James 4 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of James 4)
4:1 From 1 whence [come] wars and fightings among you? [come they] not hence, [even] of your lusts that war in your members?

(1) He advances the same argument, condemning certain other causes of wars and contentions, that is, unbridled pleasures and uncontrolled lusts, by their effects, for so much as the Lord does worthily make them come to no effect, so that they bring nothing to them in whom they reside, but incurable torments.

4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, 2 because ye ask not.

(2) He reprehends them by name, who are not ashamed to make God the minister and helper of their lusts and pleasures, in asking things which are either in themselves unlawful or being lawful, ask for them out of wicked motives and uses.

4:4 3 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

(3) Another reason why such unbridled lusts and pleasures are utterly to be condemned, that is, because he who gives himself to the world divorces himself from God, and breaks the band of that holy and spiritual marriage.

4:5 4 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

(4) The taking away of an objection: in deed our minds run headlong into these vices, but we ought so much the more diligently take heed of them: whose care and study shall not be in vain, seeing that God resists the stubborn and gives the grace to the modest and humble that surmounts all those vices.

4:7 5 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

(5) The conclusion: We must set the positive virtues against those vices, and therefore whereas we obeyed the suggestions of the devil, we must submit our minds to God and resist the devil with a certain and assured hope of victory. In short, we must endeavour to come near to God by purity and sincerity of life.

4:9 6 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to a heaviness.

(6) He goes on in the same comparison of opposites, and contrasts those profane joys with an earnest sorrow of mind, and pride and arrogancy with holy modesty.
(a) By this word the Greeks mean a heaviness joined with shamefacedness, which is to be seen in a cast down countenance, and settled as it were upon the ground.

4:11 7 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of [his] brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

(7) He reprehends most sharply another double mischief of pride. The one is, in that the proud and arrogant will have other men to live according to their will and pleasure. Therefore they do most arrogantly condemn whatever does not please them: which cannot be done without great injury to our only lawmaker. For through this his laws are found fault with, as not carefully enough written, and men challenge that to themselves which properly belongs to God alone, in that they lay a law upon men's consciences.

4:13 8 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

(8) The other fault is this: That men do so confidently determine on these and those matters and businesses, as though every moment of their life did not depend on God.

4:17 9 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin.

(9) The conclusion of all the former treatise. The knowledge of the will of God does not only not at all profit, unless the life be answerable unto it, but also makes the sins far more grievous.