the good, the individual is characteristically overcome by his evil cravings, so that they become the dominating force of his life." (1 Peter. Page 94. Moody)

[So] you commit murder - Notice how short the journey is from desire to death! Don't be deceived. 

Commit murder (5407)(phroneuo from phonos = murder) means to kill unjustly, "to deprive a person of life by illegal, intentional killing." (Louw-Nida) Reaffirmation of the sixth commandment prohibiting murder is found in Mt. 5:21; 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20; Ro 13:9; Jas. 2:11. 

Phroneuo - 12x in 10v - commit murder(5), commits murder(1), murder(3), murdered(2), put to death(1).

Matt. 5:21; Matt. 19:18; Matt. 23:31; Matt. 23:35; Mk. 10:19; Lk. 18:20; Rom. 13:9; Jas. 2:11; Jas. 4:2; Jas. 5:6

Gilbrant The Septuagint uses this word commonly to translate the Hebrew rātsach which is used in the commandment, “Thou shalt commit no murder” (Exodus 20:13; Deut 5:17, free translation). Though there are 10 Hebrew words (Old Testament) and 6 Greek (New Testament) words translated “kill” in the King James Version, phoneuō and its Hebrew counterpart clearly imply the taking of human life for intentional and personal evil reasons. Such conduct is specifically forbidden by God and is certain to be judged with severity (Matthew 5:21; 19:18; 23:31,35; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11; 5:6). (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Phroneuo in Septuagint

Exod. 20:13; Exod. 21:13; Num. 35:6; Num. 35:12; Num. 35:19; Num. 35:21; Num. 35:25; Num. 35:26; Num. 35:27; Num. 35:28; Num. 35:30; Num. 35:31; Deut. 4:42; Deut. 5:17; Deut. 19:6; Deut. 22:26; Jos. 10:28; Jos. 10:30; Jos. 10:32; Jos. 10:35; Jos. 21:13; Jos. 21:21; Jos. 21:27; Jos. 21:32; Jos. 21:36; Jos. 21:38; Jdg. 16:2; Jdg. 20:4; Jdg. 20:5; 1 Ki. 20:40; 1 Ki. 21:19; 2 Chr. 25:3; Neh. 4:11; Neh. 6:10; Ps. 62:3; Ps. 94:6; Prov. 1:32; Prov. 7:26; Jer. 7:9; Lam. 2:20; Hos. 6:9; 

You are envious and cannot obtain - As with lust, are envious is in the present tense describing their habitual practice. 

You are envious (eagerly seek) (2206)(zeloo from zelos = zeal in turn from zeo = boil; source of our English word "zeal") properly, to bubble over from getting so hot (boiling) and figuratively to burn with zeal (or intensity), to be fervent, to "boil" with envy, to be jealous. It can be used commendably to refer to a striving for something or showing zeal. Zeloo is (an onomatopoeic word imitating the sound of boiling water!) means to be deeply committed to something, with the implication of accompanying desire – 'to be earnest, to set one's heart on, to be completely intent upon' Zeloo takes the notion of burning or boiling and applies it metaphorically to burning or boiling emotions, stance, or will for earnest striving, for passionate zeal, or for burning envy. Zeloo in the bad sense can be manifest in two forms, one in which the person sets their heart on something that belongs to someone else (That seems to the main sense here in James 4:2) or a second form in which one has intense negative feelings over another’s achievements or success.

[So] you fight and quarrel - Both verbs are in the the present tense describing this as this as an ongoing struggle. 

Fight (3164)(machomai) means to war, quarrel, dispute fight or strive. This word describes a serious conflict, either physical (especially military combat as with armed combatants who engage in a hand to hand struggle - cf literal use in Acts 7:26) or non-physical, but clearly intensive and bitter. It was used of those of those who contend at law for property and privileges. Machomai in secular Greek is used to describe a wind of such high intensity that it leveled everything in its path, much like a hurricane. The servant of the Lord must not engage in a "war of words" and "blow away" those who block his path in one way or another.

Fight (4170)(polemeo from polemos = war) literally means to make or wage war (Rev 12:7; 13:4; 17:14) Figuratively polemeo means to be in opposition to, be hostile invoking military imagery which depicts the hostile attitude of opponents in a literal war. And so it means to be treated in a hostile manner and then to quarrel or wrangle with someone

Polemeo - 7x in 6v - make war (1), quarrel (1), wage war (2), waged (1), wages war (1), waging (1).

Jas. 4:2; Rev. 2:16; Rev. 12:7; Rev. 13:4; Rev. 17:14; Rev. 19:11

Revelation 2:16+  ‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.

Revelation 12:7+  And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,

Revelation 13:4+ (Rev 13:3 "the whole earth was amazed") they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”

Revelation 17:14+ (Second Coming) “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” 

Revelation 19:11+ (Second Coming) And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.

Warren Wiersbe comments on this use in James writing that this shows that "The wars among us are caused by the wars within us. We want to please ourselves, even if it hurts somebody else." (With the Word)

You do not have because you do not ask.

Ask (154)(aiteo) means to ask for something or make petition (request, beg). It can mean to ask with a sense of urgency and even to the point of demanding. The seeking by the inferior from the superior (Acts 12:20); by a beggar from the giver (Acts 3:2); by the child from the parent (Matt. 7:9); by man from God (Matt. 7:7; James 1:5; 1 John 3:22) Erotao suggests that the person making the petition is on a footing of equality or familiaritywith the person he is petitioning and is the word that Jesus used when addressing God the Father. Aiteo is never used to describe Jesus' prayers to His Father. Aiteo means to ask for, with a claim on receipt of an answer. As noted aiteo more frequently suggests attitude of a suppliant, that is, of the petition of one who is lesser in position than he to whom the petition is made, as of men in asking something from God (Mt 7:7, Jas 1::5 1Jn 3:22), as of a child from a parent (Mt 7:9-10), as of a subject from a king (Acts 12:20), as of priests and people from Pilate (Lu 23:23) or finally as of a beggar from a passer by (Acts 3:2).

James 4:3  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

  • and do not receive: Jas 1:6,7 Job 27:8-10 35:12 Ps 18:41 66:18,19 Pr 1:28 15:8 Pr 21:13,27 Isa 1:15,16 Jer 11:11,14 14:12 Mic 3:4 Zec 7:13 Mt 20:22 Mk 10:38 1Jn 3:22 5:14 
  • so that you may spend it : Lu 15:13,30 16:1,2 
  • on your pleasures Jas 4:1 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Pleasures (2237) see preceding discussion of hedone

James 4:1-3 THE WAR WITHIN - Theodore Epp

James was well aware of the fact that conflict among believers comes from the personal war that goes on within each person.
This conflict within the believer is also referred to in Romans 7:23+: "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Also, Peter warned, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11+).

James's reference to killing was not necessarily referring to taking a person's life but to destroying someone's character. Previously, James dealt with the viciousness of the tongue. When the tongue is out of control, it can be a lethal weapon used for character assassination. These are sobering words from the Bible, and today more than ever we need to carefully examine our lives. Much bitterness is displayed not only among the unbelieving world but also among those who call themselves Christians. Sometimes, in the name of Christ and in a desire to be separate from sin, Christians commit sin by bitterly attacking fellow believers. We are to take a stand against sin, but we must guard our hearts so that the old nature does not take over, allowing the bitterness of hatred to grip us. Even though we may totally disagree with what another person is doing, we are still commanded as believers to seek that person's highest good.

"He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool" (Prov. 10:18).

James 4:4  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.

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James 4:4-7 DON'T COURT THE WORLD - Theodore Epp

Consider the accusation of James concerning the illicit love affair with the world as stated in the following paraphrase: "You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world's friend is being God's enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God."(James 4:4, Amplified Bible).
Being a friend of the world indicates that the person agrees with the values of the world system. The Old Testament Prophet Amos asked, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3).
The believer who is able to be in agreement with this evil world system is woefully out of fellowship with Almighty God, who saved him from the penalty and power of sin.
If a person has a consistently worldly life-style, it is a clear signal that he has never trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour.
On the other hand, there are believers who are out of fellowship with the Lord and who are worldly for a time. Perhaps this is because many want Christ as Saviour but not as Lord.
They want the assurance and peace of knowing that they are saved from eternal condemnation, but they also want to live to please themselves rather than letting Christ be the Master of their lives.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).

James 4:5  Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"?

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James 4:6  But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."

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James 4:7  Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

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James 4:8  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

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James 4:8-12 YOU GET NEARER BY GETTING LOWER - Theodore Epp

Concerning James's command to "draw nigh to God" (James 4:8), we must remember that it takes time to be holy.
Although our position in Christ at the moment of salvation provides an absolute holiness, as we live the Christian life from day to day, it takes time to apply the principles that result in holy living.
But as we move toward God, we can count on God's moving toward us. However, we must remember that our moving is the result of His indwelling power (see Phil. 2:12,13).
James said, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8). He added, "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded" (v. 8).
This injunction to cleanse oneself is most likely a reference to believers who have fallen into worldliness. God will not work through dirty hands that are contaminated by the value system and sins of the world.
Hebrews 10:22 tells us, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."
The lesson for each believer is to humble himself, not to wait for the Lord to humble him. True humility is to comprehend our own utter unworthiness apart from Christ.
Of course, seeing ourselves as we really are is also impossible apart from the grace of God. As we appropriate all the grace that God has bestowed upon us, we will become humble before Him.
"By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life" (Prov. 22:4).

James 4:9  Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.

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James 4:10  Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

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James 4:11  Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

  • Do not speak against one another: Ps 140:11 Eph 4:31 1Ti 3:11 2Ti 3:3 Tit 2:3 1Pe 2:1 
  • He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother: Mt 7:1,2 Lu 6:37 Ro 2:1 14:3,4,10-12 1Co 4:5 
  • speaks against the law: Ro 7:7,12,13 
  • you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it: Jas 1:22,23,25 Ro 2:13 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it

James 4:12  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

  • There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, Isa 33:22 
  • the One who is able to save and to destroy: Mt 10:28 Lu 12:5 Heb 7:25 
  • who are you who judge your neighbor: 1Sa 25:10 Job 38:2 Ro 2:1 9:20 14:4,13 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

James 4:13  Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."

  • me now, you who say: Jas 5:1 Ge 11:3,4,7 Ec 2:1 Isa 5:5 
  • Today or tomorrow we will go: Pr 27:1 Isa 56:12 Lu 12:17-20 
  • engage in business and make a profit: Isa 24:2 56:11 Eze 7:12 1Co 7:30 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."


James 4:13-17 GOD WILL GUIDE YOU - Theodore Epp

We do not need to be in a state of unrest about the future. Some worry needlessly and wonder, "Why doesn't God let me know what He has in mind for me in the future?"
Some young people may be thinking about the mission field and wondering what God's will is for them five or ten years from now.
It is important, however, that we recognize that God knows everything about the future, even if we do not, so the important thing is to trust Him today with our lives and leave the future to Him.
If God is calling you today into some particular ministry, then obey Him, even though you do not know what the future holds. As we are sensitive to God, we can expect Him to guide us.
Psalm 32:8 says, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." I'm so glad He guides us with His eye because He can see far beyond anything we can see.
Because God knows the future completely, He will never be too late in telling us exactly what we need to know. Some things we need to plan for in the distant future, but most things are achieved simply by walking by faith today.
As we trust God to give us wisdom for today's decisions, He will lead us a step at a time into what He wants us to be doing in the future.
"The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way" (Ps. 25:9).

James 4:14  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

  • You are just a vapor that appears for a little while Jas 1:10 Job 7:6,7 9:25,26 14:1,2 Ps 39:5 89:47 90:5-7 102:3 Isa 38:12 1Pe 1:24 4:7 1Jn 2:17 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

James 4:15  Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

  • If the Lord wills 2Sa 15:25,26 Pr 19:21 La 3:37 Ac 18:21 Ro 1:10 15:32 1Co 4:19 1Co 16:7 Heb 6:3 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

James 4:16  But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

  • Jas 3:14 Ps 52:1,7 Pr 25:14 27:1 Isa 47:7,8,10 1Co 4:7,8 5:6 Rev 18:7 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

James 4:17  Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

  • Lu 12:47,48 Joh 9:41 13:17 15:22 Ro 1:20,21,32 2:17-23 7:13 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​