Questions about James 4


Before I start, I changed Bibles. The one I was using was one that has been in my collection of books for a long time, and its from the church I used to go to. The one I have now is supposed to be the most accurate. It is a little confusing because of the words and terms used, but from what I understand it starts by saying that wars come from lust, or wanting something badly.  and no matter what, they don't obtain it because they don't ask, and when they do ask they want it for the wrong reasons. Then it states that if you side with worldly ways it makes you an enemy of God. The next phrase really confused me, "Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" i reread it a few times and really can't figure the meaning of it. Then it goes on to say that God resists the proud, and that if you don't acknowledge him, he won't acknowledge you either and to be humble.  Then it talks about judging others, that there is only one that can do that, so we have no business trying to judge. Toward the end it talks about not knowing what's going to happen day to day, so don't worry about it because your life is comparitively short.  

I figured I would try to read the Bible again, from the start. I hope it won't mess anything up with what I'm trying to do here. I don't understand why I can't stay the course with this book. I have read so many books, several different times each, but I can't seem to stay focused on this one. There are so many things that I never realized could be wrong, not so much doing, but even not doing.  I always thought that just following the ten commandments was enough, but reading and researching farther is throwing out more things to consider. And it feels like the more I try to believe in this, the harder it becomes and the more questions I have about it. But I did want to say thank you so far for helping me with this.


It sounds like you are using a King James Version of the Bible. While it was a good translation when it was written (in 1611), English has changed quite a bit in the last 400 years. It is because you are trying to understand the Bible, but reading it in archaic English that you are running into problems. See "Which Translation Should I Use?" for a detailed discussion.

In James 4, James lists out several practical applications for our lives, all revolving around the issue of pride.

Verses 1-10 James starts out point out that life for many Christians is not as peaceful as you would expect. But the reason is not Christianity itself, but the people themselves. Too many approach Christianity with a selfish attitude. They try to pray, but their prayers are all about what they want. Their thoughts are focused on worldly things. James points out that a person cannot cling to the world and cling to God at the same time because the two are not compatible. John put it this way, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (I John 2:15-17).

The verse you had trouble understanding, verse 5, is perhaps a bit clearer in another translation. It never hurts to look at a difficult verse in several translations to try and get a glimpse of its meaning. "Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously"?" When a Christ does as God teaches, the Bible states that the Spirit of God then dwells or lives within us. "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us" (II Timothy 1:13-14). The strict definition of "jealousy" is wanting to hold on to something that belongs to you. We usually use it in a bad sense because people trying to hold on to things that don't really belong to them. But it can be used in a good sense. We belong to God. "Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine" (Ezekiel 18:4). God wants to hold on to what belongs to Him. He doesn't want His people given away to the world.

The core problem is pride. People have too much pride, which makes it hard for them to bend their will to doing what God tells them, even when God's commands are to make their lives better. We need to see ourselves accurately. We sin; we are weak; we are miserable. We would be better off being miserable and seeing ourselves accurately that to claim happiness and go off doing things our own way. When we finally let go of ourselves, then God will lift us up.

Verses 11-12: In arrogance, some people sit in judgment on their fellow Christian. The judgment is not against someone committing sin, because James calls the person a brother. Here is a person who condemns a fellow Christian because he isn't doing things his way. Whether God approves or disapproves doesn't enter the matter. An example of this is Diotrephes, "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God" (III John 9-11). Imagine the arrogance of a person who would seek to censor the apostle John. James says that such people are actually sitting in judgment on God's law because the law would say that a person is right, but they have decided that they are wrong and, thus, they are declaring that the law is wrong.

Verses 13-16: Another way we slip in pride is when we make plans for the future without factoring in that we have little control over our lives. We can hope to do something, but we should not approach the future with surety. To do so is pridefulness.

Verse 17: Sin doesn't just take place by wrongful action. We can also sin by neglect. For instance, I may know that a neighbor is in need. If I do nothing, then I have sinned because I neglected to do good.

Instead of trying to read the entire Bible like a novel, try reading it as a collection of books. Some books will be easier than others. Some books will be more interesting to you at the moment than others. But all the books of the Bible blend to make a unified whole.