James continues to rock our world with unabashed spiritual guidance, containing some extremely helpful principles.
He begins by exploring our contentiousness. Frustrated desires have always been a part of the human condition - it doesn't matter what century you're talking about. And that frustration spills over into our relationships, causing quarrels and fights. The roots of this problem are a) not going to God with our desires and b) having selfish motives for those desires.
Speaking of selfish desires, James offers a gem in verse 4: "Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." We don't like to think about it that way, but if we take the Bible seriously, we know that our choice between chasing after the world or pursuing God is mutually exclusive.
One of my favorite spiritual principles can be found in verses 7 and 8.
- Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
- Come near to God, and He will come near to you.
Could there be simpler advice?
Humility is also a key concept in this chapter. We are told to submit ourselves to God. To humble ourselves before the Lord, and He will lift us up. To not be so arrogant as to slander a brother or make plans without including God. Never underestimate the need for humility.
Finally, let us not forget the "sin of omission." Sins are not just about what we act on and do. We can also sin when we refrain from doing the good that we know we ought to (vs. 17).