Worldliness (James vv. 4–6)
4 You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So, whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. 5 Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? 6 But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud but favors the humble.
James points out that the church in Jerusalem was committing spiritual adultery. They claim to be joined with Christ but were cheating on the groom with this love affair with the world.
Paul describes this intimate relationship in Romans 7:4, “4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also died with respect to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you could be united with someone else. You are united with the one who was raised from the dead so that we can bear fruit for God.”
He also shows this flirtation with the world in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, “2 I’m deeply concerned about you with the same concern that God has. As your father, I promised you in marriage to one husband. I promised to present you as an innocent virgin to Christ himself. 3 But I’m afraid that your minds might be seduced in the same way as the snake deceived Eve with his devious tricks. You might be unable to focus completely on a genuine and innocent commitment to Christ.”
The church is being lured away from Christ by the temptations of the world. Warren Wiersbe makes this observation. James identifies four dangerous steps that take the believer into a wrong relationship with the world:
(1) friendship with the world, James 4:4.
4 You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.
Jesus points out in the gospels that you can serve two masters, but you will love one and hate the other. Christians can’t live in two worlds. We can’t be friendly with the world and still be married to Christ. The world is counter to the life we are called to as a new creation.
(2) being soiled by the world, James 1:27.
27 True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.
It is easy to see this, the longer we travel this journey on earth the more difficult it is to keep the world at a healthy distance. It is so enticing, so easy to justify how our actions in the world don’t do our faith damage, but little by little we are being contaminated. “The world’s smiles are more dangerous than its frowns.” Source Unknown.
(3) love with the world, 1 John 2:15–17.
15 Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. 16 Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.
(4) conformity to the world, Rom. 12:1–2.
The result is that the compromising believer is judged by the world. Believers who are friends of the world are at odds with God. Their actions grieve the Spirit, who jealously yearns for their love.
“If I had a brother who had been murdered, what would you think of me if I …daily consorted with the assassin who drove the dagger into my brother’s heart; surely I too must be an accomplice in the crime. Sin murdered Christ; will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the Incarnate God; can you love it?” – C.H. Spurgeon.
Spurgeon affirms that they were giving to someone else the love and devotion that belonged to Christ and Christ alone. The world is an enticing lover. If we are honest with ourselves this enemy is driving another wedge in our unity, it is destroying the harmony of our worship, and creating divided loyalties. Our people are more in love with their world than they are with God!
James’s uses the term ‘world’ for life that is lived as if this present world were all that there is. When we live this one precious life without regard to God, we are treading on a dangerous path. A worldly life is one that centers on the values, the desires, and aspirations of a temporary existence. Paul reminds us that we are but mere nomads here. “18 As I have told you many times and now say with deep sadness, many people live as enemies of the cross. 19 Their lives end with destruction. Their god is their stomach, and they take pride in their disgrace because their thoughts focus on earthly things. 20 Our citizenship is in heaven. We look forward to a savior that comes from there—the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform our humble bodies so that they are like his glorious body, by the power that also makes him able to subject all things to himself.”Philippians 3
Next Week: The pathway back to God.
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