James identifies a really targeted list of behaviors and attitudes that help us draw nearer to YHWH and our fellow man. We should carefully read through them and prayerfully reflect, asking YHWH to open our eyes to how they apply in our lives.
Things to Avoid
1What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
11Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?
13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
There is a lot in this list. We should not skip any of it, but I will pull out a few items that may often be misunderstood. Where he speaks about not being a friend to the world, the context is an adulteress. Where he speaks about turning joy into mourning, he is talking about us as sinners no longer finding joy but rather mourning in our sinful behavior and attitudes so we may become humble before YHWH and repent. Where he speaks of “judging”, let us first recognize that he is recognizing the law as the righteous standard of conduct we should follow, even after Yeshua was raised from the dead. He further is emphasizing that we should focus more on obeying the law ourselves and less on judging how others are doing about it. That said, we know from elsewhere in scripture we are to discern or judge right from wrong so we may reject what is bad and embrace what is good. Thus I think his emphasis here is on those who rather than follow the law themselves, just gossip and speak against others who follow it imperfectly.
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