The Letter of James
Chapter Four
Copyright ©2001, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington
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This chapter[ 1 ] shows how selfishness and pride produce strife (Jas 4:1-6). Humble submission to God cures worldliness (Jas 4:7-10). Christians are cautioned not to speak evil of brethren (Jas 4:11, 12). Future plans should take into account the Lord's will (Jas 4:12-16). To know and not do God's will is sin (Jas 4:17).


  1. Selfishness and pride produce strife (Jas 4:1-6).
  2. Humble submission to God cures worldliness (Jas 4:7-10).
  3. Do not to speak evil of brethren (Jas 4:11, 12).
  4. Plan according to Lord's will (Jas 4:12-16).
  5. To know good and not do it is sin (Jas 4:17).


4:1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?

Where do wars? [what causes, whence, from whence, from where, conflicts, fights, strifes, wars?].[ 2 ] The last verse of chapter 3 spoke of peace and wisdom from above. James now discusses the opposite: conflict, fighting and war. The word "quarrels" or "wars" can describe literal, armed conflict. Figuratively, these words allude to personal or church squabbles. Whatever their nature and whatever their cause, quarrels should not be attributed to true wisdom.

And fights come from among you [and, and whence come, and what causes, fightings, quarrels, among you, which are among you].[ 3 ] Certain conflicts may be unavoidable ((Heb 12:14). Once, after Paul went to Macedonia, he wrote, "We were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears" (2Co 7:5).

The usage of "fights" in Greek literature suggests battles fought without the use of weapons. The term fits church conflicts. To confirm this interpretation, James says "among you" indicating he is thinking of infighting among Christians or in the assemblies. Every effort should be made to avoid these fights.

    "But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless" (Tit 3:9).


Do they not come from your desires for pleasure? [is it not, is it not thence, come they not hence, because of, your passions, even of your lusts, your pleasures, your sensual pleasures?].[ 4 ] Most, if not all, wars between nations have economic causes. James attributes church wrangling and conflicts to desires for sensual pleasures as well. Notice the similarity between the Greek word for pleasures (HEDONOON) and the English word "hedonistic." We live in a hedonistic or pleasure-seeking society. Many conflicts in the family, church, community and nation are caused by those who desire, or who seek out, sinful pleasures. In addition to bringing on numerous headaches, those anticipating sinful pleasures pray amiss (verse 3).

That war in your members [which war, that are at war, in your members].[ 5 ] The pursuit of sensual pleasures causes conflict within. Many who have a partial desire to do what is right have become involved in worldly pleasures to the extent that terrible struggles go on in their minds. It is my opinion that Paul was describing such an unconverted person when he wrote, "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Ro 7:23). Nonetheless, Christians may sometimes have unholy desires (see verse 2).

    (Jas 4:2)

  1. Eve and the forbidden fruit (Ge 3:6).
  2. David and Bathsheba (2Sa 11:1-3).
  3. Ahab and Naboth's vineyard (1Ki 21:2-4).
  4. Judas (Lu 22:5, 6).
  5. Ananias and Sapphira (Ac 5:1-3, 8).


4:2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.

You lust [ye lust, you desire, desire greatly].[ 6 ] Fleshly lusts may include anything a person wants excessively, not just sexual desires. Jesus included "the desire for other things" among the things that choke the word (Mk 4:19) along with "cares, riches, and pleasures of life" (Lu 8:14). Paul taught that the works of the flesh encompass such sins as "hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders,[ 7 ] drunkenness, revelries, and like" (Ga 5:20, 21). He implied that living in pleasure totally destroys spiritual life (1Ti 5:6). He placed the love of money at the very apex of causes of evil (1Tim 6:10).

    "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (1Pe 2:11).


    (Jas 4:2)

  1. Lust, murder, envy (Jas 4:2).
  2. Friendship with world (Jas 4:4).
  3. Judging unfairly (Jas 4:11).
  4. Arroganct boasting (Jas 4:13-16).
  5. Trust in riches (Jas 5:1-6)
  6. Swearing (Jas 5:12; see chart A at Jas 2:1).

And do not have [and do not have, and have not]].[ 8 ] The people James describes were unable to obtain what they desired. If they did fulfill their desires their lives would still be empty. Only spiritual pursuits really satisfy the longings of the human soul. "Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be ashamed" (Isa 65:13).

    (Jas 4:2)

  1. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing (Ec 1:8).
  2. Nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, "For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?" This also is vanity and a grave misfortune (Ec 4:8).
  3. He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver, nor he who loves abundance with increase. This also is vanity (Ec 5:10).
  4. All the labor of a man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied (Ec 6:7).

You murder [ye kill, so you kill].[ 9 ] When gratification of fleshly desires is frustrated, the subsequent choice of action may be the commission of greater crimes, even murder (compare Lu 20:14). In the case of the Pharisees, Jesus said they were "full of greed and wickedness" (Lu 11:39). They devoured "widows' houses" (Lu 20:47). Selfish hirelings flee when they see the wolf coming for his employer's sheep (Joh 10:12; compare Ac 20:29).

    "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1Jo 3:15; compare Mt 5:21, 22).

And covet [and you covet, and desire to have, and are full of envy].[ 10 ] The Greek for "covet" is ZELOUTE, a verb meaning "jealousy." Jealousy springs from earthly wisdom (see note on Jas 3:14).

And cannot obtain [and try to obtain but you cannot acquire].[ 11 ] Pleasure-seekers become frustrated when they cannot get what they want. When the ambitions is greedy folk are thwarted, they become dispirited. The story of Ahab and the vineyard of Naboth illustrates this point (see 1Ki 21:1-6; 2Ki 9:21-26; see chart FROM LUST TO SIN).

You fight and war [ye fight, so you fight, and war, and wage war, and quarrel].[ 12 ] The lusts of the flesh prompted the Galatians, in imitation of the devil, to "bite and devour one another" (see Ga 5:15, 16; 1Pe 5:8).

Yet you do not have because you do not ask [ye, yet ye, have not because ye ask not].[ 13 ] Some Christians do not get what they want because they do not take time to pray for it (see charts PRAYERLESS PEOPLE A and B).

    (Jas 4:2)

  1. The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry (Ps 34:15).
  2. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth (Ps 145:18).
  3. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them (Mk 11:24; compare Joh 14:13).
  4. The tax collector was justified (Lu 18:13, 14).
  5. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son
  6. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (1Jo 5:14).

    (Jas 4:2)

  1. Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up My people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?" (Ps 53:4).
  2. But you have not called on Me, O Jacob; and you have been weary of Me, O Israel (Isa 43:22).
  3. And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You (Isa 64:7).

    (Jas 4:2)

  1. For the shepherds have become dull-hearted, and have not sought the Lord; therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered (Jer 10:21).
  2. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth (Da 9:13).
  3. All their kings have fallen. None among them calls upon Me (Ho 7:7).
  4. I will utterly consume man and beast . . . those who have turned back from following the Lord, and have not sought the Lord nor inquired of Him (Zep 1:2, 6).


4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

You ask and do not receive [ye ask and receive not].[ 14 ] When a person prays mostly for others and sincerely wants God's will to be done, his prayer is unselfish. However, there is nothing wrong with making personal requests "known to God" (Php 4:6) so long as the petitions are for things that will enable one to continue serving Christ. Some requests are not granted because of a wrong motive in prayer.

    (Jas 4:3)

  1. Moses prayed: If You treat me like this, please kill me now--if I have found favor in Your sight (Nu 11:15).
  2. Elijah prayed, "It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life" (1Ki 19:4).

    (Jas 4:3)

  1. Jonah prayed: Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better to me to die than to live! (Jonah 4:3).
  2. Mother of sons of Zebedee made request to Jesus: Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom (Mt 20:21).

    (Jas 4:3)

  1. The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry (Ps 34:15).
  2. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth (Ps 145:18).
  3. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Lu 18:14).
  4. Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them (Mk 11:24).
  5. If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (1Jo 5:14).


Because you ask amiss [because you ask wrongly, ye ask amiss, evilly, with evil purpose].[ 15 ] Prayers out of a desire for evil or for personal greed are never acceptable. "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1Jo 5:14; see chart RECKLESS PRAYERS).

That you may spend it on your pleasures [to consume it, that ye may consume it, upon your lusts, in your pleasures, on your sensual pleasures]. [ 16 ] Desire for pleasure chokes the good seed of the kingdom but that does not mean a pleasure-loving person cannot be saved (Lu 8:14). Prior to becoming Christians, they may place a high value upon pleasure but they can change. "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another" (Tit 3:3). Therefore, spending a lot of money for pleasure is unwise. "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance" (Isa 55:2).


4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Adulterers [ye adulterers, unfaithful creatures, faithless people!].[ 17 ] The word "adulterers," carried by the KJV and NKJV, was probably added into the Greek by a copyist.[ 18 ] Several versions such as the ASV, Darby, ESB and others omit it.

And adulteresses [ye adulteresses, you false, you adulterous people, unfaithful creatures!].[ 19 ] The ESB and RSV paraphrase "adulteresses" as "faithless people" or "unfaithful creatures." A reason James uses the feminine is that Christians are married to Christ (see Ro 7:4). When any part of His bride is unfaithful to Him, that part is an "adulteress." It makes no difference whether the unfaithful one is male or female.

Desire for selfish pleasure, like love of money, is behind many other sins. Illicit sexual desires as well as lusts for other indulgences are companions to greed, and that amounts to idolatry (Col 3:5). In the OT, idolatry was equivalent to spiritual adultery.

    (Jas 4:4)

  1. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name (Isa 54:5).
  2. And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you (Isa 62:5).
  3. I remember you, the kindness of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown (Jer 2:2).
  4. I was a husband to them, says the Lord (Jer 31:32).

    (Jas 4:4)

  1. Worship of idols: to play the harlot with their gods (Ex 34:15, 16).
  2. You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry (Ps 73:27).
  3. But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me (Jer 3:1).
  4. Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot (Jer 3:6).
  5. Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so you have dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel (Jer 3:20).

    (Jas 4:4)

  1. You are an adulteress wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband (Eze 16:32).
  2. "I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot," says the Lord (Ho 2:13).
  3. There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land (Ho 4:1).
  4. O Israel, . . . you have played the harlot against your God. You have made love for hire on every threshing floor (Ho 9:1).

    (Jas 4:4)

  1. An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign (Mt 12:39).
  2. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign (Mt 16:4).
  3. For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man will also be ashamed (Mk 8:38).

    (Jas 4:4)

  1. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I might present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2Co 11:1-3).
  2. Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph 5:25).
  3. The marriage of the Lamb has come and His wife has made herself ready (Re 19:7).
  4. Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife (Re 21:9).

Do you not know that [know ye not that].[ 20 ] James asks his readers whether they have never learned that friendship with the world brings conflict with God.

Friendship with the world [friendship, the friendship, of the world].[ 21 ] Jesus said, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own" (Joh 15:19). Poor Demas forsook Paul, "having loved this present world" (2Ti 4:10).

Friendship of the world is a two-way street. The worldly Christian loves the world and the world loves him (see 1Jo 2:15, 16).

Is enmity with God. [ 22 ] Lukewarm disciples invoke an emotion like vomiting in their Lord (Re 3:16). Such "Christians" may think that being on good terms with the world is exhibiting a positive attitude of tolerance but God regards it as outright enmity. Another word that describes His dislike of those who blend with the sinful world is jealousy (see Ex 20:5; De 32:21).

Whoever therefore [whosoever, whosoever therefore, therefore whoever].[ 23 ]

Wants to be a friend of the world [wishes to be, will be, would be, is minded to be, a, the, friend of the world].[ 24 ] Power of choice is exercised here. Catering to desires for physical pleasure changes one's general outlook on life. Such a person who "wants to be" a friend of the world brings upon himself the antagonism of God.

Makes himself an enemy of God [maketh himself an enemy of God, is the enemy of God].[ 25 ] No babies are predestined to be enemies of God. They are not born estranged from Him. By one's own choosing, one becomes God's enemy. He "makes himself" an enemy of God.


4:5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?

Or do you think that [think ye that, or think ye that, or do you suppose that?][ 26 ] (see note on Jas 1:26).

The Scripture says [the scripture speaks, speaketh, saith].[ 27 ] I have found no single OT verse that exactly matches this statement. This must not be intended to be a quotation but a statement reflecting the general tenor of the Bible.

In vain [emptily, it is in vain].[ 28 ] "In vain" suggests the idea of "for nothing" or "for no reason." When the Scriptures speak, there is always a reason behind it. "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" (Nu 23:19)

The Spirit who dwells in us [the spirit which, who, dwells in us, that dwelleth in us, he has made to dwell in us; doth, does, the spirit which he made to dwell in us, which has taken his abode in us?].[ 29 ] This verse has been puzzling to translators. Some capitalize "spirit" to indicate the Holy Spirit. Several versions do not capitalize it and so indicate the human spirit that God implanted in, and caused to live, in man. Either way, the lesson is against worldly pride.

Yearns jealously [He yearns jealously over, long unto envying, lusts, lusteth, to envy, desires enviously].[ 30 ] From the very beginning, God desired to maintain fellowship with man. He wanted to walk with him from the garden of Eden onward (see chart GOD'S DESIRE TO WALK WITH MAN; A JEALOUS GOD). Sin separates between man and God (Isa 59:2). The atoning death of Christ on the cross provides a way back to nearness with Him. Some think that James meant to say that the Lord desires our spirits. "Thus says the Lord of hosts: `I am zealous [exceedingly jealous, NASB] for Zion with great zeal; with great fervor I am zealous for her'" (Zec 8:2; compare Ec 12:7; Mt 10:28; Heb 12:9). Others suppose it means the human spirit tends toward intense, envious desires.

    (Jas 4:5)

  1. I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God (Ex 29:45).
  2. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people (Le 26:12).
  3. I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people (Jer 31:1).
  4. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they will be My people (Eze 37:27).
  5. I will dwell in them, and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people (2Co 6:16).

    (Jas 4:5)

  1. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God (Ex 20:5).
  2. For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Ex 34:14).
  3. They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods (De 32:16).
  4. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? (1Co 10:22).
  5. I am jealous for you with godly jealousy (2Co 11:2).


4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

    (Jas 4:6)

  1. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing (De 10:18).
  2. Gives grace to the humble (Pr 3:34; compare Ps 18:27).
  3. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1Pe 4:14).

But He gives more grace [but he giveth more grace, a greater grace].[ 31 ] Several passages indicate that God gives special favor to certain individuals. Among the people He favors are the afflicted, the poor, widows, orphans, aliens, those who are reviled and those who humble themselves under His mighty hand (see chart THOSE ESPECIALLY FAVORED; GOD'S FAVORITES).

    (Jas 4:6)

  1. Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low (Job 40:12).
  2. For You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks (Ps 18:27).
  3. Many times He delivered them; but they rebelled in their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity (Ps 106:43).
  4. A man's pride will bring him low; but the humble in spirit will retain honor (Pr 29:23).
  5. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up--and it shall be brought low (Isa 2:12).

    (Jas 4:6)

  1. I Will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks (Isa 10:12).
  2. Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments (Isa 14:11).
  3. To bring to dishonor the pride of all glory, to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth (Isa 23:9).
  4. And all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet (Isa 60:14).

    (Jas 4:6)

  1. He has put down the mighty from their thrones (Lu 1:52).
  2. Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy (2Ti 3:2).
  3. God resists the proud (Jas 4:6; 1Pe 5:5).
  4. The most proud shall stumble and fall, and no one will raise him up (Jer 50:32).
  5. For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble (Mal 4:1).

    (Jas 4:6)

  1. Pharaoh (Ex 15:4).
  2. Sennacherib (2Ch 32:21).
  3. Haman (Es 7:9).
  4. Nebuchadnezzar (Da 4:33).
  5. Belshazzar (Da 5:28).
  6. Nineveh (Zep 2:15).
  7. The rich fool (Lu 12:16-21).

Therefore He says [therefore it says, wherefore he, the scripture, saith, wherefore saith].[ 32 ] The words "it" and "He" are supplied by various translators. Others appropriately supply "the Scripture" from verse 5.

    (Jas 4:6)

  1. The forsaken. For a mere moment I forsook you, but with great mercies I will gather you (Isa 54:7).
  2. The "haves." For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance (Mt 13:12; 25:29; Mk 4:25; Lu 19:26).
  3. The generous. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given (Mk 4:24; compare Lu 8:18).
  4. The humble. Gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6; compare Pr 3:34).

    (Jas 4:6)

  1. An evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness (Mk 7:22).
  2. Backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents (Ro 1:30).
  3. Do not be haughty, but fear (Ro 11:20).

God resists [God opposes, resisteth, sets himself against].[ 33 ] "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (1Pe 5:5, 6; see charts GOD RESISTS THE PROUD A, B and C; THE PROUD BROUGHT LOW; PRIDE CONDEMNED).

The proud [the proud, the haughty].[ 34 ] Honest self-evaluation is approved in Scripture. "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Ro 12:3; compare Ga 6:4).

There is a difference between arrogant pride and honest self-evaluation. Proud men and women exalt themselves above others. In doing so, rate themselves highly and put others down. They may disdain others because they themselves have inherited different genes and are taller or more handsome. They may think they are smarter, more talented and better looking. They may place a high value upon their wealth or their presumed culture. The worst kind of pride is that which prevents people from humbling themselves in obedience to God. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" (1Pe 5:6).

    (Jas 4:6)

  1. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2Co 9:8).
  2. Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Eph 3:20).

But gives grace to the humble [but giveth grace, but he gives grace, to, unto, the lowly, the humble].[ 35 ] Humility has always been a requirement for God's people (see Mic 6:8). A humble person may be invited to "Go up higher" (Lu 14:10). "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Lu 14:11; 18:14). The great in the kingdom are those who serve (Lu 22:26). "Yes, all of you be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility" (1Pe 5:5). Humility never gets one into trouble with God and seldom with others (see chart GOD FAVORS THE HUMBLE).


4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Therefore submit to God [so then, subject yourselves, be subject, therefore unto God].[ 36 ] "Therefore" refers back to God giving grace to the humble (verse 6). He desires submissive obedience, that is, obedience out of a humble heart. For a motivation, He promises "more grace" or "more grace" or "a greater grace" to the humble. Complainers say submission is burdensome. However, it is not really that bad. Christ's beautiful submission to the Father proves this. Have you ever wondered why He, one of the Godhead, submitted completely to the Father's will? One possible answer is that He wanted to set an example for us. Please consider that submission to God is for our good (1Pe 2:21). Contemplate the possibility that submission to one another might also be beneficial to the one submitting.

The admonition to "submit" to God implies complete resignation to His will. It requires a heart-recognition of Christ as the Ruler and King with all authority. Those who humbly submit to Him receive a blessing never imagined by cosmetic Christians who superficially obey for a show.

    (Jas 4:7)

  1. Falsifier of God's word (Mt 4:6; 13:19, 39).
  2. Ruler of evil spirits (Mt 8:29; 9:34; 12:26; Lu 11:18, 19).
  3. Opponent of Christ and His people (Mt 13:19, 39; Mk 4:15).
  4. Murderer from beginning (Joh 8:44).
  5. Prince of this world (Joh 12:31; 14:30).

    (Jas 4:7)

  1. Sinners under his dominion (Ac 26:18; 1Jo 5:19).
  2. A schemer (2Co 2:11).
  3. Had power of death (Heb 2:14).
  4. Has sinned from the beginning (1Jo 3:8).
  5. Destiny the lake of fire (Re 20:10; 21:8).


Resist the devil [but resist, but oppose, the devil].[ 37 ] The devil has many wiles or schemes (2Co 2:11). The reason a Christian must be constantly on guard against him is that one of his main tricks is to persuade a person to compromise just a tiny bit. Once someone accepts this ruse, Satan has his foot in the door. Do not expect him to "leave one alone" until he takes control. Do not expect him to leave until a complete commitment is made to Christ. Although the Lord provides some help against temptation (1Co 10:12, 13), resisting the devil is not consistent with a relaxed, casual attitude toward his deceitfulness (see 1Pe 4:8). It is a warfare!

According to Thayer, the Greek word for "resist" is a military term. It suggests the resistance of a fierce battle. "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph 6:11; see charts THE DEVIL; RESIST THE DEVIL). Satan may be resisted by using the word of God (compare Mt 4:1-11). Expect him to disguise himself as a minister of righteousness (2Co 11:13-15). Expect his greatest temptations to appear minor and inconsequential.

    (Jas 4:7)

  1. Nor give place to the devil (Eph 4:27).
  2. Stand firm against the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:11).
  3. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (Jas 4:7).
  4. Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith (1Pe 5:8, 9).

    (Jas 4:7)

  1. Submit to God (verse 7).
  2. Resist the devil (verse 7).
  3. Draw near to God (verse 8).
  4. Cleanse your hands (verse 8).
  5. Purify your hearts (verse 8).
  6. Lament and mourn and weep (verse 9).
  7. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord (verse 10).
  8. Do not speak evil of one another (verse 11).

And he will flee from you. [ 38 ] Resisting the devil must be accompanied by submission to God. One without the other will not make the devil flee. It takes both and it may require time. When the Savior was tempted, it took quite some time for Satan to leave (see Mt 4:1-11). He may hang around a Christian for a good while also. He will remain surely as long as a Christian has his feelers out for sin.

The Christian has to be active in fleeing from temptations. He is to flee fornication, idolatry, controversial questions, disputes about words, envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, constant friction, the love of money and youthful lusts (see 1Co 6:18; 10:14; 1Ti 6:11; 2Ti 2:22).


4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

    (Jas 4:8)

  1. Then the priest said, "Let us draw near to God here" (1Sa 14:36).
  2. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the lord God, that I may declare all Your works (Ps 73:28).
  3. A better hope, through which we draw near to God (Heb 7:19).
  4. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (Jas 4:8).

Draw near to God [draw nigh to God].[ 39 ] James extends an invitation to draw near to Him (see chart DRAWING NEAR TO GOD). God is near to those who call upon Him (De 4:7; Ps 34:18; 85:9; 145:18). He has always desired fellowship with His human creation (see chart GOD'S DESIRE TO WALK WITH MAN, verse 5). Sin shattered that fellowship (compare Isa 1:15; 50:1; 59:1, 2).

In the OT, priests were allowed to "come near the Lord" (Ex 19:22) but to do so they had to follow divine directions (Ex 19:24; Le 10:1-3). Some vain efforts were made by priests and others to draw near to Him in ways not authorized (see Ge 4:3-5; Le 10:1, 2; Nu 20:11; 1Sa 2:12-17; 6:19; 13:9; 2Sa 6:6, 7; 2Ki 21:4-7; 2Ch 24:7; 26:16). In the church age, all Christians are priests and, as such, may draw near to Him (Ro 12:1, 2; 1Pe 2:9). They would do well to learn from God's attitude toward people in the past who approached Him in their own self-appointed manner. These tragic examples emphasize the necessity of following His instructions.

Baptism is the way into Christ where sinners are brought near to God via the Savior's blood (Ro 6:3, 4; Ga 3:27). When the NT speaks of drawing near to God by calling upon him, this is primarily accomplished through Scriptural baptism (see Ac 22:16). Secondarily, it is achieved through repentance and prayer (see Ac 8:22).

    "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him" (Ro 10:12)

    "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Eph 2:13).

Christians may draw near in heart as they worship in spirit and truth.

    "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith (Heb 10:22).

It is impossible to have fellowship with the God of perfect holiness and be a sinner at the same time. It is essential therefore to obtain forgiveness through Christ in order to draw near to Him (see notes below on Cleanse your hands; And purify your hearts). Great care should be taken to teach and follow the plan of salvation revealed in the NT. If one misses the truth on this point, he misses everything (see 2Th 1:7-9). Failure to follow the Holy Spirit's instructions on how to worship has turned much of denominational worship into entertainment. Churches that try to do this have become spiritual "disaster areas."

Those in God's family come near to Him in worship, especially in sincere prayer. Even when they sin, God yearns for them to return to Him and be forgiven. He has provided the way through Christ to "come boldly to the throne of grace" in order to receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16). The "better hope" of the NT motivates Christians to "draw near" to Him (Heb 7:19).

And He will draw near to you [and he will draw nigh to you, come close to you].[ 40 ] Wisdom responds to those who seek it. Hear its words: "I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me" (Pr 8:17). God made almost the same pledge to exiled Jews who would diligently seek Him. "Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer 29:12, 13; compare De 4:29). God rewards those who seek Him (Heb 11:6).


Cleanse your hands you sinners [cleanse your hands sinners, ye sinners, clean your hands you sinners].[ 41 ] James addresses sinners who needed their hearts and hands cleansed.


Through Isaiah, God said, "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isa 1:16, 17; compare 1Ti 2:8). Outward cleansing is not enough. In Jerusalem, Christ-less Jews still wash hands ceremonially before eating (compare Mk 7:3, 19). This rite, like that of Pilate washing his hands, brings no internal cleansing whatsoever (see Mt 27:24).

    (Jas 4:8)

  1. Hands (Ps 24:4).
  2. Heart (Ps 73:13; Jer 4:14).
  3. Lips (Isa 6:5, 6).

    (Jas 4:8)

  1. Purifying their hearts by faith (Ac 15:9).
  2. From all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2Co 7:1).
  3. With the washing of water by the word (Eph 5:26).
  4. The blood of Christ . . . cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb 9:14).
  5. Faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jo 1:9).


And purify your hearts [and purify your hearts].[ 42 ]

    "He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation" (Ps 24:4, 5; see chart CLEANSING [OT]).

Outward cleansing was not enough. Souls of alien sinners are purified when they obey the gospel in baptism.

    "Since you have purified your souls in obeying to the truth through the Spirit[ 43 ] in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart" (1Pe 1:22).

After baptism, Christians need to be continuously forgiven of whatever sins they commit.

    "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2Co 7:1).

    "And every one who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1Jo 3:3; compare Ac 8:22; 1Jo 1:7-9).


You double-minded [ye double-minded].[ 44 ] The implication is that those with impure hearts are double-minded. They are also weak in prayer (see note on Jas 1:8).


4:9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

Lament [be wretched, be afflicted, be miserable].[ 45 ] The Greek verb means "afflict yourselves" or "be wretched" (see footnote). In the book of Romans, a cry of one seeking deliverance was, "TALAIPOROS wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Ro 7:24). When a sinner seeks cleansing from God he must genuinely regret his sins and turn from them (2Co 7:10). He must do so with a sincerity that makes him miserable. His sorrow reaches to the very pit of the stomach.

And mourn [mourn].[ 46 ] "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt 5:4). Mourning may sometimes be for the sins of others but, especially, for one's own. A Christian mourns because of his own lack of spiritual excellence (see 2Pe 2:8).

And weep [and wail].[ 47 ] God does not desire an entire life of weeping but delights in immediate repentance and willing obedience (see Lu 15:7, 10).

Let your laughter be turned to mourning. [ 48 ] Someone has introduced into churches the "holy laugh." In my opinion, this is silly. Laughter is enjoyable and is not sinful in itself. Light-heartedness has its place but mourning ought to be characteristic of those turning to God in repentance. It is not, however to be the permanent attribute of those who have obtained forgiveness (compare Ne 8:9). For them, joy is appropriate (see Ac 8:39).

And your joy to gloom [and your joy to heaviness, and your joy into sorrow].[ 49 ] The publican had a heavy, gloomy heart when praying in the temple. He was not even willing to lift up his eyes to heaven but instead was beating his breast, as he said, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Lu 18:13).

    (Jas 4:10)

  1. Made of dust (Job 10:9; Ec 3:20; 12:7).
  2. Likeness to sheep (Ps 79:13).
  3. Lack of self-direction (Jer 10:23).
  4. Sinfulness (Lu 18:13).
  5. Weakness (1Co 1:25).

    (Jas 4:10)

  1. Ignorance (1Co 8:2).
  2. As nothing (Ga 6:3; compare Ac 5:36; 8:9; Ga 2:6).
  3. Inability to save self (Eph 2:8, 9).
  4. Appointed to die (Heb 9:27).
  5. Poverty (Re 3:17).

    (Jas 4:10)

  1. He regards the lowly (Ps 138:6).
  2. I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isa 57:15).
  3. But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word (Isa 66:2).
  4. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:4).


4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

    (Jas 4:10)

  1. Jacob: I am not worthy of all the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant (Ge 32:10).
  2. Saul: Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? (1Sa 9:21).
  3. David: Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?
    (2Sa 7:18).
  4. Solomon: But I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in (1Ki 3:7).
  5. Tax-collector: God, be merciful to me, the sinner! (Lu 18:13).

    (Jas 4:10)

  1. John: He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry (Mt 3:11; compare Joh 1:27).
  2. Centurion: Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof (Mt 8:8).
  3. Syrophoenician woman: Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master's table (Mt 15:27).
  4. Paul: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1Ti 1:15).

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord [humble yourselves before the Lord].[ 50 ] (see charts EXAMPLES OF HUMILITY A and B; HUMILITY here and GOD FAVORS THE HUMBLE; LOWLINESS A and B).

And He will lift you up [and he will exalt you].[ 51 ] God will not praise[ 52 ] anyone until that person humbles himself before Him. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" (1Pe 5:6)


4:11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

Do not speak evil of one another [speak not evil one of another, speak not against one another, one against another].[ 53 ] The word translated "defame" or "slandered" in 1 Peter 3:16 is used synonymously with reviling. Speaking against one another is called slander. It may take the form of misrepresentation, libel or just plain gossip. "Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking. . . ." (1Pe 2:1). Evildoers are often guilty of "slander" against Christians (1Pe 2:12). May Christians never be guilty of returning slander to them or to each other.

Brethren [brothers].[ 54 ] Brothers in the flesh are expected to be charitable and considerate of each other (Ge 13:8). Even more so, brethren in the Lord are to show kindness to each other (see 1Pe 1:22).

He who speaks evil of a brother [he that, speaks, speaketh, against his brother].[ 55 ] Does not the NT authorize and even enjoin withdrawal of fellowship from the disorderly? How can this be accomplished without judging or speaking against someone? The command to withdraw and the command not to judge are both to be obeyed. How is this possible? This seemingly impossible task can be accomplished by obeying both commands out of a heart of love. Harsh, unjust and unkind judging is wrong. Withdrawal of fellowship for the right purpose involves "righteous judgment" (Joh 7:24). It is never necessary nor right to malign, slander or judge uncharitably in order to withdraw fellowship (see chart DO NOT SPEAK EVIL AGAINST ONE ANOTHER).

    (Jas 4:11)

  1. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice (Eph 4:31).
  2. To speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men (Tit 3:2).
  3. Laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking (1Pe 2:1).
  4. He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit (1Pe 3:10; compare Ps 34:12).

And judges his brother [or judges, or judgeth, and judgeth, his brother] .[ 56 ] When one speaks against anyone, in effect, he judges him. Is this wrong? Yes, it is (see Mt 7:1-5; compare Joh 7:24).

Speaks evil of the law [speaks, speaketh of, speaks evil, against the law].[ 57 ] The law of Christ is perfect. No one has the right to set himself up as its critic. No man has a right to change it (compare De 4:2; 12:32; Pr 30:6; Re 22:18, 19).

    (Jas 4:11)

  1. Worship to entertainment.
  2. Relaxing God's marriage laws.
  3. Altering purpose of baptism.
  4. Introducing other modes of baptism.
  5. Grace to hyper-grace.
  6. Biblical organization of the church ignored.
  7. Morals to situation ethics.

And judges the law [and judgeth the law].[ 58 ]

But if you judge the law [but if thou judge, judgest, the law].[ 59 ]

You are not a doer of the law, but a judge [thou art not a doer of the law, but judge, but a judge].[ 60 ] Christians are to obey the law of Christ, not sit in judgment on whether or not certain commands are appropriate. Discussions about the "essentials and non-essentials" or the "core gospel" border on judging the law of Christ (see chart CHANGING THE LAW OF CHRIST).


4:12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

There is one Lawgiver [One is, One only is, the lawgiver].[ 61 ] God is the only Lawgiver. "For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us" (Isa 33:22). This does not refer just to the Law of Moses but also to the law from Zion, the gospel of Christ, NT law that went forth from Jerusalem. "Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My nation; for law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as a light of the peoples" (Isa 51:4 NASB; compare 2:2-4; 42:1-4; Mic 4:1-3; Zec 14:8, 9).

[And judge].[ 62 ] Although these words are not carried in some Greek texts, we know that God is the only Judge. He does this work through Christ (see Joh 5:22, 27; 9:39; Ac 10:42; 17:31).

    (Jas 4:12)

  1. To deliver from furnace of blazing fire (Da 3:17).
  2. To destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28).
  3. To raise up children to Abraham (Lu 3:8)
  4. To perform what He promised (Ro 4:21)).
  5. To make all grace abound (2Co 9:8).

    (Jas 4:12)

  1. To do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we ask or think (Eph 3:20).
  2. To guard what is entrusted to Him (2Ti 1:12).
  3. To save forever those who draw near (Heb 7:25).
  4. To save and to destroy (Jas 4:12).
  5. To keep you from stumbling (Jude 24).

Who is able to save [who has power, he, even he, who is able to save].[ 63 ] God's power is beyond comprehension (see chart GOD IS ABLE A and B). He has the whole world in His hands. Jesus Christ (God the Son), likewise, has great power. He is "far above all principality and power and might and dominion" (Eph 1:21). There is nothing He is unable top subdue. An example of His power is the transformation of our resurrected bodies. "Who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself" (Php 3:21).

And to destroy. [ 64 ] "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Mt 10:28; compare 2Th 1:9). "Destroy" is used in the sense of "loss of well-being."[ 65 ]

Who are you [so who, but who, art thou].[ 66 ] Who are you? The answer is a mere human being. Since no measly, feeble human by himself is able either to save or destroy, he is not authorized to condemn his neighbor's soul.

To judge another [that you judge your neighbor, who, that, judgest, judges, thy, a, neighbor].[ 67 ] Puny man is powerless to save anyone in heaven. Neither is he powerful enough to really destroy another individual eternally. How can he presume to exalt himself to the position of Judge?


4:13, 14 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;" 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

    (Jas 4:13)

  1. "Today or tomorrow."
  2. "We shall go to such and such a city."
  3. "Spend a year there."
  4. "Buy and sell."
  5. "And make a profit."

Come now, you who say [go now, go to now, ye that say].[ 68 ] James calls on people, especially nonchalant, easy-going, relaxed people, to listen up and pay attention (see chart LIGHT-HEARTED BUSINESS PLANS).

    (Jas 4:13)

  1. Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower (Ge 11:4).
  2. I will build myself a wide house with spacious chambers (Jer 22:14).
  3. I will pull down my barns and build greater (Lu 12:18).
  4. We will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit (Jas 4:13).

Today or tomorrow. [ 69 ] The speech of the nonchalant "business traveler" is both bold and flippant at the same time. Life's objectives deserve more seriousness.

We will go to such and such a city [will we go, we are going, into this city, into some city, into such a city, into such and such a city, a town][ 70 ] (see chart POMPOUS FUTURE PLANS).

    (Jas 4:13)

  1. One's own choice of time [today or tomorrow].
  2. One's own choice of place [such and such a city].
  3. One's own choice of duration [a year].
  4. One's choice of occupation [buying and selling].
  5. One's own ambition [make a profit].

And spend a year there [and continue, and stay, there a year].[ 71 ]

[And].[ 72 ] Ancient Greek manuscripts of the NT had no punctuation marks. All letters in all words were capitals, making it difficult to determine where a sentence began and ended. Certain writers, Mark in particular, made frequent use of the word "and" to begin a new sentence. Some scholars translate KAI with a period or a comma. This is acceptable in many cases but not here. Notice in the quotation below how many times the light-hearted person uses the word "and." This is impossible to detect in the NKJV.

"Come now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade, and get gain" (Jas 4:13 ASV).

Buy and sell and make a profit [traffic, trade, trading, and buy and sell, and get gain, and make gain, and making a profit].[ 73 ]


[14] Whereas you do not know [whereas ye know not, whereas ye know not, ye who do not know, yet you do not know].[ 74 ] The careless planner had no idea of the future God had in store for him. It has been said that man proposes but God disposes. "There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the Lord's counsel--that will stand" (Pr 19:21).

    (Jas 4:14)

  1. A shadow (1Ch 29:15; Ps 102:11; Ec 6:12).
  2. Houses of clay, foundations in dust (Job 4:19).
  3. Swifter than a weaver's shuttle (Job 7:6).
  4. Swifter than a runner (Job 9:25).
  5. As handbreadths (Ps 39:5).
  6. Like a sigh (Ps 90:9).
  7. Grass (Ps 102:11; 103:15, 16; Isa 40:6, 7; 51:12; Jas 1:10; 1Pe 1:24).
  8. A vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (Jas 4:14).

What will happen tomorrow [about tomorrow, what shall be on the morrow, how your life shall be tomorrow].[ 75 ] The goal-setting business man or woman failed to consider the will of God, both revealed and providential, and especially the uncertainty of life. He failed to trust in Him who holds the future.

For what is your life? [what, for what, your life, is your life?][ 76 ] (see chart METAPHORS OF LIFE).

It is even a vapor [for you, for ye, are a mist, a vapor, for you are a vapor].
That appears for a little time [appearing, that appeareth, for a little while].[ 77 ]

And then vanishes away [and then vanishes, vanisheth away, and then disappearing, then vanishes].[ 78 ] The brevity of life may be compared to the Southern Washington night and morning "low clouds" that gray the early sky but burn off in mid-morning. James speaks of the earthly phase of life. The eternal phase is another story. It will consist either of eternal life or eternal punishment.


4:15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

Instead you ought to say [for that, for what, ye ought to say, you should say is, instead of your saying].[ 79 ]

    (Jas 4:15)

  1. If by some means, now at last I may I may find a way in the will of God to come to you (Ro 1:10).
  2. That I may come to you with joy by the will of God
    (Ro 15:32).
  3. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills
    (1Co 4:19).
  4. I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits (1Co 16:7).
  5. And this we will do if God permits (Heb 6:3).
  6. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1Pe 3:17).

If the Lord wills [if the Lord will, if the Lord should so will, if it is the Lord's will].[ 80 ] Paul used the words, "If God wills" when planning a return trip to Ephesus (Ac 18:21; see charts IF THE LORD WILLS; JESUS AND THE LORD'S WILL).

    (Jas 4:15)

  1. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness (Ps 143:10).
  2. The will of the Lord be done (Ac 21:14).
  3. That you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Ro 12:2).
  4. He who does the will of God abides forever (1Jo 2:17).

    (Jas 4:15)

  1. O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done (Mt 26:42; compare 26:39; Mk 14:36; Lu 22:42).
  2. I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who sent Me (Joh 5:30).
  3. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (Joh 6:38).

We shall live [we shall both live, and we should live].[ 81 ] James implies that our very lives are in the hands of God.

And do this or that [and we shall do, we will also do, this or that].[ 82 ] God gives us life (Ac 17:25). We live and move in Him (Ac 17:28). It is He who strengthens us (Php 4:13).


4:16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

But now you boast [as it is, ye glory, ye rejoice].[ 83 ]

In your arrogance [in your vauntings, in your boastings[ 84 ] Arrogant, idle and vain vaunting or bragging is not becoming to Christians. Boasting tends to be false anyway.

All such boasting is evil [all such glorying is evil, all such rejoicing is evil, in your vauntings].[ 85 ] Not all boasting is wrong (see Ga 6:14) but the kind of boasting James describes is evil (see charts BOASTING A and B).

    (Jas 4:16)

  1. The wicked boasts of his heart's desire (Ps 10:3).
  2. Boast in the multitude of their riches (Ps 49:6).
  3. Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? (Ps 52:1).
  4. "It is good for nothing," cries the buyer; but when he has gone his way, then he boasts (Pr 20:14).

    (Jas 4:16)

  1. Whoever falsely boasts of giving is like clouds and wind without rain (Pr 25:14).
  2. Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth (Pr 27:1).
  3. But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil (Jas 4:16).


4:17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Therefore. [ 86 ] "Therefore" refers back to the Lord's revealed and providential will (verse 15).

To him who knows to do good [to him therefore who knows how, to him that knoweth, to a person who knows, to do good, the man who knows the good he ought to do, whoever knows what is right to do.[ 87 ] To know and not obey is wrong. In fact, knowledge apparently makes the sin worse (see note below).

    (Jas 4:17)

  1. Neglecting weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith (Mt 23:23).
  2. Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me (Mt 25:45).
  3. Pass by justice and the love of God (Lu 11:42).
  4. You load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers (Lu 11:46).
  5. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (Jas 4:17).

And does not do it [and fails to do it, and does, and doeth, it not].[ 88 ] The servant who knows his master's will and does things worthy of stripes will receive many. His error may be simple omission or omission plus substitution of an evil activity (see Lu 12:47, 48; compare Mt 21:19; 25:42, 43; Joh 9:41; 13:17; 15:22).

To him it is sin [for him it is sin, it is sin to him].[ 89 ] Some sins such as pride, thinking too highly of self and insisting on one's own way are attitudinal.[ 90 ] Overt acts of sin such as sorcery and murder are generally termed sins of commission. Leaving undone what one should do is also sin. These sins are sins of omission (see charts SIN; SINS OF OMISSION).

    (Jas 4:17)

  1. He who despises his neighbor sins (Pr 14:21).
  2. The devising of foolishness is sin (Pr 24:9).
  3. Whatever is not from faith is sin (Ro 14:23).
  4. But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ (1Co 8:12).
  5. Showing partiality (Jas 2:9).
  6. Knowing to do good and not doing it (Jas 4:17).
  7. Lawlessness (1Jo 3:4).
  8. All unrighteousness is sin (1Jo 5:17).



[ 1 ]The basic text in this chapter is the New King James Version (NKJV). Alternate phrases in brackets are from ASV, Darby, English Study Bible (ESB), KJV and RSV and, occasionally, still another version. Greek transliteration follows the BibleSoft method. Most quotations from Colossians, 1, 2 and 3 John are from the Old Paths Version (OPV). Most other quotations are from the NKJV.
[ 2 ]POTHEN POLEMOI, whence wars (Marshall 903); wars; in James 4:1, hyperbolically of private quarrels (Vine 1209); an interrogative adverb, from what source? (Woods 199); figuratively, strivings, conflicts, quarrels (Arndt 685).
[ 3 ]KAI POTHEN MACHAI EN HUMIN, and whence fights among you (Marshall 903); fightings, strivings, always used in the plural in the NT, "fightings" (Vine 425); in our literature only in plural and only of battles fought without actual weapons fighting, quarrels, strife, disputes (Arndt 496).
[ 4 ]OUK ENTEUTHEN, EK TOON HEEDONOON HUMOON, not thence, out of the pleasures of you (Marshall 903; literally, pleasures. Properly, sensual pleasures (Vincent 1.755); pleasures (Vine 697).
[ 5 ]TOON STRATEUOMENOON EN TOIS MELESIN HUMOON, soldiering in the members of you (Marshall 903); [from STRATOS an encamped army], war; metaphorically, of spiritual conflict (Vine 1209).
[ 6 ]EPITHUMEITE, ye desire (Marshall 903); strong desires of any kind; of evil desires (Vine 697, 698); present active indicative of EPITHUMEOO [from EPI upon and THUMOS to have a strong passion for], denotes the intensity of feeling (Woods, 200, 201).
[ 7 ]NU-Text omits murders.
[ 8 ]KAI OUK ECHETE, and have not (Marshall 903).
[ 9 ]PHONEUETE, ye murder (Marshall 903); murder [akin to PHONEUS a murderer] (Vine 620).
[ 10 ]KAI ZEELOUTE, and are jealous (Marshall 903); covet, are jealous (Vincent 1.755); zealous or jealous is to be distinguished from PHTHONOS. . . . envy desires to deprive another of what he has, jealousy desires to have the same or the same sort of thing for itself (Vine 367).
[ 11 ]KAI OU DUNASTHE EPITUCHEIN, and are not able to obtain (Marshall 903); primarily, light upon [EPI upon, TUNCHANOO to meet with, light upon], obtain (Vine 798).
[ 12 ]MACHESTHE, ye fight (Marshall 903); fight (Vine 425); figuratively of fighting without weapons, fight, quarrel, dispute, be quarrelsome (Arndt 496).
[ 13 ]OUK ECHETE DIA TO MEE AITEISTHAI HUMAS, not ye have because of the not to ask you=because ye ask not (Marshall 903); [you do not] possess; [ask] with reference to petitioning God (Vine 71, 529).
[ 14 ]AITEITE KAI OU LAMBANETE, ye ask and receive not (Marshall 903); denotes either take or receive (Vine 926).
[ 15 ]DIOTI KAKOOS AITEISTHE, because ill ye ask (Marshall 903); literally, evilly: with evil intent, as explained by the following sentence (Vincent 1.755); [akin to KAKOS evil]; elsewhere translated evil, grievous, miserable (Vine 46).
[ 16 ]HINA EN TAIS HEEDONAIS HUMOON DAPANEESEETE, in order that in the pleasures of you ye may spend (Marshall 903); spend it in. The sense is not lay out expense upon your pleasures, but spend in the exercise of; under the dominion of (Vincent 1.755); consume, squander [on your] gratification of the natural desire or sinful desires [akin to HEDOMAI to be glad, and HEDEOS gladly] (Vine 861).
[ 17 ]MOICHOI, adulterers. This word appears in some Greek manuscripts and its translation is carried in the KJV and NKJV but is rightly omitted by the ASV and others.
[ 18 ]See Vine 25.
[ 19 ]MOICHALIDES, adulteresses (Marshall 903); the feminine term is the general designation of all whom James here rebukes. The apostate members of the church are figuratively regarded as unfaithful spouses; according to the common OT figure, in which God is the bridegroom or husband to whom his people are wedded (Vincent 1.756); adulteresses, in the spiritual sense; as in Israel the breach of their relationship with God through their idolatry, was described as adultery or harlotry [for example, Ezekiel 16:15, etc.; 23:43], so believers who cultivate friendship with the world, thus breaking their spiritual union with Christ, are spiritual adulteresses, having been spiritually united to Him as wife to husband, Romans 7:4 (Vine 25); faithless people, literally, "you sexually immoral people," used in a figure (Littrell).
[ 20 ]OUK OIDATE HOTI, know ye not that (Marshall 903).
[ 21 ]HEE PHILIA TOU KOSMOU, the friendship of the world (Marshall 903); friendship [akin to PHILOS a friend], "the friendship [of the world]" involves the idea of loving as well as being loved [Mayor] (Vine 463).
[ 22 ]ECHTHRA TOU THEOU ESTIN, enmity of God is (Marshall 903); [from the adjective ECHTHROS hatred or hateful], the opposite of AGAPEE love (Vine 362).
[ 23 ]HOS OUN, whoever therefore (Marshall 903, 904).
[ 24 ]EAN BOULEETHEE PHILOS EINAI TOU KOSMOU, resolves a friend to be of the world (Marshall 903, 904); would be. Literally, may have been minded to be (Vincent 1.756); primarily an adjective, denoting loved, dear, or friendly, became used as a noun, "a friend of the world" (Vine 462).
[ 25 ]ECHTHROS TOU THEOU KATHISTATAI, an enemy of God is constituted (Marshall 904); thereby constitutes himself (Vincent 1.756); [from the adjective ECHTHROS hatred or hateful], the opposite of AGAPEE love (Vine 362).
[ 26 ]EE DOKEITE HOTI, or think ye that (Marshall 904); suppose, think, form an opinion, which may be either right or wrong (Vine 1139); emptily, without meaning, vainly; to no purpose (Littrell).
[ 27 ]HEE GRAPHEE LEGEI, the scripture says (Marshall 904); properly a passage of scripture (Vincent 1.756).
[ 28 ]KENOOS, vainly (Marshall 904); the [question] draws attention to the fact that it is impossible for the Scripture to speak in vain (Vine 698).
[ 29 ]TO PNEUMA HO KATOOKISEN EN HEEMIN, the Spirit which dwelt in you (Marshall 904); [KATA down, OIKEOO to dwell], to cause to dwell [fixedly], is said of the act of God concerning the Holy Spirit in James 4:5 (Vine 337); the human spirit [soul] (Littrell).
[ 30 ]PROS PHTHONON EPIPOTHEI, to envy yearns (Marshall 904); the [question] draws attention to the impossibility that the Holy Spirit, whom God has caused to dwell in the believer, should long [unto envying]. Here again, not the human spirit is in view, but the Spirit of God (Vine 698); doth the Spirit which took up its abode within us [that is, the Holy Spirit] long enviously? (Thayer 652); difficult and perhaps textually damaged passage (Arndt 857).
[ 31 ]MEIZONA DE DIDOOSIN CHARIN, but greater he gives grace (Marshall 904); to be taken in connection with the preceding verse, which contains to remonstrating, rhetorical questions, "Think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain?" and "Doth the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] which He made to dwell in us long unto envying?" The implied answer to each is "it cannot be so." Accordingly, if those who acting so flagrantly, as if it were so, will listen to the Scripture instead of letting it speak in vain, and will act so that the Holy Spirit may have His way within, God will give even "a greater grace," namely, all that follows from humbleness and from turning away from the world (Vine 500, 501).
[ 32 ]DIO LEGEI, wherefore it says [that is, "the scripture" as verse 5] (Marshall 904).
[ 33 ]HO THEOS ANTITASSETAI, God resists (Marshall 904); [is] set against [ANTI against, HISTEMI to cause to stand], withstands, opposes, resists (Vine 958).
[ 34 ]HUPEREEPHANOIS, arrogant men (Marshall 904); signifies showing oneself above others, pre-eminent [HUPER above, PHAINOMAI to appear, be manifest], always used in Scripture in the bad sense of arrogant, disdainful, proud (Vine 898). I hope the readers of these notes understand that I am not putting myself forth as some great Greek scholar or even of the Scriptures. I am just beginning to scratch the surface. "O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me" (Ps 131:1). I pray that my feeble efforts will inspire someone else to love the Lord with all his mind and take what I have presented and correct the errors and improve upon it.
[ 35 ]TAPEINOIS DE DIDOOSIN CHARIN, but to humble men he gives grace (Marshall 904); primarily signifies low-lying. It is used always in a good sense in the NT, metaphorically, to denote humble in spirit, "lowly," "base" (Vine 568).
[ 36 ]HUPOTAGEETE OUN TOO THEOO, be ye subject therefore to God (Marshall 904); HUPOTAGEETE is second person plural, second aorist passive imperative of HUPOTASSOO (Han 415); be subject. The verb means to place or arrange under; as resist (verse 6) is to array against. God sets himself in array against the proud; therefore, array yourselves under God, that ye may withstand the devil (Vincent 1.756); primarily a military term, to rank under [HUPO under, TASSOO to arrange], be in subjection (Vine 1099, 1100); HUPOTAGETE involves the matter of choosing between our own proud spirit's domination and the will of God (Woods 224).
[ 37 ]ANTISTEETE DE TOO DIABOLOO, but oppose the devil (Marshall 904); ANTISTEETE is third person singular, present middle indicative of ANTIASSOO (Han 415); [be] set against [ANTI against, HISTEMI to cause to stand], withstand, oppose, resist; accuser, slanderer [from DIABALLOO to accuse, to malign] (Vine 298, 958); oppose, resist (Arndt 76); rage in battle against; middle voice, oppose one's self, resist (Thayer 51).
[ 38 ]KAI PHEUXETAI APH' HUMOON, and he will flee from you (Marshall 904); flee from or away [Latin FUGIO; English fugitive, etc.] (Vine 437).
[ 39 ]ENGISATE TOO THEOO, draw near to God (Marshall 904); intransitively, come near, draw nigh [akin to ENGUS near] (Vine 329, 776); approach, come near, figuratively of the spiritual service of Christians (Arndt 213).
[ 40 ]KAI ENGISEI HUMIN, and he will draw near to you (Marshall 904); approach, come near (Arndt 213).
[ 41 ]KATHARISATE CHEIRAS, HAMARTOOLOI, cleanse ye hands, sinners (Marshall 904); make clean, cleanse, in a moral sense, from the defilement of sin; [HAMARTOOLOI is] an adjective, most frequently used as a noun; it is the most usual term to describe the fallen condition of men; it is applicable to all men, Romans 5:8, 19 (Vine 187, 1048); pre-eminently sinful, especially wicked (Thayer 31); those who choose to live in company with disobedience to the law, and who have a corrupt life (Suidas, cited by Barclay 126).
[ 42 ]KAI HAGNISATE KARDIAS, and purify hearts (Marshall 904); HAGNISATE is second person plural, first aorist active imperative of HAGNIZOO (Han 415); not used of ceremonial purification (Vincent 1.756); purify, figuratively KARDIAS [the heart] (Arndt 11); purify morally (Thayer 7).
[ 43 ]NU-Text omits through the Spirit.
[ 44 ]DIPSUCHOI, two-souled [double-minded] (Marshall 904); see note on James 1:8.
[ 45 ]TALAIPOOREESATE, be ye distressed (Marshall 904); the kindred noun TALAIPORIA misery occurs in Jas 5:1 (Vincent 1.757); toil heavily, endure labors and hardships; be afflicted; feel afflicted and miserable (Thayer 613); be wretched and, in giving expression to this feeling, lament, complain (Arndt 803); middle voice, "afflict yourselves" [from TLAOO to bear, undergo, and POOROS a hard substance, a callus] (Vine 30); Thucydides uses the term of "the experiences of an army whose food has gone done and who have no shelter from the stormy weather" (Barclay 127).
[ 46 ]KAI PENTHEESATE, and mourn (Marshall 904); used of grief that is manifested. So mostly in NT, and very commonly joined, as here with weep (Vincent 1.757).
[ 47 ]KAI KLAUSATE, and weep (Marshall 904); used of any loud expression of grief, especially in mourning for the dead (Vine 1218).
[ 48 ]HO GELOOS HUPOON EIS PENTHOS METATRAPEETOO, the laughter of you to mourning let it be turned (Marshall 904); loud laughter in contrast to demonstrative weeping (Vine 642, 643); laughter, turned to weeping (Arndt 153).
[ 49 ]KAI HEE CHARA EIS KATEEPHEIAN, and the joy to dejection (Marshall 904); properly, a casting down of the eyes (Vincent 1.575); probably denotes a downcast look, expressive of sorrow; hence, dejection, heaviness (Vine 541); let your joy be turned into gloominess (Arndt 423).
[ 50 ]TAPEINOOTHEETE ENOOPION KURIOU, be ye humbled before [the] Lord (Marshall 904); TAPEINOOTHEETE is second person plural, first aorist passive imperative of TAPEINOOO (Han 415); make low, metaphorically, in the passive with middle sense, humble yourselves (Vine 569).
[ 51 ]KAI HUPSOOSEI HUMAS, and he will exalt you (Marshall 904); HUPSOOSEI is third person singular, future active indicative of HUPSOOO (Han 415); [akin to HUPSOS height], of spiritual uplifting and revival (Vine 383).
[ 52 ]The Pharisees "loved the approval of men rather than the DOXAN praises, approval of God" (Joh 12:43). This implies that God praises certain people.
[ 53 ]MEE KATALALEITE ALLEELOON, speak not against one another (Marshall 904); [KATA against, LALEOO to say], speak against (Vine 1071)).
[ 54 ]ADELPHOI, brothers (Marshall 904).
[ 55 ]HO KATALALOON ADELPHOU, the [one] speaking against a brother (Marshall 904).
[ 56 ]EE KRINOON TON ADELPHON AUTOU, or judging the brother of him (Marshall 904); primarily denotes separate, select, choose; hence, determine, and so judge, pronounce judgment (Vine 610); in Greek there is only one article before the two nouns, indicating that the one doing both things is the same and that, to some extent, the act of slander involves the act of judging (Roberts 171).
[ 57 ]KATALALEI NOMOU, speaks against law (Marshall 904); speaks against the law (Arndt 412).
[ 58 ]KAI KRINEI NOMON, and judges law (Marshall 904); a judge of the law (Arndt 453).
[ 59 ]EI DE NOMON KRINEIS, and if law thou judgest (Marshall 904); unfavorable judgment upon, criticize, find fault with, condemn (Arndt 452); see footnote above.
[ 60 ]OUK EI POIEETEES NOMOU ALLA KRITEES, thou art not a doer of law but a judge (Marshall 904).
[ 61 ]EIS ESTIN NOMOTHETEES, One is lawgiver (Marshall 904); the KJV fails to note the emphatic position of one. Better, one only is the lawgiver (Vincent 1.757).
[ 62 ]KAI KRITEES, and judge (Marshall 904); the NU-Text adds these words.
[ 63 ]HO DUNAMENOS SOOSAI, the [one] being able to save (Marshall 904, 905); saved, will enter heaven (Roberts 172).
[ 64 ]KAI APOLESAI, and to destroy (Marshall 905); of the loss of well-being in the case of the unsaved hereafter (Vine 294).
[ 65 ]Vine 294.
[ 66 ]SU DE TIS EI, thou and who art (Marshall 904); according to the Greek order: but thou, who art thou? (Vincent 1.757).
[ 67 ]HO KRINOON TON PLEESION, the [one] judging the (thy) neighbor (Marshall 905).
[ 68 ]AGE NUN HOI LEGONTES, come now the [ones] saying (Marshall 905); go to is an obsolete phrase, though retained in Revelation. It is a formula for calling attention: come now (Vincent 1.757).
[ 69 ]SEEMERON EE AURION, today or tomorrow (Marshall 905).
[ 70 ]POREUSOMETHA EIS TEENDE TEEN POLIN, we will go into this city (Marshall 905); more accurately, this city (Vincent 1.757).
[ 71 ]KAI POIEESOMEN EKEI ENIAUTON, and we will do there a year (Marshall 905); literally, we will make a year; better, spend a year there. The word POIEESOMEN implies more than mere continuance; rather, a doing something with the year (Vincent 1.757).
[ 72 ]KAI, and (Marshall 905); the frequent use of the copulative gives a lively tone to the passage, expressive of the lightness and thoughtlessness of a careless spirit (Vincent 1.757).
[ 73 ]EMPOREUSOMETHA KAI KERDEESOMEN, we will trade and we will make a profit (Marshall 905); more concisely, trade (Vincent 1.758).
[ 74 ]HOITINES OUK EPISTASTHE, who not ye know (Marshall 905); the pronoun marking a class, as being of those who know not (Vincent 1.758).
[ 75 ]TEES AURION POIA HEE ZOON HUMOON, of the morrow what the life of you [will be] (Marshall 905); [or] TO TEES AURION, literally, the thing of the morrow. The texts vary. Westcott and Hort read, Ye know not what your life shall be on the morrow, for ye are a vapor: thus throwing out the question (Vincent 1.758).
[ 76 ]POIA [not in Nestle or UBS3]; literally, of what kind or nature (Vincent 1.758); KJV, NKJV, ASV carry it.
[ 77 ]HE PROS OLIGON PHAINOMENEE, for a little while appearing (Marshall 905); a participle, appearing (Vincent 1.758).
[ 78 ]EPEITA KAI APHANIZOMENEE, thereafter indeed disappearing (Marshall 905); a participle, vanishing (Vincent 1.758).
[ 79 ]ANTI TOU LEGEIN HUMAS, instead of the to say you=your saying (Marshall 905); verse 14 was parenthetical, so that at this point the thought is taken up from verse 13: Ye who say we will go, etc.--for that ye ought to say. The rendering instead of your saying is simpler (Vincent 1.758).
[ 80 ]EAN HO KURIOS THELEESEE, if the Lord wills (Marshall 905).
[ 81 ]KAI ZEESOMEN, both we will live (Marshall 905).
[ 82 ]KAI POIEESOMEN TOUTO EE EKEINO, and we will do this or that (Marshall 905).
[ 83 ]NUN DE KAUCHASTHE, but now ye boast (Marshall 905); glory (Vincent 1.758).
[ 84 ]EN TAIS ALAZONEIAIS HUMOON, in the vauntings of you (Marshall 905); the kindred word ALAZON a boaster is derived from ALE a wandering or roaming; hence, primarily, a vagabond, a quack, a mountebank. From the empty boasts of such concerning the cures and wonders they could perform, the word passed into the sense of boaster. One may boast truthfully; but ALAZONEIA is false and swaggering boasting. ASV renders vauntings, and rightly, since vaunt is from the Latin VANUS empty, and therefore expresses idle or vain boasting (Vincent 1.758, 759).
[ 85 ]PASA KAUCHEESIS TOIAUTEE PONEERA ESTIN, all boasting such evil is (Marshall 905).
[ 86 ]OUN, therefore (Marshall 905).
[ 87 ]EIDOTI KALON POIEIN, to [one] knowing good to do (Marshall 905).
[ 88 ]KAI MEE POIOUNTI, and not doing (Marshall 905).
[ 89 ]HAMARTIA AUTOO ESTIN, sin to him it is (Marshall 905); a sinful deed, an act of sin (Vine 1046).
[ 90 ]Attitudinal sins may also be categorized under the headings of omission or commission.

Copyright ©2001, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington, U.S.A.
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The basic text, and all quotations not designated otherwise, are from the New King James Version, copyrighted ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Bracketed alternatives are drawn from various sources such as the ASV, Darby, KJV and RSV. Greek transliteration follows the BibleSoft method.

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