“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Self-Centeredness – Looking out for Number One
Sin cannot be understood or described without reference to self-centeredness. “The flesh” is self focused. Carnality is self-expression in behalf of our own interests – Galatians 5:24 “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
The self is the unique gift of God to each person, the basis of individuality, the bearer of the divine image. But turned in upon itself, self becomes the source of temptation, the evidence of sin, and the obstacle to holiness – Romans 1:28-31 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
“Every evil work” can be traced back to the desire to gratify self, whether envy, boasting, lying, wisdom that is “earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:14-16), or the many other descriptions of ungodliness in human behaviour. This mind-set ultimately leads to our own destruction and much division in God’s church. – Philippians 3:19 ” Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”
Self-centeredness is a product of the will: We choose whether the center of our affections will be self or God. When we trust God with our innermost being, then our wills also belong to Him, and His will becomes our motivation. Jesus describes self-denial as that state in which God has center stage.
1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
(In the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the bride of Yahweh (Isaiah 54:1-6; Jeremiah 2:2: Hosea 2:5). This imagery would have been familiar to James’ Jewish readers. James argued that through their selfish, quarrelsome behaviour, his readers were seeking “friendship of the world.” They were breaking their covenant with God and committing spiritual adultery. God would not tolerate a rival. He requires total, unwavering allegiance from the people with whom He has joined Himself. By calling his readers “adulterers and adulteresses,” James wanted to prick their consciences, encourage their repentance, and renew their commitment to love and obey God alone!)
5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
(“Speak no evil” (Greek katalalon) covers more than slander, it extends to any form of speaking against someone, including truth, if it is delivered in a harsh and unkind way. Speech is evil when it is motivated by the desire to harm others or to exalt oneself. Such speech questions legitimate authority – Numbers 21:5; 2 Corinthians 10- 7-13 – it slanders others – Psalm 101:5 – or it brings incorrect accusations – 1 Peter 2:12; 3:16 – The form of James’ rebuke suggests that his readers were speaking against each other in one or more of these ways. They were breaking the commandment to love their neighbors as themselves. When love is present, abusive speech is not – Ephesians 4:15 “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”)
12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
(James reminded his readers that sins of omission are just as real and serious as sins of commission. In His parable, Jesus condemned one servant for failing to use the money with which he was entrusted – Luke 19:11-27 – and another who knew his master’s will and failed to do it – Luke 12:47. Failure to do what is known to be right is sin. The greater the knowledge, the greater is our accountability.)