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Text: James 4:1-17
No doubt you have heard enough sermons or attended enough Bible studies to know that pride is bad. And so, pride is easy to ignore, minimize it, or pass it off as that guy’s problem. That guy does have a pride problem, and the Holy Spirit is now speaking through James about your pride. The only solution is to be humble before the Lord because God gives more grace.
You and Your Desires (vs 1-4)
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among?” James is clear on the source of the problem––You! You desire and your desires collide with the desires of others. Desire is a womb that gives birth sin. Sin grows up and goes on a spree of coveting, fighting, manipulating (James 1:14-15).
James levels a surprising charge, “You adulteresses!” (vs 4) The broken relationship that James identifies is not between husband and wife, but between God and his people and their adulterous relationship with the world. What husband would allow his wife to cuddle with another man pretending she’s not a married woman? So why would God allow a Christian to cuddle up to the world pretending she’s not a Christian who has pledged herself to love God. Faithfulness to God does not flirt with the world. To be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. And of course, your life can not have peace when you are at war with God.
Pride and Humility (vs 5-10)
Our natural tendency is to love the world, envy others, war against God. But God gives grace. Therefore, Proverbs 3:34 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The difference between pride and humility is whose opinion of yourself takes priority––yours or God’s. Pride prioritizes your own opinion of yourself over God’s opinion of you. Humility prioritizes God’s opinion about you over your own opinion about yourself. If you skip over “But God gives more grace,” then the following list of commands is reduced to seven tips for a happier self that don’t really help. “Submit yourself therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (vs. 7). To submit means to place yourself under the authority. Your will, your desires, your agenda, your life is to be placed on God’s will for you, God’s desires for you, God’s agenda for you, God’s life for you.
But what’s the devil doing here? Well, what does the devil do? The devil stirs up conflict. The devil attributes false motives to others. The devil loves to see the righteous fall and chips away at their reputation. The devil sounds a lot like the person James described in the first verses of James 4. So the danger is that you become like the devil. To prevent this, submit yourself to God including your tendency to act devilish, and the devil and your devilish desires will flee from you. You do this through humbly repenting and confessing your sin (8-10).
Pride and Playing God (vs 11-12)
And in case we still haven’t got it, James comes in for anther pass. “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers” (vs 11). When you slander, you’re not just speaking evil against your brother, but against God’s law. The problem James sees are those who climb up on top of the law and hurl eggs at those below the law. If you use the law to gain elevation to better beat down your neighbor, you don’t really love your brother, the law, or the Law-giver. This again, displays pride rather than humility before the Lord. “Who are you to judge your neighbor?” James asks, “Oh, you’re not God. Fine, don’t play God.”
Life with a Question Mark (vs 13-17)
Come now, you movers and shakers, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? It’s a large question mark. How can you presume to mark your calendar a year from now when you don’t know what the next minute will bring? So James instructs us to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” We live in God’s providence. In His plan, there are no accidents, no flukes, no plan Bs, no maverick molecules. We ought to plan and schedule and have a full day set out. But write in your calendar in pencil knowing that God holds the eraser. If you don’t submit to this reality, you are arrogant and evil.
This returns us to the absolute need to be humble before the Lord. You don’t know what your future holds, but you do know the One who holds your future. Oo be humble before the Lord. Do you have any doubt, any pride, any conflict? Are there deep disappointments in your life, dysfunctional family, an unfaithful spouse, a lonely, dark period, a harsh dad? In all of these, the answer is same––humble yourself before the Lord because God gives more grace. God begins to give you grace in Jesus, who is your peace, your humility, your assurance in judgment, your confidence for the future.