[Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, or learned scholar; my writings are my humble attempt to hear and understand the Word of God as I seek to “do life” with Christ. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below, or on social media.]
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:1-4 ESV)
If someone were to ask you what worldliness is, what would first come to mind? Worldliness is a term often used to broadly address “big” sins. Drinking, partying, smoking, sensuality and immorality, murder, etc; these are all lifestyles we can easily label as “worldly.”
But as Christians, we would look deeper–even within our own communities and observe worldliness. What about those girls that come to church sometimes with short skirts, sleeveless tops and lots of makeup? They must be worldly because their standards of modesty are much lower than ours. Or remember Justin, the 23 year-old college dropout who sits at home and plays video games to pass the time? Jim doesn’t spend the time he needs to with his family and instead works too much. Amy and Clarissa can’t stop talking about boys and celebrities–they’re obsessed with the latest gossip and constantly compare themselves to their idols. The Taylor kids go to public school. Brady can’t get enough of watching sports on TV. Lucy regularly binge-watches Netflix shows. Oh, I can’t leave out the East family–their boys listen to rap music and their girls love Miley Cyrus.
I think you get it. Each of you reading this could probably add numerous other things to this list–things you consider to be worldly that you observe in others. I certainly can. And you know what? Your observations just might be dead on. But that’s not what this post is about.
If we get caught up in other’s outward worldly habits, it’s all too easy to lose sight of our own deeply rooted worldliness.
In James 4:1-4, we are given great insight and wisdom into discerning our own struggle with pride and self-centeredness. James points out what makes us quarrel and fight amongst ourselves. We all know that feeling of “angst” or “resentment” we get towards someone that offended us. It’s sad how little it takes for us to react negatively towards someone else. Maybe it’s mom asking you to take out the trash or drive your sister to the library. It could be that it’s already been five whole minutes and Jake still hasn’t replied to your text messages. Your sister just asked your for the third night in a row to help her with her Math homework–it’s getting annoying. Your parents want you to be home by 10 PM, but you’re 19 and an adult now. Shouldn’t they be letting you live your own life now? John’s girlfriend just broke up with him and in a fit of self-pity and despair he turns back to drinking and giving in to temptations of lust. Emily stomps off to her room in anger towards her parents who just gave her younger sister and brother two gifts when she was only given one.
The list goes on. Like the first, I think we’d all be able to add many examples if we really examined our hearts. James says that the reason we quarrel and fight is because our passions (pleasures or desires) are at war within our members. We lust, covet and even demand what we believe will satisfy us and fulfill our own desires. When we want something badly enough or we feel “entitled” to something and demand our way, this is covetousness and idolatry. We’re focused on ourselves. We put our desires first. We sin.
James goes even as far as to say that our quarreling can lead right into murder! This should make us shudder! In verse 4 James describes this kind of living as adulterous, calling those who live in this way “friends” of the world–enemies of God. This is worldliness. This is self-centeredness. This is pride–the very sin that drove Satan to rebel against God.
As Christians we are betrothed to Christ. We are His bride and our pursuit in this life is to be holiness (1 Peter 1:16). The call to take up our cross is not without great and significant and even eternal reason. Through dying to ourselves and living for others, we fulfill the law of love and walk in true obedience and righteousness.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 ESV)
Brothers and sisters, we must not love the world. Rather, let us seek to repent of that which sets ourselves upon the throne of our hearts and seeks our own interests above others.
I will close this post with a few more verses from this chapter in James that provide instruction and give us hope:
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:6-10 ESV)
May the God of all grace fill us with His Spirit and convict us and purge all self-centeredness from our lives so that we may become as men and women who are humble and love the Lord Jesus Christ.