We can start enjoying the reality of what God has given us today.
The purpose of James writing this letter is to unravel what an authentic life of faith looks like. If faith is believing that God is who he says he is and has done what he said he would do, then our lives should be radically changing to be consistent with that belief. That means examining everything we know and measuring it to the truth God has revealed to us. The whole book of James is the process of this measuring.
Chapter One was finding joy in suffering and abstaining from our desires instead of indulging them; it was about actively expressing goodness, instead of just thinking about it; it was about taking care of those who could not take care of themselves. Chapter Two helped us to understand that our motives for that expression shouldn’t be persuaded by what we could gain, but instead by what others have lost. Chapter Three encouraged us to examine our vocabulary and in doing so, we examined our hearts. It proposed that those who possess true wisdom are living out the realities of this faith. All of this is completely counter-intuitive to what the world asserts is true, good, and wise. It is only natural then, that Chapter Four would begin challenging whom it is that truly holds our allegiance, the World or God.
James begins to reveal that when fights break out and tempers flare, it is typically because we have allowed good things to take God’s ultimate place within us and capture to capture the desires of our hearts. These things could be finances, achievements, relationships, or anything else that isn’t God. Our affections and our dependencies on these things become so intense that the threat of losing them leads us to react emotionally, verbally, and even sometimes physically, violent. James says that these are symptoms that you have believed what the World has said you need instead of what God says you need; your jealousy for anything except God results in a perpetual thirst for more.
James reassures his readers that although we may face these temptations, the power to overcome these desires is accessible through drawing near to God. Only by being refreshed in the Gospel can our outbursts turn to surrender. We must begin to realize that we are the objects of God’s affection. Although our jealousy resulted in our abandonment of God, his jealousy for us resulted in the abandonment of himself. He became human and died on a cross in order that our relationship could be mended and enjoyed. Only when we realize that the ultimate judge imposed the guilty verdict on himself instead of us, can we be free of trying to elevate ourselves over others by the things we possess. Only when we can stop dreaming about what can be obtained tomorrow, can we start enjoying the reality of what God has given us today.