(James 4:11 - 5:6)

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What is friendship with the world?

James describes three ways that friendship with the world causes us to turn against God’s intent for us.

  1. Slander and Judgment – 4:11-12
    Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

    When we speak against others we presume too much. We presume to have the final word on someone’s worth, on their motives, on their personality and heart. When we pass judgment on others we are actually presuming that we know more than God who is the lawgiver. [Well, wait we never intended to do that did we?] Well, actually we did because we made a judgment that the royal law to love our neighbor doesn’t apply to us.

    Friendship with the world lead to such arrogance that we would judge others! Who do we think we are? Rather than judge others, let us focus on the judgment of the one Judge and Lawgiver.

  2. Arrogance and Presumption – Ungodly Boasting – 4:13-17
    Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

    When we strive to control our future determine our own fate we presume too much. We presume that we have life mapped out. If you are a control freak, then you really like your map. You don’t like anything that alters that map.

    There is a tombstone shrine in Hierapolis to Flavius Zeugsus. He boasts that in his lifetime he made 40 sailing trips to Rome on successful business – (cf. Ben Witherington III commentary on James)

    The Rich Fool – Luke 12:13-21

    Our life is a vapor. It disappears and cannot be reclaimed by anything we do. We can work all our life, make all the right choices, be successful in all we do and gain great power and wealth, but when we die, our life disappears and cannot be reclaimed by anything we do.

    Friendship with the world lead to such arrogance that we assume that we can secure our life and future. Who do we think are? Only God can secure eternity.

  3. Abuse of Other – Taking advantage of the poor – 5:1-6
    Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[a] You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

    Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck describes the plight of the farm workers who are desperate to make a living. 1) There are more workers than work, so the owners lower wages. 2) They charge exorbitant prices in the company store.

    Friendship with the world leads to an acceptance or ignorance of inequality and oppression. This is the worst extreme of arrogance. It assume that our race, our class, our nationality is more deserving or more qualified than another. Once we assume that, then it becomes rather simple to take advantage of those who are less powerful or wealthy.

    Who are we to assume that we can deny such respect to others? God is paying attention to those who suffer because of the greedy and arrogant efforts of those who take advantage of others.

Judgment – Good and Bad
James affirms that there is a judgment. We have portrayed that as something to fear and dread. But why should a humble friend of God fear the day that God makes everything right. [“We are getting our hearing before the judge.”]
Some will welcome the judgment of God, some do not. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t wait for it with humility but also with expectation.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 7 September 2008

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