Chapter 4

Roy Osborne
April 2014


The intensity with which James approaches the 4th chapter is an indication of the importance he is trying to convey to his readers.  The contents of this chapter cover the entire range of man’s relationship to God in a few of the important words James chooses to use.  Before examining the verses here, let us take a quick overview of some salient points.

When God created man, He gave him the nature of the other animals He had created, but then He added another nature, which He said was in His own image.  This was a spiritual nature.  The animal nature had no moral sense.  It could not distinguish between right and wrong.  However, the spiritual nature gave to man the ability to love and be loved (as God’s nature was).  It also gave man the ability, and the responsibility, to choose between righteousness and evil.  God was the Creator, and so, was the source of all that was righteous and good.  When He gave man this power of choice, which one must have if he is to have a meaningful love relationship, Adam chose to follow his own way.  Anything other than the will of God cannot be righteous, and so Adam was separated from his Creator.

In this chapter James emphasizes the absolute necessity of using the power of choice, which man’s spirit has, to choose God instead of pleasing his animal nature.  But that is not all.  Man can also be so
self-centered in not having his physical desires satisfied, including
riches, power, eating, sex, etc., that he turns all love to hate and fights for what he wants.  This leaves God out, and the Old Testament is replete with references to “a jealous God”. 

In the 5th verse, which is difficult to translate and understand, James says the spirit within us leads to envy.  This does not mean
that it makes us envy, but that it causes God’s envy.  This is not the bad kind of envy that we know about.  It means that God loves each of us so much that He wants us to love Him only, for that is the only way we can have peace and live with Him in eternity.  Those who love the world cannot dwell in the peace and joy of Heaven.  James says those who love the world (want to satisfy the animal desires) are enemies of God, who is the author of all righteousness.  In this age, as in every age, our greatest enemy is the tendency of the society around us to choose its own standards of right and wrong, which more often do not agree with the standards of God.  It is the Adam problem all over again.  Every Christian must know that God’s will alone is the definition of what is right and what is wrong, no matter what our peers may think.

We will continue our discussion of this 4th chapter in our next essay.