Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (Jas 4:5) NKJV
Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (Jas 4:5) ESV
It is worth noting that this verse is punctuated differently in different versions. Both the NKJV and ESV are easy to understand but slightly different. I will give some thoughts on both.
Both versions correctly bring in a contrast with what James has just said. James might even be expecting some resistance to his comment that if you wish to be a friend of the world you make yourself an enemy of God. How many times have we heard people justify being friends with the world in the name of ‘being a good Christian’ or ‘it’s a loving thing to do’?
The scriptures do teach that we need to associate with the people of the world since the only way to not associate with them would be to leave the world. However, it makes equally clear that being in a relationship with a non believer that is unequal is to be avoided. (1 cor 5:9-10 and 2 cor 6:14) In this way we can influence them but we are not to allow them to influence us.
The Scripture is not empty in its pronouncements of rewards or punishment, right or wrong, good or evil. We cannot be friends with the world, accepting worldly philosophies as being ok because we want to ‘get along’. Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself with the foods of the king. It may have meant punishment or death to him but he was not going to compromise what God had told him to do just ‘to get along’ or ‘when in Babylon, do as the Babylonians’. (Daniel 1)
Daniel and all Faithful understand and recall that God said: “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God” (Ex 20:5). This statement was made in the context of ‘you shall have no other god before me’. Isa 48:11 says “My glory I will not give to another.” There should be no doubt in the mind of any believer where God stands on the point.
In the NKJV, the understanding would be something like this: The Spirit which God gave us desires our faith and love. When we don’t give it, the Spirit is grieved. Spouses understand this principle. Even the most ‘non-jealous’ spouse has boundaries and when it seems they are either being crossed, about to be crossed, or have been crossed there is a spirit of jealousy. If you give your spouse even a hint that there is another person trying for your affections, watch out!
In the ESV, the understanding is more of God watching the Spirit he gave us. “oh you want to be friends with the world do you? Well, I am going to take my Spirit back” God is careful with whom he associates and even though the Spirit is an earnest of our inheritance, He can be returned.
As James said in chapter three: A fountain of water does not give both sweet and bitter water, it cannot be fresh one day, salty the next, and then back to fresh again. This is inconsistency that does not happen in nature, and it is should not happen in the people of God because it does not happen in God.
If you think that the Scriptures are incorrect and that God will turn a blind eye to your flirtations with the world then go ahead, be friends with it. Accept their philosophies and their ways of doing things. It isn’t the way God does things however and it is not how He wants His children to follow him.
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. (Jas 4:2-4)
These Christians are incorrigible. (I know. How many of us use that word? But it fits.) The last group of people in the Bible that I had this angst about was the Corinthians in the First letter Paul wrote. James is bringing it all out in full view. He is not holding anything back.
Normally these items that he mentions would be hidden. Lust, murder and coveting are things that remain hidden until disclosed by action. (It is my thought that “murder” here is not an actual taking of another’s life. Rather, it would be the hatred that leads to murder. Jesus traces murder back to hatred without a cause and to despising your brother (Mt 5:21-22)) Rather than staying hidden, these heart attitudes are being displayed, “you fight and war” he says. Verse 1, as we saw, already puts the source of these fightings within the person themselves. James says they are out for everyone to see.
James says that the reason that they do not “have” is because they are not asking. Further he says that when they do ask (can we insert the phrase “bother to ask God”?), they don’t receive it because their motives are impure, not sincere. They ask for things that they will spend on their own pleasures. What might they be asking for? To be a teacher? To be more wealthy? To have wisdom? (So that they might have prestige?) All that would be in line with the hints the book as given us.
When Simon the sorcerer saw that Peter and John could give the Holy Spirit (Acts 8), he asked for that ability also and he offered them money. Peter rebuked him. Simon might have had kin here because here are these Christians asking God for the object of their desires and not receiving what they ask for. Because they also ask amiss! They were asking so that you can spend it on their own pleasures!
(Sidenote: God is not a cosmic vending machine so that by saying the right words in a certain order, that the desired gift pops out. Asking for wisdom is one thing, asking for the things you that you ask for, with selfish reasons, for your own indulgences, are not in line with the types of gifts God gives.)
These Christians are worldly minded and he now seems to explode at them. How would you feel if someone called you an adulterous person? In this context adultery is clearly a spiritual ailment rather than the typical sexual sin. (Either way is still bad) Israel was guilty of playing the harlot with other nations and God condemned them for it. Here also these Christians are doing the same thing. Even today we see this same characteristic.
You have a choice. How long will you go limping between two sides? Choose this day whom you will serve. If you wish to be a friend of the world, you will be an enemy of God. Notice: the person who wants to be friends with the world MAKES himself an enemy of God. After all God did to make peace with you, you now wish to make him your enemy?
Now I don’t want you to think that James is telling them that they are lost here. Not yet. He has, after all called them beloved brethren in this letter. However, he is warning them in no uncertain terms that the path they are on is not a good one. If you continue to become friends with the world, an enemy of God you will also be. Enemies are destroyed. This might be an uncomfortable thing for them to hear, it certainly is for us today.
The sad truth is for those that leave God’s grace, that they were not snatched, they were not forced, and they were not overwhelmed by Satan’s might. No, they were enticed and drawn away; they saw the attractions of the world and like a child wander toward the pretty balloons and entertainment. They gave into their own desires and made friends with the world. They themselves make themselves to be God’s enemy.