James and Jude
An old saying goes, “It takes two to tango.” Basically, this means that in every conflict there are two sides to it. Studying literature clarifies this idea. In any story, the main character will face some sort of clash between himself and another, himself and nature, even himself and himself. It’s always two parties involved.
But throughout Scripture, when we see these same two-sided conflicts addressed, we’re taught to first look at ourselves and our own reactions to whatever situation we find ourselves in according to God’s standard. It goes back to another saying I used whenever my children had disagreements as youngsters, “You can’t change the other person; you can only change yourself.” After studying this week’s text, I’m sure you’ll come to this same conclusion.
I. DAY ONE
A. Read James 4:1-3. James begins with a question regarding the end of chapter 3. If those who make peace are those whose fruit is righteousness, sown in peace, then, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” (v. 1).
1. What is the initial answer James gives?
2. Why do you think he asks a question in reply to a question?
B. In verses 2 and 3, James lists lust, envy, a lack of asking, and asking with wrong motives as being the reasons we don’t “have.” But have what?
1. Again James’ mastery of writing pulls together thoughts from his entire letter. Review James 3:17-18, which talk about wisdom. Turn back to James 1:5 where he talks about asking for wisdom. Without wisdom what does the end of James 3:18 indicate we won’t have?
2. We talked about peacemaking last week. Headlines focus daily on the lack of peace in the world and efforts to promote peace through “peace talks.” Why is peace so important to people?
C. In Leviticus 7:11-17, we get a brief overview of the peace offering outlined by God for Moses to give to the Israelites.
1. What are some of the reasons the people could bring a peace offering?
2. Offerings were relational in nature—a way for people to be in fellowship with the Holy God of the universe. How does this embody true peace?
3. In John 14:15-29 we see some of Jesus’ final words to His disciples prior to His arrest and crucifixion. What promises do you find regarding relationship with the Father and peace?
II. DAY TWO
A. As mentioned yesterday, James logically lays out a list of choices we often make that promote conflicts among believers in the James 4:2-3 passage. Lust is first.
1. The 17th century theologian Matthew Henry says, “…since all wars and fightings come from the corruptions of our own hearts, it is therefore the right method for the cure of contention to lay the axe to the root, and mortify those lusts that war in the members.”1
2. Read Matthew 5:28. What does Jesus say about lust?
3. Now read Ephesians 2:3, 4:22, and Titus 3:3. What other things does lust entail?
b. What are some of the results of lust that you have observed beyond what we would initially associate with the word?
4. The next two choices James outlines are envy and wrong motives in our requests (when we finally get around to asking).
a. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.”
b. What are some things God has shown you in your life that have seemed fine to you but are not “clean” in His sight?
B. Read Jesus’ words in Mark 7:20-23.
1. From our study, what similarities do you see in Jesus’ words to those of James we’re currently studying?
2. What does it mean to you when an author, pastor or teacher meshes so closely with the teachings of Jesus Christ?
III. DAY THREE
A. Because of the Father’s provision of the sacrificial system—culminating in the once-for-all sacrifice of His Son—we know He desires to be in fellowship with us, culminating in a peace we can’t comprehend but long for when we don’t experience it. The Almighty wants a relationship with us, because He loves us (John 3:16) and yet James points out how often we thrust that away.
1. Read James 4:4-5.
a. What does James say about friendship with the world?
b. From our study so far and from your own experience, what kinds of things lure you to be friends with the world?
B. God has a righteous jealousy for us according to James 4:5. If we are His, He should be our source of satisfaction and base of friendship.
1. Read Numbers 23:19; I Corinthians 6:19-20; II Corinthians 6:16-18.
a. What do we learn about God from these passages?
b. What most speaks to you today about God’s jealousy for you?
2. There is a beautiful song by John Mark McMillan (I heard it first done by The David Crowder Band) called, “How He Loves”3 that begins with the line, “He is jealous for me.” It goes on to talk about the incredible storms as well as the powerful mercy God uses to bend us to His will. Then, in the midst of the tumult, we suddenly realize that the afflictions we face are invisible, eclipsed by the Father’s glory and affection.
IV. DAY FOUR
A. “But He gives a greater grace.” (James 4:6a) In this week’s study so far, we’ve looked at the destructively selfish source of our conflicts, our lust, our envy, our absolutely wrong motives, and our betraying friendship with the world done in spite of His desire for fellowship with us. Then, James tells us of this greater grace. What a wonderful reminder in the midst of reprimand!
1. Read Psalm 138:6 and Proverbs 3:34, the ideas of which were used by the author in the second half of James 4:6.
2. I Peter 5:5-7 also quotes Proverbs 3:34 using the same phraseology as James.
a. According to the I Peter passage, what is promised when we humble ourselves?
b. Accepting the Father’s “greater grace” by humbling ourselves is difficult, especially at first, because we have to let go our total control of our lives. What does Peter urge us to do in verse 7, and why can we feel safe in doing so?
B. So, how do we go about becoming humble? We should long for a daily infusion of that greater grace. But we need the one in order to be filled with the other.
1. James tells us first of all to submit. (James 4:7).
a. Read Luke 2:51. This verse comes at the end of the story about Jesus as a 12-year-old staying back in Jerusalem after Passover just so he could converse with the temple teachers. It says that when Jesus was found and went back to Nazareth with His parents He “continued in subjection to them” –and I can easily add “in all things.”
b. What must it have been like for the Creator of the universe to obey perfectly a pair of imperfect parents? What does the next verse, Luke 2:52 say about the rest of Jesus’ upbringing?
c. How does Jesus’ submission encourage you in submitting to God’s plan and way for your life?
2. The next step outlined by James is to resist the devil.
a. What does James promise will happen when we do?
b. The enemy is constantly on the outlook for weak spots in our character. Once found, he will do anything he can to make them into something that will turn us away from God, back to the lust, back to the envy, back to the conflict, focusing on selfish, wrong pleasures.
c. One of the best ways to resist an enemy is through advanced preparation, anticipating his attacks. Ephesians 6:13-18 details the spiritual armor every Christian has access to once we’re part of God’s family. Which one do you need to put on this week to best resist the devil’s attempts to lure you?
V. DAY FIVE
A. Today we’re going to look at different ways to achieve that humility James is talking about in order to have an inflowing of His greater grace. Start by reading James 4:8.
1. “Drawing near” is an incredibly tender idea. I memorized James 4:8 before I was in kindergarten and I just loved the flow and the promise, even at that young age.
a. Hebrews has several verses with the same phraseology. Read Hebrews 4:16, 7:25, 10:22.
b. What can drawing close to God do for one’s life, according to these verses?
2. James then tells us to clean our hands and purify our hearts.
a. What does he call us in this verse and how does that promote humility?
b. Read Psalm 51:2-13. Which verse or phrase from this passage will you claim as your own this week, prayerfully asking God to clean and purify you?
B. Ultimately, humility comes from a heart sorrowful over actions and attitudes that place barriers in our relationship with the Father. In James 4:9-10, we get a picture of what a broken heart—and then a renewed heart—looks like.
1. The New Living Translation states verse 9 this way: “Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.”
2. Why do you think it is important to acknowledge our sin in such a way?
3. What does James 4:10 promise when we come to Him repentant and remorseful?
4. How will this attitude help change the quarrels and conflicts we learned about in James 4:1?
It’s at best embarrassing, but likely better to use the term “tragic.” Our selfishness so often creates friction that makes it impossible for God to effectively work within our churches. As head of the Jerusalem council, James probably heard about all the problems running amok throughout the early church. He wasn’t afraid to list the causes in his letter and he eagerly prescribed the antidote. A song written by Stuart Townsend called “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” has a beautiful line at the end: “Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom.”4 If that thought can permeate every interaction we have with fellow believers, our selfish desires wouldn’t overwhelm us so easily. And our tangos would become worship dances.
[Author’s note: I’m using the New American Standard Bible for the study on James unless otherwise noted.]
1. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete and Unabridged in 6 Volumes (Hendrickson Publisher,1991), James 4.
2. “Dictionary and Word Search for epithymia (Strong’s 1939).” (Blue Letter Bible: 1996-2010) 14 Jun 2010.
3. John Mark McMillan, “How He Loves,” from The Song Inside the Sound of Breaking Down, 2005,
4. Stuart Townend, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” 1995, Kingsway’s Thank You Music.
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