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James 4:6-17; Matt 20:25-27, 23:11-12; Luke 12:13-21

Read James 4:6-10

  • What does it mean that God ‘gives grace to the humble’ – how do grace and humility interrelate?

  • What is the connection between submitting to God and resisting the devil? [1]

  • How does submitting to God relate to humility?

  • What is the effect of all these instructions, one after the other:

    • Wash your hands and purify your hearts

    • Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom

    • Humble yourselves before the Lord

  • How does humility relate to repentance and grief? Does God want us to be sad all the time? Why/why not?

Read Matthew 23:11-12 and Matthew 20:25-28

  • How do these teachings from Jesus form the basis for James's teaching about humility?

Read James 4:11-12

  • Why does James forbid his readers from speaking against or judging neighbours?

  • How does this relate to 'humility'?

  • Does this mean we can never identify injustice or wrongdoing, and never call out bad behaviour, and never challenge abusers, etc? Where do you think we can find the line between wise discernment and a love of justice, and being judgemental?

Read James 4:13-17

  • What is the problem with making plans like this? Is it wrong to plan ahead - or is James correcting something more specific?

  • How does this relate to 'humility'?

Read Luke 12:13-21

  • How do these words from Jesus help us to understand James' teaching here?

  • Look again an James 4:17. Many scholars believe this verse is quoting a popular saying that was around at the time James was writing. [2] How does this saying connect with the verses that go before it? Why is it a sin to fail to do the good you know you should do?

  • Can you think of any common examples of this sort of 'sin'? Or even examples from your own life following Jesus?

[1] J.A. Motyer discusses the words 'submit' and 'resist' in verse 7 in some detail:

The English translation submit does not do full justice to the Greek it translates, chiefly because some ways in which we use the idea of submission point to the end of struggling and the onset of passivity. In this way, we ‘submit’ to superior forces: further resistance is useless. For the duration of the war we will stand idly by as prisoners of the enemy. But the word James uses is much more an ‘enlistment’ word, the taking up of allegiance to a great Superior in order to engage in the fight under his banner. The Lord Jesus ‘was obedient’ (Lk. 2:51) to his parents; Christian citizens are to ‘be subject to’ the authorities (Rom. 13:1)—the verb (hypotassō) speaks of a subordinate’s readiness to await commands and to do the will of the superior. Francis Schaeffer aptly uses the phrase ‘active passivity’ to cover this important idea.

If the translation submit is too passive, the translation resist is, if anything, too active! It is not a word for one who is carrying the attack over into the enemy camp, but for one who is manning the defences, knowing that enemy pressure is ceaseless and that he is constantly under fire. We do well to notice that it is those who have subordinated themselves to God who are commanded to stand firm against the devil. James knows of no act of consecration to God which takes us out of the conflict. On the contrary, it is the very act of decisive enlistment as his underlings which brings us into the firing-line and calls the devil’s attention to us as objects of attack.

J.A. Motyer, James, Bible Speaks Today, p152.

[2] Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale Commentary Volume 16: James, p162.


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