Jam 4.1-17 gives us reasons for strife in assemblies; a rebuke about covetousness and being friends with the world; how to defeat strife; submitting to God; depending on God; how genuine faith is proved by action.
v 1…What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you (against each other)? Is it not the source of your pleasures (Greek “hedonon” is where we get “hedonism” from meaning passionate desires for worldly pleasures) that wage war on your (bodily) members?
v 2…You lust and do not have; you commit murder (fight to the death to fulfill your desires). You are envious and cannot obtain; you fight and quarrel (over something they desire). You do not have (what you need) because you do not ask (in prayer; so you fight one another),
v 3…You ask and do not receive because you ask with the wrong motive (motivated by your own selfish desires), so that you may spend it (consume it) on your pleasures (hedonism).
v 4…You adulterers and adulteresses (a spiritual metaphor), do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (since the world is against Yehovah).
v 5…Or do you think that the Scripture (in general) speaks to no purpose: “The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy?” (we are naturally prone by our nature to envy).
v 6…But he gives a greater grace (to rescue us away from that). Therefore he says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Prov 3.34-in place to receive it).”
v 7…Submit therefore to God (in regard to worldly things). Resist (Greek “anthistemi” where we get “antihistamine” from, meaning to stand against) the evil (and not in your own strength, but like David against Goliath) and he will flee from you (he cannot stand against God’s power).
v 8…Draw near (not like in Exo 30.19-21; this cannot be done in a ceremony, we must confess our sin and the rest is God’s work), you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (can’t make up their mind about who to follow-1 Kings 18.21; Jam 1.6; Psa 119.113).
v 9…Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom (like the tax-gatherer in Luke 18.9-14).
v 10…Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and he will exalt you (not in some outward show, denying the flesh, fastings in sackcloth, etc), but in true inward mourning and weeping over the “plague” of the heart and our impure nature, our sins).
v 11…Do not speak against one another, brethren (now he returns to his previous subject). He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the Law (Torah) and judges the Law (refuses to submit to it); but if you judge the Law (Torah), you are not a doer of the Law (Torah), but a judge (not having all the facts-1 Cor 4.3-5 notes).
v 12…There is one lawgiver and judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor (because we are not in a position to judge anyone)?
v 13…Come now, you who say, “Today and tomorrow, we shall go to such and such city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit (this is in the form of a futuristic vow, leaving out the Lord).”
v 14…Yet you do not know what your life will be tomorrow (Matt 6.34; Prov 27.1). You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
v 15…Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills we shall live and also do this or that (stay in the present tense-see 3.12 notes).
v 16…But as it is, you boast in your arrogance (about their plans); all such boasting is evil.
v 17…Therefore, to one who knows the right things to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin (rebellion is knowing what the Scriptures say and not doing it-see 2.14 notes).