Remember, we’re surveying the book to get a sense of its content and flow. We’ll begin studying it a passage at a time next week.
I hope you’re reading James for yourself and thinking about it before you get here each day. It’s helpful to hear what someone else has to say about God’s Word, but nothing can take the place of having the Holy Spirit help you understand the Bible for yourself.
Major Topics Discussed
Here are the major topics I identified as I read James, chapter four.
- The source of strife and its cure (v. 1-10).
- Don’t speak evil of brethren (v. 11-12).
- Don’t boast about the future (v. 13-17).
How does that compare with what you found?
Words and Phrases to Look Up
Here are words and phrases I wanted to check out. The definitions that follow are from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries follow.
- Lusteth to envy (v. 5)
- Double minded (v. 8)
- Go to (v. 13)
Lusteth to envy
Lusteth (G1971) ep-ee-poth-eh’-o
From G1909 andpotheo? (to yearn); to dote upon, that is, intensely crave possession (lawfully or wrongfully): – (earnestly) desire (greatly), (greatly) long (after), lust.
Lust, then, is not always a negative or sinful thing. It is any strong desire.
Envy (G5355) fthon’-os
Probably akin to the base of G5351; ill will (as detraction), that is, jealousy (spite): – envy.
The Holy Spirit jealously desires that we would be faithful to Christ.
From G1364 and G5590; two spirited, that is, vacillating (in opinion or purpose): – double minded.
Imperative of G71; properly lead, that is, come on: – go to.
We might say, “Come on, now…”
Points of Interest / Research
- It seems strange that James presents prayer as the cure for unsatisfied lust, and then warns us that desiring to consume it upon our lusts is a cause for unanswered prayer. (v. 1-3)
- “All such rejoicing is evil,” (v. 16) isn’t what I expected here. I thought it would say, “all such boasting is evil”.
Lust, pray, don’t lust
James asks what causes our infighting. He answers that it comes from our unsatisfied lusts and the sinful ways we try to get what we want. He then tells us to pray instead of going to war. So far, so good. But then he says our prayers don’t get answered, in part, because we want to consume it upon our lusts. It sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? Prayer is the way to fulfill your lusts, but God won’t answer selfish prayers. I think a couple of ideas are implied here.
As we saw in the vocabulary section, lusts are simply strong desires – they’re not always sinful. So we could be talking about right desires in verse two and wrong desires in verse three. Praying, not fighting, is the way to seek every good thing you want (James 1:17).
We might also be talking about motives here . Their lusts were good, but their motives were bad. They might, for example, have lusted to be church leaders. If they wanted to be of greater service to God’s people, that’s good. If they wanted to lead so they could boss people around, that’s bad, and God’ probably wouldn’t answer their prayers.
If it’s right to want, it’s right to pray for.
All such rejoicing is evil
This wasn’t how I expected this passage to end. I thought James would have condemned the boasting, the outward activity he was talking about. Instead, he condemns the rejoicing behind the boasting. God doesn’t just want us to keep quiet about our hallucinations about the future, He wants us not to have faith in them or rejoice about them.
Homework / Weekend Workshop
Read chapter five over the weekend and look for the same highlights you’ve been looking for in earlier chapters. Since you have a little extra time over the weekend, why not turn your major topics lists from each chapter into an outline of the book. You might want to expand it by adding sub-points for each section.