JAMES 4:5-6


As it is written (James 4:5-6):

"Or do you think that it is to no purpose that the scripture speaks ?   

Does the Spirit which dwells within us yearn jealously ?

But it is more grace that He gives

As it is written, God resists the proud,

But gives grace to the lowly."

 Such is the translation given.


Let us see this with some comment:

"Or do you think that it is to no purpose that the scripture speaks ?    {cf. Hebrews 9:5}

Does the Spirit which dwells within us yearn jealously!

But it is more grace that He gives

           {this enables us in English to bring out the force of the "more"
            which in Greek comes first in order in this case,
             before the verb, to be followed by 'grace'},

As it is written, God resists the proud,

But gives grace to the lowly."

The same thrust is to be found in I Peter 5:5, which proceeds to exhort us to cast ALL our care on Him, since He cares for us.

The Berkeley Version here briefly notes, re yearns jealously over us, their rendering, that God wants all of a person, our undivided loyalty.

The use of imagery concerning zeal and spiritual depth and love is often found in the Bible, as in a bad sense, in its misuse, in Ezekiel 16, and again of course in Hosea, while in a good sense in Ephesians 5. Misconceptions based upon a failure to realise the use of imagery have no excuse, but the actuality has a certain glory of purity.

As in Hebrews 9:5, the verbal use can be general. It may be, and seems clearly here, to be referring to the whole message of the Bible, in this, that it would contravene and controvert this if such a proposition as would transparently deny James' view of love of this world, were to be put. In other words, the entire force of Holy Writ comes down on any idea of loving this world, or thinking that its love is in the least degree acceptable to the God of creation, whose Christ declared this, that the prince of this world HAS NOTHING IN ME! (John 14:30).

THIS is the world of the universal flood, a grievous thing; of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of Hezekiah, who for all his remarkable and admirable godliness, made a huge mistake in allowing the ambassadors of godless Babylon to come on behalf of their king, to have fellowship (ostensibly) with the sick, but now recovered king of Israel. That fault had enormous consequences, and indeed, when pearls are cast before swine, or in this case, temple values worth trillions are exposed to hearts animated by greed, is it wise ? Is it wise!

No, it would be contrary to what the message of the Bible is, were this not to be so: LOVE NOT THE WORLD, for friendship with the world is enmity with God.  That is the first point.

The next sentence, if as it appears, you take it as a question, has an almost stunning piece of brevity and pith. It then becomes a rhetorical question.

Thus it asks whether you realise the intensity of the yearning zest of the Spirit of God in the Christian, in a figure resembling that of a devoted husband for his wife! What he may have at the interpersonal level, God has at the level of Creator and Saviour, so that compromise or desire for the world is as outré  as rain in an oven.

Do you imagine that when you, wrongly, love this world, that the Lord is indifferent, is not keen to divorce you from such forsaken alliances!  There is a divine desire for our purity, as for a wife, but it is not jealousy in another sense, that of feeling a competitive edge to the blandishments of this world, accruing in the mind of a believer, rather than a zeal for the well-being and hence avoidance of delusion on the part of a Christian, that is a different thing. We must not mistake the imagery for the reality. It is a comparison of two different things in order to take out in common, the point at issue, so that the vivid reality of it may be FELT!

In other words, might we put it that the Spirit that dwells in us yearns with jealousy ? We might, in a figure; but it is actually a case of more grace being given to the lowly. He does indeed  yearn, seek industriously and with a deep longing for the soul, but let us not be too fascinated with the figure of speech, in this comparison with the righteous zeal of a husband, which might be in part a matter of flesh. It is the purest of motions the Lord has for us, a matter of conferring grace to avoid the evil, relish the good, conform to what is the reality of the nature given to us, that it live in the midst of spiritual understanding, becoming more like the Christ, and less subservient not only to indolence, indifference or misplaced passion, but to its wrong repository. This world has no site for spirituality, and its love is perilous; for it is stricken with sin and mastered in folly. Avoid toying with untruth, and keep to the zest for God which is apt for such a pilgrimage in such a world as this one has become.

Thus,  the context proceeds smoothly to indicate, it is NOT indifference but zeal, not in slackness but intensity, not formalistic overisght merely, but direct and personal involvement that the Lord has in drastically seeking the good of His people, freed from futile pre-occupations. :

What then does He do to these objectives ? WHEN the heart is ready, when the mind is lowly, then the solution is clear: It is MORE grace that He gives to the lowly. The image of Christ, the work of the Spirit, the attention of the Lord to the needs of the tempted soul is personal, particular and potent.

It is not a question of more envy on the part of the Lord, if one were to love this world, or if more precisely, such a topic were to come to be in question; it is rather a question of GIVING MORE GRACE to the lowly, to the poor in spirit, to the consistent Christian. And why is it given ? It is in order that such things should NOT occupy the mind, or steal the soul.

No, the scripture does not speak in vain, and the Spirit, the sense seems to be, does not yearn in vain. That, once more, is another reason why friendship with this world, its bitter envy, and sensuality (James 3:14-15), involvement carnally in its forsaken ways is far from the wisdom which comes from above. Indeed, the Greek verb used with the term rendered crassly 'envy', relates to the noun qmnos, which gives the sense of ardour, excitement, passion bursting forth. It goes well with simple envy, and with it, suggests strongly what the Lord neither does nor induces, only the crest of the zest for the welfare of His people. The negation is clear. It is the ZEAL and the DESIRE in this case for good, that bears the resemblance to jealousy; not the littleness of it in type! This evokes the vastness of His desire, not its format!

With His SPIRIT at work, there is thus a double evacuation from the world in these respects, fortifying James' remarks concerning it in James 4:5, something in total accord with his earlier remarks in James 3:14-15. The Lord is CONTRARY to the allurement of this world and COMPETITIVE for the soul of man with its ambitions to seduce his spirit, while CONSTRAINING in His spiritual oversight and involvement. It is short of force, but most forceful: it is so in a spiritual fervour, not a violent and merely repugnant compulsion. It is a yearning and it is associated with a gift: that of MORE GRACE, selectively available to the lowly.

In passing, let us note one other thought, some have had on this verse.

The concept that the reference is to our own spirit as the one which 'dwells in us' does not agree with the context in word or development. Would it be our spirits which yearn in vain in the face of worldliness, or rather is it they which are the site or even source of the error! Moreover it is THE Spirit, ONE, who dwells in us, who are many! It is God who is One, we who are many, and THE Spirit dwells in US, who believe.

If it were a matter of our own tempted spirits, Indeed, it would not be 'more grace' to the lowly, for the arrogance of desire in the human spirit is in need of grace, foundationally, as fever of water. Further, the very emphasis in the Greek, MORE, He gives, GRACE, in that word order, stresses that it is an INCREMENT that is in view. It is God who gives the foundation and God who gives the increment. The operation is divine; the need is human. Assailed by many a temptation, the Christian is given grace; and to the one who is lowly, there is more. Indeed, anyone who is lowly is ready for the Lord and receives grace, since humility finds reality and reality is that the Lord IS gracious, and the enlightened soul receives Him in humility.

That fits to perfection with the Spirit of God, dwelling in man, being quite contrary to such things as this world's lusts, and follows as Summer from Spring.

Thus, when this Spirit of God is in view, then the 'more grace' becomes the antidote, arising from a consistent reference to the nature of the Spirit of God, followed by the nature of the grace given. The MORE, in its word order, then has complete intelligibility and relevance. It sings the song that has begun, with total harmony.

Both the word and the Spirit are decisive against friendship with this world, flirtations with its fancies. It is not a context; it is a command; it is not an option; it is an exclusion; it is not an object of dispute, for the world is an object of disrepute. Hence, do not imagine that the word or the Spirit of God is amenable to it, to its agreeable fancies or ways. This world and its ways, its characterisable nature: it  is an exclusion zone, like one marked for high radiation. Don't tumble into it, rumble with it, search out its wiles or be duped by its deadness.

Such are aspects of the message of James. For the Christian: Have no friendship with this world! It is at war with your God. The Lord has it up for judgment, not  social agreeableness