Or do you think the Scripture says without reason that the Spirit He caused to dwell in us yearns with envy?
I. THE ANTAGONISM BETWEEN THE LOVE OF THE WORLD AND THE LOVE OF GOD. (Ver. 4.) This painful epithet, "Ye adulteresses," is the key-note of the chord which James strikes in his appeal. God is the rightful spiritual Husband of every professing Christian; and thus, if such a one embraces the world, he or she resembles a woman who turns away from her lawful husband to follow other lovers. The world is an evil world, alien in its principles and pursuits from the will and glory of God; and therefore "the friendship of the world" is incompatible with the love of him. But what precisely is this "friendship"? It does not lie
(1) in habits of friendly intercourse with worldly men; or
(2) in the diligent pursuit of one's daily occupation; or
(3) in an appreciation of creature comforts and innocent pleasures.
Worldliness does not depend upon outward acts or habits. It is a state of the heart. The word denotes the spirit and guiding disposition of the unbeliever's life - the will to "be a friend of the world." Since, accordingly, this friendship represents direct opposition to the Divine will, every man who seeks it first and most declares himself by that very act "an enemy of God."
II. CONFIRMATION OF THIS TRUTH. (Vers. 5, 6.) We accept as accurate the Greek reading of ver. 5 which has been adopted by the Revisers, together with their translation: "Or think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the Spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" The apostle, accordingly, confirms his representation regarding the antagonism between the love of the world and the love of God by:
1. The tenor of Scripture teaching. The sacred writers with one consent take up an attitude of protest against worldliness. They uniformly assume that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God." They urge the duty of moderation in one's desires, and of contentment with the allotments of Providence. The worldly disposition, which shows itself in covetousness and envy and strife, is opposed both to the letter and the spirit of Holy Scripture. And the moral teaching of God's Word on this subject is not "in vain." The Bible means what it says. In all its utterances it is solemnly earnest.
2. The consciousness of the renewed heart. "Doth the Spirit [i.e. the Holy Spirit] which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" If the Holy Ghost, speaking in the written Word, condemns the spirit of envy, he does so also in the law which he writes upon the hearts of Christ's people. Some of those to whom this Epistle was addressed had "bitter jealousy and faction in their hearts" (James 3:14): it was seen in their worldly "wars" and "fightings." But the apostle appeals to their consciences to confess whether such a state of mind was not due to their walking "after the flesh' instead of "after the Spirit." They knew well that the power of the Holy Ghost within their souls, in so tar as they yielded themselves to it, produced always very different fruit from that of envy and strife (Galatians 5:19-23; James 3:14-18).
3. The substance of the Divine promises. (Ver. 6.) "Grace" is the name for the influence which the Holy Spirit exerts upon the heart in order to its regeneration and sanctification. And how does grace operate, but just by killing the love of the world within the soul, and breathing into it the love of God? He, by his Spirit, gives to his believing people "more grace," i.e. supplies of grace greater in force and volume than the strength of their depravity, or the temptations against which they have to contend. Not only so, but those who employ well the grace which they already possess, shall receive more in ever-increasing measure (Matthew 25:29). And "the humble," who realize must deeply that they do not deserve any grace at all, are those upon whom God has always bestowed the most copious supplies. The further we depart from pride, which is the fruitful mother of envy and strife, the more freely and abundantly shall we receive that supernatural energy which will drive the love of the world out of our hearts (Proverbs 3:34).
CONCLUSION. Let us impress upon our minds the intensity with which God abhors pride. All history echoes the truth that "he setteth himself in array against the proud." Take the case of Pharaoh, of Nebuchadnezzar, of Haman, of Wolsey, of Napoleon. For ourselves, therefore, let us "fling away ambition" in every form. Especially let us crucify spiritual pride. "Many laboring men have got good estates in the Valley of Humiliation;" and if we go there "in the summer-time" of prosperity we shall learn the song of the shepherd boy -
"He that is down needs fear no fall;
The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy.
I. The class of passages to which St. James seems to refer would include those in which God speaks of Himself as a "jealous" God, and impresses upon the minds of the Israelites the undivided nature of the worship He demanded from them. In such passages God is described as requiring the entire affections of His people. His feeling at the withdrawal of these affections from Him in any degree is spoken of as "jealousy." The meaning of the text will then be, "Do you suppose that the Scriptures mean nothing when they speak of the Spirit of God dwelling in you as requiring absolute rule in your hearts, and longing eagerly after you, even to something like envy of any other influence which is gaining the mastery over your hearts?" The word here translated "lusteth" is rendered "long after," where St. Paul says to the Philippians, "God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ."
II. This meaning of the text will be found, I think, to harmonise with the context. He asks, "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" and adds, "whosoever, therefore, will be" — lays himself out to be — "the friend of the world is the enemy of God." You must choose between the two. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." "Do you think that the Scriptures speak to no purpose when they tell you that God requires your heart in a way which can only be described by saying that His Spirit longeth after you with enviousness and jealousy?"
III. This same view of religion is, as you know, continully brought before us in Scripture. Our Lord tells us that "no man can serve two masters." With a view to testing this singleness of heart in those who desire to be His followers He gave to different persons different commands. He desired one who wished to be with Him to go home to his own house. He called upon the young man who had great possessions to abandon them and follow Him. This unreserved surrender of self to Him was the "one thing needful." Different courses of conduct would test the "willingness" of different persons according as their circumstances or dispositions were different; but in all His disciples the same readiness was necessary in the days when tie walked this earth. In all His disciples the same disposition is necessary now. The design of the gospel is not to set us free on the earth to do as we please; but to place us in our true position as adopted children of God — to turn the heart wholly to Him so that we should not merely have His law written for us as something outside us and hostile to us — as a set of rules for slaves and bondsmen — but written by His Holy Spirit in the fleshy tables of our hearts, as the directions to which our renewed affections would turn with delight.
IV. Nor indeed would any other view of the claims and operation of the Holy Spirit be at all consistent with what we observe of all ruling influences in our minds. We all have some predominant desire or tendency which brings into subjection our other desires and tendencies, and to which they yield. This ruling principle exerts an influence upon everything we do; our other tendencies, as it were, group themselves around it, receive its instructions, and do its bidding. Everything is viewed through it as a medium. You all know what this is. And if any one of you has taken the trouble to ascertain what is, in your own case, the ruling tendency of your mind, you will know that it is a jealous tendency — that it "lusteth or longeth after you enviously."
V. Now if the love of God — a looking to the things not seen — if holiness be our character, we must expect the Holy Spirit to exert such an influence over us as we know other powers to exert over those upon whose characters we decide by our knowledge of their ruling disposition. We must expect the indwelling Spirit to desire no rivalry — to be satisfied with nothing short of "bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." But what is wonderful is, that persons coming to Church and receiving the Bible — persons who are shocked at open wickedness, and who fancy themselves shocked at it because it is spoken against in God's Word — what is wonderful, I say, is that such persons can pass over as idle words these assertions of the nature of the Spirit's claim on their whole heart, in the practical recognition of which consists that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." Of course a view of religion so fundamentally wrong as to ignore this high notion of the yearning and jealous love of God for those in whom He vouchsafes to dwell would necessarily taint and nullify every supposed religious act of him who, in spite of Scripture, resolved to entertain it. But it is in the particular act of prayer that St. James in the passage before us asserts its ruinous tendency. Let us, then, in conclusion, see how it operates to render prayer ineffectual, and to make what ought to be our solemn service an abomination unto the Lord. Prayer may be viewed in either of two ways.
1. It is a means by which God has appointed that we shall receive that continual supply of grace and strength which is essential to the support of our spiritual life. It is thus a source of benefit and blessing for present use. Besides this, the act of prayer is —
2. In itself a training for that higher and more enduring communion with Him which we hope one day to enjoy in His Kingdom. No man prays to any purpose except he prays with a sincere wish — a wish far beyond all other wishes — that God would make him better; that God would do this — do it from the moment the prayer is uttered — and do it evermore unto the end. This must be the sincere and heartfelt longing of every one who hopes to "receive anything of the Lord." This is precisely what, from the nature of the case, the man who is "double-minded" cannot have.
(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)Romans 1:11; Philippians 1:8; Philippians 2:26; 2 Corinthians 9:14), or "earnestly desiring" (2 Corinthians 5:2), or "greatly desiring" (2 Timothy 1:4). The verb has no object, but it is natural to supply "us." Taking these data we get as the true meaning of the words: "The Spirit which He implanted yearns tenderly over us." The words that remain, "to envy," admit of being taken as with an adverbial force: in a manner tending to envy." The fact that "envy" is elsewhere condemned as simply evil, makes its use here somewhat startling. But the thought implied is that the strongest human affection shows itself in a jealousy which is scarcely distinguishable from "envy." We grudge the transfer to another of the affections which we claim as ours. We envy the happiness of that other. In that sense St. James says that the Spirit, implanted in us, yearns to make us wholly His, and is satisfied with no divided allegiance. The root-idea of the passage is identical with that of the jealousy of God over Israel as His bride (Jeremiah 3:1-11; Ezekiel 16:1; Hosea 2:3), of His wrath when the bride proved faithless.
TopicsAbode, Caused, Desire, Desires, Desireth, Dwell, Dwelleth, Earnestly, Emptily, Envies, Enviously, Envy, Envying, Hearts, Holy, Intensely, Jealously, Lusteth, Nothing, Purpose, Reason, Says, Scripture, Seem, Speaketh, Speaks, Spirit, Strong, Suppose, Vain, Writing, Writings, Yearns
Outline1. We are to strive against covetousness;
11. detraction and rash judgment of others;
13. and not to be boastful of our future plans.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJames 4:5
LibraryDecember 29 Evening
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.--JAMES 4:8. Enoch walked with God.--Can two walk together, except they be agreed?--It is good for me to draw near to God. The Lord is with you, while ye be with him: and if ye seek him, he will be found of you: but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. When they in their trouble did turn unto the Lord God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of …
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path
December 26. "The Spirit that Dwelleth in us Lusteth to Envy" (James iv. 5).
December 19. "God Giveth Grace unto the Humble" (James iv. 6).
April 4. "Resist the Devil and He Will Flee" (James iv. 7).
The Approbation of Goodness is not the Love of It.
God's Will About the Future
The Lack of Prayer
Addresses on Holiness,
But Though Prayer is Properly Confined to Vows and Supplications...
"What is Your Life?"
The Right to My Own Time
Next Let not Man, Now that He Knoweth that by the Grace of God...
Whether Strife is a Daughter of Anger?
Whether Quarreling is Opposed to the virtue of Friendship or Affability?
Whether Backbiting is a Graver Sin than Tale-Bearing?
Whether Every Sin Includes an Action?
Whether the Reason Can be Overcome by a Passion, against Its Knowledge?
Whether the Gift of Knowledge is Practical Knowledge?
Whether Omission is a Special Sin?
Whether a Movement of Faith is Required for the Justification of the Ungodly?
Whether Humility is the Greatest of the virtues?
Whether Pride is the Most Grievous of Sins?
Whether it was Fitting that the Mother of God Should Go to the Temple to be Purified?
Whether Christ Should have Been Baptized in the Jordan?
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