James 4:1-12

Submit Yourselves to God

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b] ?
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”[c]
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

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James 4:1-12 Meaning and Commentary


In this chapter the apostle gives the true cause of contentions and strifes; and cautions against intemperance, covetousness, pride, detraction, and vain confidence. Having, in the latter part of the preceding chapter, inveighed against strife and contention, he here shows from whence they spring, from a covetous desire of riches and honour; and which yet are not obtained, because they did not ask these things of God with submission to his will; or they asked with a wrong view, namely, to gratify their lusts, Jas 4:1,3 and he dissuades from such unlawful desires, partly because they were no other than adultery; and partly because indulging them was declaring themselves enemies of God, Jas 4:4 and he deters from pride, under the name of envy, proud men being generally envious; from the sense of the Scripture, which says, not in vain, that the spirit lusts unto it; and from the consequence of it, such as are proud being resisted by the Lord, when he gives more grace to humble ones, Jas 4:5,6 hence follow several exhortations, and various duties relating to humility; as to submit to God, and resist the devil, encouraged thereunto by this motive, he will flee, Jas 4:7, to draw nigh to God in a way of religious worship, who will draw nigh in a way of grace to his people; to purity of action, and of heart, or to that which is outward and inward, Jas 4:8 to be humbled, mourn, and weep, instead of joy and laughter, Jas 4:9 to lie low before the Lord, who will raise such up, Jas 4:10 and not to speak evil of anyone, since this is judging a brother; nay, a speaking evil of the law, and a judging of that; which is to invade the prerogative of God, the lawgiver, who is able to save, and to destroy; and therefore one man should not take upon him to judge another, Jas 4:11,12 and as another instance of great neglect of God, and his providence, and disrespect unto it, the apostle takes notice of a common practice among men, and even professors of religion, who resolve to go to such a place, and continue so long, and there make merchandise, and promise themselves success; not considering what frail short lived creatures they are, and how much all depends upon the will of God; and which they should consider, submit to, and be determined by, Jas 4:13-15 and he reproves them for their boastings and joy in them, as evil, Jas 4:16, and observes, that it is not enough to know what is right and good, unless it is done; and that such knowledge is but an aggravation of the evil of sin committed, Jas 4:17.

Cross References 25

  • 1. Titus 3:9
  • 2. S Romans 7:23
  • 3. Matthew 5:21,22; James 5:6; 1 John 3:15
  • 4. Psalms 18:41; S Matthew 7:7
  • 5. Psalms 66:18; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14
  • 6. Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:20; Hosea 2:2-5; Hosea 3:1; Hosea 9:1
  • 7. S James 1:27
  • 8. Romans 8:7; 1 John 2:15
  • 9. John 15:19
  • 10. 1 Corinthians 6:19
  • 11. Psalms 138:6; Proverbs 3:34; S Matthew 23:12
  • 12. Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11; 1 Peter 5:6-9
  • 13. 2 Chronicles 15:2; Psalms 73:28; Zechariah 1:3; Malachi 3:7; Hebrews 7:19
  • 14. Isaiah 1:16
  • 15. Psalms 24:4; Jeremiah 4:14
  • 16. Psalms 119:113; James 1:8
  • 17. Luke 6:25
  • 18. ver 6; Job 5:11; 1 Peter 5:6
  • 19. Romans 1:30; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Peter 2:1
  • 20. S Matthew 7:1
  • 21. James 2:8
  • 22. James 1:22
  • 23. Isaiah 33:22; S James 5:9
  • 24. Matthew 10:28
  • 25. S Matthew 7:1; Romans 14:4

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. An allusion to covenant unfaithfulness; see Hosea 3:1.
  • [b]. Or "that the spirit he caused to dwell in us envies intensely;" or "that the Spirit he caused to dwell in us longs jealously"
  • [c]. Prov. 3:34
  • [d]. The Greek word for "brother or sister" ("adelphos" ) refers here to a believer, whether man or woman, as part of God’s family.
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