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James 4:1-10

Read James 4:1-5

  • Brainstorm some of the ways that we see 'fights and quarrels' caused by 'desires' and 'coveting'.

  • Do you think that all fighting has at its core selfish desires and jealousy? Why/why not?

  • What do you think of James' words about prayer (v2-3)? What should be our motives in prayer?

In verses 4-5, James calls his readers 'adulterous' - they are trying to be friends with God and friends with the world. [1]

  • What is it about the way of the world that makes it tempting to live that way? (Try to give some examples.)

  • What is it about being friends with God that contradicts the values of our world?

  • How could we help one another to be distinctively Christian in our world?

James goes on to describe the cornerstones of living in God's friendship: grace & humility.

Read James 4:6-10

  • Why do you think God wants us to be humble? [2]

  • How does humility help us to experience God's grace/favour?

  • How does humility help us to experience 'grief, mourning and wailing'?

    • How do we reconcile these two things? [3]

  • What has been your experience of repentance?

    • How can we make repentance part of a healthy relationship with God without becoming too focused on guilt or self-loathing? [4]

Spend some time in quiet reflection with God. Consider the ways in which your desires are for the things of 'the world', and consider the response of your heart as you submit yourself to God.

You might want to use these prayers as part of your reflection time:

  • God of grace, we humbly submit ourselves before you now. Please wash us clean, forgiving us for the sinful things we have done. Please purify our hearts from the desires we have for worldly things. We are sorry, Lord.

  • We draw near to you now, God, and we thank you that you draw near to us. We thank you that you lift us up by your mighty hand, that you fill us with the grace of Jesus Christ, who lived and died in humility and love. We welcome your Holy Spirit to work in our hearts, making us more like our Lord Jesus, the one we worship and live for, in whose name we pray. Amen.

[1] Tom Wright explains what James means by 'the world' here:

By ‘the world’ he seems to mean, as often in scripture, 'the way the world behaves’, the pattern of life, the underlying implicit story, the things people want, expect, long for and dream of that drive them to think and behave the way they do. If you go with the drift, if you don’t reflect on what you’re doing but just pick up habits of mind and body from all around you, the chances are you will become ‘friends’ with ‘the world’ in this sense. You will be ‘normal’. It takes guts to stand out and be different. It also takes thought, decision and determination...

It would mean, for a start, taming the desires that are agitating inside you for things you can’t get, the desires that push you to fight, and even to kill or to make war. The desires, too, that lead you to pray for something (verse 3), but to pray simply for your own pleasures to be satisfied rather than for God’s glory. And yet, James says, you claim to be God’s people! That is spiritual adultery. Married to God, but having a long-running affair with ‘the world’. God longs for exclusive friendship with all those who are made in his image.

N.T. Wright, The Early Church Letters For Everyone, pp 27-28

[3] See 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 for a helpful explanation of the difference between 'Godly sorrow' and 'worldly sorrow'.

[4] Douglas Moo describes the deep joy that comes from true repentance:

Many people in our day, both outside the church and within it, are marked by a superficial joy and brittle laughter. They live the hedonist philosophy, ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’, that ignores the terrifying reality of God’s judgment. But even the committed Christian can slip into a casual attitude towards sin, perhaps presuming too much on God’s forgiving and merciful nature. It is to all such people that James issues his plea for a radical, thoroughgoing repentance. Only such repentance can produce true Christian joy – the joy that overflows from the consciousness of sins forgiven.

Douglas J. Moo, James: An Introduction & Commentary, p154

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