The Danger of Friendship with the World
The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.
Intro. - James has shown in 4:1-3 that the quarrels and conflicts that exist among his readers originate in their own selfish pleasures.
When our self-centered pursuits are frustrated, we are brought into conflict with whatever we see as standing in our way.
We do not have because we do not ask of our heavenly Father. He is the source of every good and perfect gift (1:17).
However, He does not give to satisfy our selfish lusts. Even our prayer life becomes corrupt when we adopt a proud, self-seeking way.
James now proceeds to show that some of his readers have become the enemies of God by their attachment and involvement with the world.
In the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the wife of Jehovah. Any involvement with other gods is viewed as spiritual adultery (cf. Isa. 54:5;Ezek. 16:6-29; 23:1-49; Hos. 9:1).
In the New Testament, the Church is often depicted as the Bride of Christ (cf. Eph. 5:22-32; 2 Cor. 11:2,3). James is concerned that his readers have not considered the seriousness of their sin.
do you not know - The problem is not a lack of knowledge but a failure to live according to the knowledge they have.
friendship with the world - They have entered into a relationship with the world that makes them unfaithful to God.
friendship (philos) - This is the word for "love," and means beloved, dear, loving, kindly disposed, devoted, and then is used for friend. These believers have developed a relationship of love and affection with the world.
world (kosnos) - "World" stands for the world-system in its alienation and hostility to God (cf. 1 John 2:15-17; 5:19).
hostility (echthra) - This person has set himself in opposition to God (cf. Rom. 8:5-8 [esp. v. 7]).
The person who chooses to enter into a relationship of love and affection with the world makes himself an enemy of God.
wishes to be (boulethe) - It is a deliberate choice (ingressive aorist) made by the individual to become involved with the world.
makes himself (kathistatai) - By the decision to be the friend of the world, this person has made himself the enemy of God.
enemy (echthros) - This word is related to the earlier word hostility (echthra)
The context makes clear what is involved in worldliness or being a friend of the world. The basic issue is a life that centers on self. A selfish determination to satisfy my desires and cravings, to have things my way, identifies me as a friend of the world.
We should note that this involves a deliberate choice (wishes to be) to become involved with the world. A person decides that, rather than submit himself to God and His Word, he is going to do what he wants; he is going to have it his way.
In the next two verses James demonstrates the validity of what he has just said.
to no purpose (kenos) - Do the Scriptures mean what they say, or are they empty and hollow?
There is much discussion about the proper translation and meaning of the rest of the verse. Three basic translations are usually suggested:
The third view seems to me to fit best into the context of what James is saying. The spirit that God placed in man has been corrupted by the Fall and is now characterized by sinful lusts.
desires (epipothei) - This is a strong verb meaning "to have an intense longing or craving." One commentator remarked that it "indicates the greatest possible desire and yearning of the heart of man."
jealously (phthonos) - This word means "envy," or "jealousy."This word always has a bad connotation in the New Testament and often appears in lists giving characteristics of the unbeliever (cf. Rom. 1:29; Gal.5:21; 1 Tim. 6:4; Titus 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:1).
The Old Testament clearly emphasizes the sinfulness of man and his strong, continual longing for sin (cf. Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Ps. 14:1-3; 51:5; 53:1-3;Jer. 17:9).
Thus, by its selfish longings, the spirit within us desires to befriend the world. But God makes it possible for us to live for Him.
James supports this by a quote from Proverbs 3:34 (Septuagint). This may be the scripture he made reference to in the first part of verse 5.
proud (huperephanos) - This word literally means "one who shows himself above other people." It describes a person who thinks of himself as better or more important than others, It is used five other times in the New Testament (Mark 7:22; Luke 1:51; Rom. 1:30; 2 Tim. 3:2; 1 Pet. 5:5).
opposed (antitassetai) - The idea of the word is "to stand against," "to oppose. " God takes His stand to do battle against the proud, those who will not submit to Him.
grace - This is a reference to the provision and enablement God gives freely, even though it is undeserved.
humble (tapeinophrosune) - The humble will be the theme of verses 7-10. These are those who turn from their proud, self-centered attention on self to submit to the living God and His will for them. He gives them every enablement they need.
As believers we need to be very careful that we do not become friends of the world. I must live my life in submission to God and His Word, When I make a decision to satisfy my desires in conflict with His Word, I make myself the enemy of God. This can only bring conflicts, battles and great misery into my life.
As we submit to God and His will, He graciously gives us everything we need for life and godliness.
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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.