In our last section, James 3:13-18, we looked at the wisdom from above and the wisdom from below, where James contrasted wise living with false boasting and selfish ambition. As we turn the page to chapter 4, James continues giving direction to the church as he addresses some apparent conflicts in the churches and communities to which he writes. James uses harsh language in the first five verses of chapter 4. After asking the rhetorical question, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” James diagnoses their problem as originating from their pleasures. They are putting themselves above others and quarreling and fighting, as they do. They are befriending the world and in the process becoming enemies of God. This first section ends with verse 5 which can be a difficult verse to translate, but seems to utilize Old Testament language to speak of the Holy Spirit within, and God’s jealousy in the face of their spiritual adultery. As our jealous Husband, God desires that His people to be in a right relationship with Him. This is possibly an allusion to the imagery of book of the prophet Hosea.
In the second section, verses 6-10, James points God’s people toward humility and repentance. “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James starts off this section announcing that God bestows grace to the humble; and then he exhorts the church with a string of commands (underlined below) in verses 7-10 showing how this is to be done: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts.