“Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4b
James’ words sound harsh. What do they really mean? Let’s break down the entire verse together.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
First James comes in hard after the “adulterous people”. This kind of address makes me duck and dodge to find ways this message surely doesn’t apply to me. The word adulterous used here means faithless toward God, ungodly. Before you get comfortable with a vision of James addressing a group of men who outwardly deny the living God, note the KJV addresses both adulterers and adulteresses, to be sure the women can’t escape the conversation. Just as adultery is commonly used to describe the fulfillment of needs outside a marriage, James is describing how we, who are created by God, rely on our own resources to meet our needs. These are men and women who were in covenant relationship with God, yet fulfilled the lust of the flesh with provision from the world. Sound uncomfortably familiar?
Yes, James is speaking to both men and women, you and me, who have a natural bend towards putting more faith in what is seen than what is unseen. After all, who would wait on the unseen when an obvious solution is before our very eyes, says the world. If we meet our needs without inquiring of God for His highest and best, who needs God? This world is full of people who have been making it on their own for over 4,000 years. Many have been extremely successful. We admire them, we listen to them and we want them to like us. This is friendship with the world. God wants us to know who he is, trust him, and listen to him. He loved us before we were even aware of him. This is friendship with God.
This is the love of God that while we were sinners Christ died for us. What man has given his life for you?
Why can’t you be a friend of God and the world? Try this test. Find the two smartest people you know and ask them for advice on the same subject. Ask them for clear direction, action steps, and to hold you accountable. Look them in the eyes and commit to it. They each give you different plans, you must choose one. Therefore, it’s impossible to please both.
Have you been taking action into your own hands? Is it too late for you to become a friend of God? Consider this. James grew up with Jesus as his eldest brother, but he didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ until Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to him (1 Cor 15:7). God’s grace is waiting for you. How many times can you hurt a friend before he or she walks away? There is only one who never will.
I’ve seen God answer prayers in ways that are greater than I could have asked or imagined. I’m so glad He didn’t answer with my best idea. I’m grateful for the few times I chose to wait for Him instead of meeting my needs with resources around me.
What are you waiting for?
How could this world satisfy it?
How could God?
Who is your real friend?