You should probably stop reading now if you’re uncomfortable with a little PG-13 language. James wasn’t afraid to “call it like he saw it,” as the saying goes, and he didn’t shy away from ruffling feathers when they needed ruffling.
I suspect this statement hurt some feelings, but I doubt he minded that (assuming it helped some of them):
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 4:4).
If you’ve been around church for a while, James’s language probably doesn’t surprise you, but we ought to remind ourselves again exactly what he’s saying.
You’re cheating on God!
That’s exactly what he meant by that. These people were married to God, but they had another lover. They were having an “affair” with the world.
James’s marital/sexual language reflects something found all over the New Testament. God’s wife, Israel, repeatedly slept around, embracing all sorts of different lovers. Usually their affairs consisted of their flirting with and embracing other gods and turning their back on the one God.
For James’s readers, and for us, there’s a similar application.
By the way, this should make us pause, because what James is writing about has been going on since the first days that human beings had a relationship with God. We’re tempted every day to embrace something besides God.
In biblical parlance, we’re tempted to commit adultery, to cheat on our First Love.
How are you doing? Are you faithful in your relationship to God? Is there any doubt about where your allegiance lies?
The last part of the verse is downright scary: “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” There are many things I don’t want to be, and at the top of that list is an “enemy of God.” Can you think of anything worse?
It’s worth some serious reflection, so let’s focus on it this week. Let’s ask God to give us the willpower to refuse the world’s advances. Let’s pray that he’ll keep us where we need to be, and that he’ll never let us forsake him for some other tempting but ultimately unfulfilling lover.
It just doesn’t make any sense to cheat on God. —Chuck