Continuing with our study of James, there is a theme James is striving to get across to his early readers – pride and selfishness have no place in the hearts of those who serve the Lord. Instead of wrestling with God in prayer, these believers seem to be wrestling with each other and the positions of prestige and power the world offers. James suggests they love the world and what it provides more than they love God. In this chapter, he touches on four main subjects – pride, humility, judging others and boasting.
The NIV Quest Study Bible has some wise words:
When world refers to humanity, we ought to love it as God loves people. But when world means the prevailing attitude of hostility toward God and his ways, we should reject it. When we’re tolerant of such attitudes against God, we open ourselves up to spiritual danger.
Read Leviticus 19:16-18. The law was evident when it came to how we are to treat our neighbour (brother/fellow believer):
Now read James 4:11-12. Many have mistaken these verses to mean that we are never to call out a preacher (or anyone with a position of authority in the church) who speaks a false doctrine or who are caught in sin. According to the Law, to not do so is to share in their sin. When James uses the word “judge,” he is talking about slander or false allegations, not something that can be proved to be true. The Law governed all aspects of Jewish life, and those in positions of authority (Rabbis, Priests, etc.) would, as James made clear in chapter three, be judged all the more harshly.
Before we continue, I want to make one thing clear about Jewish Law, also known as the Law of Moses or the Torah. It is true we are not bound by it, but it is still our guide as far as what God considers sin. The entire Bible, not just the New Testament declares God’s plan for His creation from beginning to end. The whole book is our handbook for life.
This letter is not only addressed to those who sought power and prestige, but to all believers in the early church. In James 4:13-17 he seems to be addressing merchants who bought and sold. And while it may seem that James is calling out anyone who makes plans for their lives (buying a house, getting a job, planning for the future, etc.), he is not. The problem is not in our thinking ahead and making plans for the future. Many verses in the Bible say that is a wise thing to do (Proverbs 6:6-8; 15:22; 20:18; 24:27, Hebrews 11:7, Luke 14:28). But the problem lies when we assume that our lives are in our own hands rather than God’s. To leave God out of our planning is a sure sign for failure.
Have you ever gone over your schedule with God? Have you asked Him to show you where He wants you to work, or who He wants you to marry? Do you consult Him when you want to go on vacation? You want your kids to sign up for hockey, soccer, dance lessons, etc., but have you asked God what He wants for them?
Faith that works keeps God in our plans.